Training and Validation

A common ML training job usually involves two kinds of data sets: training data and validation data. These two data sets will be generated automatically by SQLFlow through randomly splitting the select results.


SQLFlow generates a temporary table following the user-specific table, trains and evaluates a model.

Notice, we talk about the train process in this post.

Generate a Temporary Table

Splitting the training table into training data and validation data is the key point. We suppose SQLFlow are dealing with the following SQL to train an ML model:

SELECT col1, col2, col3
FROM mytable

The data comes from the standard select part SELECT col1, col2, col3 FROM mytable, and let’s say the query result looks like the following

| col1 | col2 | col3 | | —— | —— | —— | | <data> | <data> | <data> | | <data> | <data> | <data> | | | … | | We want to split the result into 80% training data and 20% validation data.

We add a column sqlflow_random via RAND() and save the result to a temporary table

Note the RAND() function returns a random number between 0 (inclusive) and 1. The result temporary table looks like the following.

col1 col2 col3 sqlflow_random
<data> <data> <data> 0.350812148722645
<data> <data> <data> 0.9845468606655923
<data> <data> <data> 0.650812148722645

We can generate the corresponding SQL using the following code template

CREATE TABLE {.TempTableName} AS
    SELECT *, RAND() AS sqlflow_random FROM (

Naming temporary table

Because multi-users run SQLFlow with their own isolated data set at the same time, SQLFlow generates an elaborate name for the temporary table to avoid conflict.

  • For Maxcompute SQLFlow saves the temporary table into the current project which must be specified by the user. Meanwhile, we specify the LIFECYCLE to 14 days to release the temporary table automatically.

  • For common databases, like MySQL, Hive SQLFlow creates an own database as workspace, like sqlflow_workspace, then creates the temporary table in sqlflow_workspace.

    Notice: Why doesn’t SQLFlow create TEMPORARY table to act the TempTable? Because SQLFlow creates TempTable in Go and read the contents in Python. They are different sessions, which means the TempTable is invisible to each other.

How to Split

We fetch the training/validation data using two different queries respectively.

The query for training data can be written as SELECT * FROM temp_table WHERE sqlflow_random < 0.8, which fetches row1 and row3 etc.. The query for validation data can be written as SELECT * FROM temp_table WHERE sqlflow_random >= 0.8, which fetches the rest of the rows.

In SQLFlow, we modify the user-specific data set to our temp_table restricted to sqlflow_random >= 0.8 to train a model, then restricted the temp_table to sqlflow_random < 0.8 to validate that model. This context is built after the temporary data set accomplished, passed to runExtendedSQL in extendedSelect.

type extendedSelect struct {
    // ...
    training   standardSelect // training data set
    validation standardSelect // validation data set


For TensorFlow submitter, SQLFlow generate training data set and validation data set according to and extendedSelect.validation.

Release the Temporary Table

In the end, SQLFlow remove the temporary table to release resources.

  • For Maxcompute SQLFlow specify the LIFECYCLE to 14 days in the create statement, so as to release the temporary table automatically.

  • For common databases, like MySQL, Hive After the training job, SQLFlow release the temporary table by

    drop table if exists {temporary_table_name}

    So, SQLFlow need to know when the training job is completed. Whether it is a synchronized job or an asynchronous job.


  • If the column sqlflow_random already exists, SQLFlow chooses to quit Notice, column name started with an underscore is invalid in the hive
  • Any discussion to implement a better splitting is welcomed