Search and Analyze data in Amazon OpenSearch using SQL

Learn how to use SQL queries to retrieve data stored in Amazon OpenSearch.

AWS Admin
Amazon Employee
Published Jul 24, 2023
Last Modified Jun 21, 2024
As an application builder you have many types of data to store to provide not only the core application functionality but also logging of telemetry and traces so that application performance can be monitored. The data required to be captured can often change over time with new types of metrics being available as new versions of your application are implemented. It could become a challenge for the application builder to use a traditional relational database, incorporate frequent schema changes and also allow for efficient retrieval and search of this data, the size of which becomes enormous over time. This is where Amazon OpenSearch can help - it provides your application with scalable data storage which can be both simple relational data or complex JSON documents for a number of use cases including Website search, Enterprise search, Log analytics, Application performance monitoring and Security analytics.
In this tutorial you'll get hands on with using SQL with Amazon OpenSearch using the familiar SQL query syntax including aggregations, group by, and where clauses to investigate your data. You can read data as JSON documents or CSV tables so you have the flexibility to use the format that works best for you. You will walk through setting up a new Amazon OpenSearch Serverless domain in the AWS console. You'll explore the different types of search queries available. You also learn how to create and search for a document in Amazon OpenSearch Service. When you add data to an index in the form of a JSON document the OpenSearch Service creates an index around the first document that you add. In addition to the familiar SQL query syntax you also have access to the rich set of search capabilities such as fuzzy matching, boosting, phrase matching and more.
✅ AWS experience200 - Intermediate
⏱ Time to complete60 minutes
💰 Cost to completeFree tier eligible
🧩 Prerequisites- AWS account
-CDK installed: Visit Get Started with AWS CDK to learn more.
💻 Code SampleCode sample used in tutorial on GitHub
📢 FeedbackAny feedback, issues, or just a 👍 / 👎 ?
⏰ Last Updated2023-07-24

What is Amazon OpenSearch?

It is important to understand the capabilities of OpenSearch so that you can fully utilize the benefits based on your application requirements. OpenSearch is a scalable, flexible, and extensible open-source software suite for search, analytics, and observability applications licensed under Apache 2.0. Powered by Apache Lucene and driven by the OpenSearch Project community. With OpenSearch you can capture, store, and analyze your business, operational, and security data from a variety of sources. You can use your preferred data collector and enrich your analytics pipeline with integrated ML tools like anomaly detection. OpenSearch also provides full-text search, automated anomaly detection and vector database capabilities for implementing semantic search and Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) for generative AI applications.
Amazon OpenSearchis also bundled with a dashboard visualization tool, OpenSearch Dashboards, which helps visualize not only log and trace data, but also machine-learning powered results for anomaly detection and search relevance ranking.
Now that you have a good understanding of the benefits of using Amazon OpenSearch, let us setup the service in AWS.
Note: This tutorial uses a domain with open access. For the highest level of security, we recommend that you put your domain inside a virtual private cloud (VPC).

Step 1 - Create an Amazon OpenSearch Service domain

To experience the capability of using SQL with OpenSearch, we will setup an OpenSearch service domain which is synonymous with an OpenSearch cluster.

Domains are clusters with the settings, instance types, instance counts, and storage resources that you specify. You can create an OpenSearch Service domain by using the console, the AWS CLI, or the AWS SDKs.
To create an OpenSearch Service domain using the console
The list of steps below show how you can use the AWS console to create an OpenSearch Service domain so that you can begin loading sample data and trying out SQL queries against that data.
  1. Go to https://aws.amazon.com and choose Sign In to the Console.
  2. Under Analytics, choose Amazon OpenSearch Service.
  3. Under the "Get Started" choice dialog, select "Managed Clusters" then click on Create domain.
  4. Provide a name for the domain. The examples in this tutorial use the name movies.
  5. For the domain creation method, choose Standard create. (Note: To quickly configure a production domain with best practices, you can choose Easy create. For the development and testing purposes of this tutorial, we'll use Standard create.)
  6. For templates, choose Dev/test.
  7. For the deployment option, choose Domain with standby.
  8. For Version, choose the latest version.
  9. For now, ignore the Data nodes, Warm and cold data storage, Dedicated master nodes, Snapshot configuration, and Custom endpoint sections.
  10. For simplicity in this tutorial, use a public access domain. Under Network, choose Public access.
  11. In the fine-grained access control settings, keep the Enable fine-grained access control check box selected. Select Create master user and provide a username and password.
  12. For now, ignore the SAML authentication and Amazon Cognito authentication sections.
  13. For Access policy, choose Only use fine-grained access control. In this tutorial, fine-grained access control handles authentication, not the domain access policy.
  14. Ignore the rest of the settings and choose Create. New domains typically take 15–30 minutes to initialize, but can take longer depending on the configuration. After your domain initializes, select it to open its configuration pane. Note the domain endpoint under General information (for example, https://search-my-domain.us-east-1.es.amazonaws.com), which you'll use in the next step.

Step 2 - Ingest Sample data into your OpenSearch domain

This step covers the ingestion of sample data into OpenSearch so that you can test sample SQL queries on that data.

  1. Navigate to your OpenSearch service on the AWS console. On the Dashboard section, your domain should be listed under the header “Name”. Click on any of your domains.
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  2. Click on the OpenSearch Dashboard URL link for this domain.
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  3. Login into OpenSearch Dashboards with the username and password you created in Step 1.11
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  4. After login is successful, you will see the screens below in sequence - click “Add data”, Select “Global” tenant and click on the “Add data” button under “Sample eCommerce orders”. That will ingest the sample data comprising of e-commerce orders, into this OpenSearch domain, which you will query using SQL for the rest of this tutorial.
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Note: If the Sample eCommerce Orders was already ingested you will see “View data” instead, you can skip the step above in that case.**
  1. Click the Hamburger Icon (the icon top lef under "Open Search Dashboards" - it looks like 3 horizontal lines above each other) to expand the menu, and then click on “Query Workbench”. This will open up the “Query Editor” where you can enter your SQL queries, with the results showing in the “Output” pane below that.
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Mapping concepts across SQL and OpenSearch
In this section we map concepts across SQL and OpenSearch so that you can use SQL more effectively to search data in your OpenSearch domain. While SQL and OpenSearch have different terms for the way the data is organized (and different semantics), essentially their purpose is the same. So let’s start from the bottom; these roughly are:
columnfieldIn both cases, at the lowest level, data is stored in named entries, of a variety of data types, containing one value. SQL calls such an entry a column while OpenSearch a field. Notice that in OpenSearch a field can contain multiple values of the same type (essentially a list) while in SQL, a column can contain exactly one value of said type. OpenSearch SQL will do its best to preserve the SQL semantic and, depending on the query, reject those that return fields with more than one value.
rowdocumentColumns and fields do not exist by themselves; they are part of a row or a document. The two have slightly different semantics: a row tends to be strict (and have more enforcements) while a document tends to be a bit more flexible or loose (while still having a structure).
tableindexThe target against which queries, whether in SQL or OpenSearch get executed against.
schemaimplicitIn RDBMS, schema is mainly a namespace of tables and typically used as a security boundary. OpenSearch does not provide an equivalent concept for it. However when security is enabled, OpenSearch automatically applies the security enforcement so that a role sees only the data it is allowed to (in SQL jargon, its schema).
catalog or databasecluster instance or domainIn SQL, catalog or database are used interchangeably and represent a set of schemas that is, a number of tables. In OpenSearch the set of indices available are grouped in a cluster`` or domain. The semantics also differ a bit; a database is essentially yet another namespace (which can have some implications on the way data is stored) while an OpenSearch cluster is a runtime instance, or rather a set of at least one OpenSearch instance (typically running distributed). In practice this means that while in SQL one can potentially have multiple catalogs inside an instance, in OpenSearch one is restricted to only one.
clustercluster (federated)Traditionally in SQL, cluster refers to a single RDMBS instance which contains a number of catalogs or databases (see above). While RDBMS tend to have only one running instance, on a single machine (not distributed), OpenSearch goes the opposite way and by default, is distributed and multi-instance.

Further more, an OpenSearch cluster can be connected to other clusters in a federated fashion thus cluster means:
single cluster: Multiple Elasticsearch instances typically distributed across machines, running within the same namespace.
multiple clusters:: Multiple clusters, each with its own namespace, connected to each other in a federated setup.

Cross-cluster search in Amazon OpenSearch Service lets you perform queries and aggregations across multiple connected domains. It often makes more sense to use multiple smaller domains instead of a single large domain, especially when you're running different types of workloads.

Step 3 - Running Basic SQL Queries

We are starting with running a basic set of SQL queries to help understand the key concepts.

  1. To list all your indexes in your current domain, run the SQL query below in the Query Workbench:
Sample Results (The table of sample data ingested is opensearch_dashboards_sample_data_ecommerce)
  1. Retrieve a limited set of documents (5) from the sample e-commerce table (sample results follow the SQL query below)
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Note: the (+) sign next to “order” indicates that there are nested JSON documents which we can see when we expand it. Later we will see how we can query nested JSON document fields using SQL.
Click on (+) next to the first order - it will show the expanded results (level 1) - there are products, event and geoip entities attached (related to) this order.
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Click on (+) next to the products, event and geoip headings (for order id 584677). Under geoip click on (+) next to Africa and (+) next to location. This will display all nested data related to this order.
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  1. We want retrieve a specific order, so we need to get the datatypes of all the columns in this table, using the SQL query below, and scrolling through the results to find the datatype of the column order_id.
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  1. Since the datatype of the column order_id is keyword, we need to enclose the search in quotes (updated).
  1. Use the SQL SELECT clause, along with FROM, WHERE, GROUP BY, HAVING, ORDER BY, and LIMIT to search and aggregate data. Among these clauses, SELECT and FROM are required, as they specify which fields to retrieve and which indexes to retrieve them from. All other clauses are optional.
The complete syntax for searching and aggregating data is as follows (refer to the link for details):
We want to run a SQL query with a complex filter to get a limited set of results from the ecommerce sample table. Here is an example of the SQL which uses parenthesis to bind components of where clauses, i.e., If the query has multiple and or conditions, then it's necessary to use parentheses to ensure the correct order of operations. In short for complex queries, it is necessary to use a round Bracket and for a simple query, you can avoid a round bracket. This example shows how a combination of >, OR, BETWEEN, AND, =, NOT and a SQL Function can be used in a single statement.
  1. Use the DISTINCT clause to get back only unique field values. You can specify one or more field names:
Champion Arts
Crystal Lighting
Gnomehouse mom
  1. To use an aggregate function like SUM - enclose a single field name/column or expression as a parameter. If you specify a list of one or more fields before the aggregate function, you must specify the same list as part of the GROUP BY clause otherwise the aggregate function will calculate the expression over all the documents in the index. Run the query below to calculate the sum of total_quantity by manufacturer.
Use the GROUP BY clause to define subsets of a result set. You can specify the field name (column name) to aggregate on in the GROUP BY clause. For example, the following query returns the department numbers and the total sales for each department:
Champion Arts556
Crystal Lighting50
Gnomehouse mom60
Low Tide Media3507
Pyramidustries active328
Spherecords Curvy122
Spherecords Maternity128
Tigress Enterprises2388
Tigress Enterprises Curvy138
Tigress Enterprises MAMA148
  1. You can use an expression in the GROUP BY clause. For example, the following query returns the average sales or total_price and count of records for each year and month:
OpenSearch supports the following aggregate functions:
AVGReturns the average of the results.
COUNTReturns the number of results.
SUMReturns the sum of the results.
MINReturns the minimum of the results.
MAXReturns the maximum of the results.
VAR_POP or VARIANCEReturns the population variance of the results after discarding nulls. Returns 0 when there is only one row of results.
VAR_SAMPReturns the sample variance of the results after discarding nulls. Returns null when there is only one row of results.
STD or STDDEVReturns the sample standard deviation of the results. Returns 0 when there is only one row of results.
STDDEV_POPReturns the population standard deviation of the results. Returns 0 when there is only one row of results.
STDDEV_SAMPReturns the sample standard deviation of the results. Returns null when there is only one row of results.
  1. Use aggregate expressions as part of larger expressions in SELECT. The following query calculates the average commission for each manufacturer as 5% of the average sales:
Champion Arts3.46576
Crystal Lighting4.1681
Gnomehouse mom4.33275
Low Tide Media4.22025
Pyramidustries active3.2559
Spherecords Curvy3.22758
Spherecords Maternity3.54196
Tigress Enterprises3.60001
Tigress Enterprises Curvy3.53235
Tigress Enterprises MAMA3.85656
Using WHERE and HAVING clauses in SQL
  1. Both WHERE and HAVING are used to filter results. The WHERE filter is applied before the GROUP BY phase, so you cannot use aggregate functions in a WHERE clause. However, you can use the WHERE clause to limit the rows to which the aggregate is then applied. Below is a list of operators you can use with the WHERE clause to specify a condition to filter the results.
‘=Equal to.
<>Not equal to.
>Greater than.
<Less than.
>=Greater than or equal to.
&lt;=Less than or equal to.
INSpecify multiple OR operators.
BETWEENSimilar to a range query. For more information about range queries, see Range query.
LIKEUse for full-text search. For more information about full-text queries, see Full-text queries.
IS NULLCheck if the field value is NULL.
IS NOT NULLCheck if the field value is NOT NULL.
You can combine comparison operators (=, <>, >, >=, <, <=) with boolean operators NOT, AND, or OR to build more complex expressions.
Enter the query below
  1. The HAVING filter is applied after the GROUP BY phase, so you can use the HAVING clause to limit the groups that are included in the results.
The following query returns the list of manufacturers along with the sum of total_quantity where the sum exceeds 1,000.
Low Tide Media3507
Tigress Enterprises2388
  1. Use an alias for an aggregate expression in the HAVING clause. The following query uses an alias to return the total quantity by manufacturer where the sum exceeds 2,000.
Low Tide Media3507
Tigress Enterprises2388
  1. The DELETE statement deletes documents that satisfy the predicates in the WHERE clause. If you don’t specify the WHERE clause, all documents are deleted. It is disabled by default. To enable the DELETE functionality in SQL, you need to update the configuration by sending the following request using the console in Dev Tools.
Click the hamburger icon (top left) and “Dev Tools” menu option (at the bottom) - as seen in the screenshot below.
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In the “Dev Tools” console, enter the code below into the console left pane, and send the request by clicking the triangle icon on the top right corner of the left pane. The response from the request is displayed on the right pane below.
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Then run the following query:
The deleted_rows field shows the number of documents deleted.

Step 4 - Running Complex SQL queries on multiple indexes or tables

Now that we have covered the basics of SQL querying, in this section we run more complex SQL queries to understand how they work.

Let’s insert some data related to employees and accounts (into separate indexes). Navigate to DevTools and bulk insert via the following statements. Enter these on the left pane of the console and the results will be shown on the right side of the console.
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Statement for inserting into employees_nested:
Statement for inserting into accounts:
OpenSearch SQL supports complex queries such as subquery, join, union, and minus. These queries operate on more than one OpenSearch index. Since OpenSearch is not a relational database, there are limitations with joins and the performance could be a bottleneck. OpenSearch SQL supports inner joins, cross joins, and left outer joins.
  1. Using Inner join
Inner join creates a new result set by combining columns of two indexes based on your join predicates. It iterates the two indexes and compares each document to find the ones that satisfy the join predicates. You can optionally precede the JOIN clause with an INNER keyword. The join predicate(s) is specified by the ON clause.
SQL query:
Result set:
6HattieBond6Jane Smith
  1. Use Cross join, also known as cartesian join, to combine each document from the first index with each document from the second. The result set is the the cartesian product of documents of both indexes. This operation is similar to the inner join without the ON clause that specifies the join condition.
Note: It’s risky to perform a cross join on two indexes of large or even medium size. It might trigger a circuit breaker that terminates the query to avoid running out of memory.
Result set:
1AmberDuke3Bob Smith
1AmberDuke4Susan Smith
1AmberDuke6Jane Smith
6HattieBond3Bob Smith
6HattieBond4Susan Smith
6HattieBond6Jane Smith
13NanetteBates3Bob Smith
13NanetteBates4Susan Smith
13NanetteBates6Jane Smith
18DaleAdams3Bob Smith
18DaleAdams4Susan Smith
18DaleAdams6Jane Smith
  1. Use left outer join to retain rows from the first index if it does not satisfy the join predicate. The keyword OUTER is optional.
Result set:
6HattieBond6Jane Smith
  1. Use subquery which is a complete SELECT statement used within another statement and enclosed in parenthesis:
Result set:

Step 5 - Using SQL Functions

In this step we cover the rich set of SQL Functions which can help the application builder leverage more search and analytics capabilities of OpenSearch.

For a list of functions supported, see the documentation here.
  1. Use the MATCH function in SQL for full-text search (a subset of full-text queries available in OpenSearch is supported). You can search documents that match a string, number, date, or boolean value for a given field. The MATCHQUERY and MATCH_QUERY functions are synonyms for the MATCH relevance function.
You can specify the following options in any order:
  • analyzer
  • boost
SQL query:
789 Madison Street
671 Bristol Street
789 Madison Street
671 Bristol Street
880 Holmes Lane
The above results contain addresses that contain “Lane” or “Street”.
  1. To search for text in multiple fields, use MULTI_MATCH function. This function maps to the multi_match query used in search engine, to returns the documents that match a provided text, number, date or boolean value with a given field or fields. eg. To search for Dale in either the firstname or lastname fields could be called from SQL using multi_match function. The MATCHQUERY and MATCH_QUERY functions are synonyms for the MATCH relevance function.
  1. To return a relevance score along with every matching document, use the SCORE, SCOREQUERY, or SCORE_QUERY functions.
The SCORE function expects two arguments. The first argument is the MATCH_QUERY expression. The second argument is an optional floating-point number to boost the score (the default value is 1.0):
The following example uses the SCORE function to boost the documents’ scores:
The results contain matches with corresponding scores:
1880 Holmes Lane0.5
6671 Bristol Street100
13789 Madison Street100
This concludes the SQL tutorial, and you may delete the OpenSearch domain/ index if you are not utilizing it further. The sections below provide more information about OpenSearch.
Querying OpenSearch using SQL REST API
For a complete REST API reference for the SQL plugin, see SQL/PPL API.
To use the SQL plugin with your own applications, send requests to the _plugins/_sql endpoint:
You can query multiple indexes by using a comma-separated list:
You can also specify an index pattern with a wildcard expression:
To run the above query in the command line, use the curl command:
You can specify the response format as JDBC, standard OpenSearch JSON, CSV, or raw. By default, queries return data in JDBC format. The following query sets the format to JSON:
Another way to query your data in OpenSearch with SQL using a REST API, is to send HTTP requests to _sql using the following format:
For example - using the Dev Tools console - run the following SQL query (results are shown below)
SQL Query via API
Using JDBC with OpenSearch
We will now cover how to use JDBC with OpenSearch so that builders and OpenSearch users can run SQL queries and integrate OpenSearch with your favorite business intelligence (BI) applications.
The OpenSearch Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) driver comes in the form of a JAR file which can be downloaded as per the information provided in this link the SQL repository on GitHub. Installing this will let you setup a connection to OpenSearch from a SQL client such as DBeaver, and you can then run SQL queries from that client. Similarly Amazon Quicksight has a connector to OpenSearch for data visualization. However the most common way for visualizing data in OpenSearch is via OpenSearch dashboards which is a fork from Kibana.
A note about Query DSL: OpenSearch provides a search language called query domain-specific language (DSL) that you can use to search your data. Query DSL is a flexible language with a JSON interface. With query DSL, you need to specify a query in the query parameter of the search. One of the simplest searches in OpenSearch uses the match_all query, which matches all documents in an index:
A query can consist of many query clauses. You can combine query clauses to produce complex queries.
Broadly, you can classify queries into two categories—leaf queries and compound queries:
Compound queries: Compound queries serve as wrappers for multiple leaf or compound clauses either to combine their results or to modify their behavior. They include the Boolean, disjunction max, constant score, function score, and boosting query types. To learn more, see Compound queries.
Leaf queries: Leaf queries search for a specified value in a certain field or fields. You can use leaf queries on their own. They include the following query types:
  • Full-text queries: Use full-text queries to search text documents. For an analyzed text field search, full-text queries split the query string into terms with the same analyzer that was used when the field was indexed. For an exact value search, full-text queries look for the specified value without applying text analysis. To learn more, see Full-text queries.
  • Term-level queries: Use term-level queries to search documents for an exact specified term, such as an ID or value range. Term-level queries do not analyze search terms or sort results by relevance score. To learn more, see Term-level queries.
  • Geographic and xy queries: Use geographic queries to search documents that include geographic data. Use xy queries to search documents that include points and shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system. To learn more, see Geographic and xy queries.
  • Joining queries: Use joining queries to search nested fields or return parent and child documents that match a specific query. Types of joining queries include nested, has_child, has_parent, and parent_id queries.
  • Span queries: Use span queries to perform precise positional searches. Span queries are low-level, specific queries that provide control over the order and proximity of specified query terms. They are primarily used to search legal documents. To learn more, see Span queries.
  • Specialized queries: Specialized queries include all other query types (distance_feature, more_like_this, percolate, rank_feature, script, script_score, wrapper, and pinned_query).


We covered the capabilities, benefits and typical use-cases for Amazon OpenSearch. To gain understanding of how data can be easily searched in OpenSearch using SQL, we ingested sample data in OpenSearch and then ran a set of simple and complex SQL queries on this data.
SQL support is very important in the real-world of OpenSearch application developers and end users because it provides an easy mechansim for application builders and data analysts to query the data in OpenSearch. By using a combination of SQL operators, SQL functions and joins between tables (A Note of Caution: Table Joins are expensive operations from the performance perspective especially for large tables) developers can reduce development times because more complex searches can be accomplished with lesser amount of code. Also it fulfils a key requirement of allowing a non-programmatic way (instead of REST API) of accessing and analyzing OpenSearch data via SQL from BI Query and reporting tools.

Next Steps

Comment: You can further explore the latest version of OpenSearch by reviewing the documentation on this site OpenSearch documentation. To build an application using the OpenSearch SQL API, review this link OpenSearch SQL API and refer to the different SQL functions and operators which you can use depending on your application requirements.
In this article, you can learn how to build an CRUD application for Amazon OpenSearch using the Go programming language. The project includes everything you need to build your own development environment, such as specific distributions like:
Alternatively, you can use Amazon OpenSearch, a fully managed service for OpenSearch that allows you to focus on building applications while the infrastructure and the operations are taken care for you.

Any opinions in this post are those of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of AWS.