In ODI user functions have a poor name really, they should be user expressions - a way of wrapping common expressions that you may wish to reuse many times - across many different technologies is an added bonus. To illustrate look at the problem of how to remove control characters from text. Users ask these types of questions over all technologies - Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, DB2 and for many years - how do I clean a string, how do I tokenize a string and so on. After some searching around you will find a few ways of doing this, in Oracle there is a convenient way of using the TRANSLATE and REPLACE functions. So you can convert some text using the following SQL;
If you had many columns to perform this kind of transformation on, in the Oracle database the natural solution you'd go to would be to code this as a PLSQL function since you don't want the code splattered everywhere. Someone tells you that there is another control character that needs added equals a maintenance headache. Coding it as a PLSQL function will incur a context switch between SQL and PLSQL which could prove costly.
In ODI user functions let you capture this expression text and reference it many times across your mappings. This will protect the expression from being copy-pasted by developers and make maintenance much simpler - change the expression definition in one place.
Firstly define a name and a syntax for the user function, I am calling it UF_STRIP_BAD_CHARACTERS and it has one parameter an input string;
We then can define an implementation for each technology we will use it, I will define Oracle's using the inputString parameter and the TRANSLATE and REPLACE functions with whatever control characters I want to replace;
I can then use this inside mapping expressions in ODI, below I am cleaning the ENAME column - a fabricated example but you get the gist.
Note when I use the user function the function name remains in the text of the mapping, the actual expression is not substituted until I generate the scenario. If you generate the scenario and export the scenario you can have a peak at the code that is processed in the runtime - below you can see a snippet of my export scenario;
That's all for now, hopefully a useful snippet of info.