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In SQL Server 2016 the sys.tables appears to have a new field called is_external. But what does is_external actually mean and what is it used for?

MSDN says the following, which is not very helpful:

Indicates table is an external table. 0 = The table is not an external table. 1 = The table is an external table.

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This is my interpretation ..

SQL Server 2016 allows you to configure POLYBASE - accesses and combines both non-relational and relational data - from SQL Server.

It allows you to run queries on external data in Hadoop or Azure blob storage.

SQL server has a column is_external to identify that the table is external. You can find more on external tables using sys.external_tables catalogue view.

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I know what an external table is in Azure, I'm not sure how it would apply to 2016. In Azure SQL Database, if you want to use a table in another Azure SQL DB, you would have to create a reference to it as an external table. All tables native to the database will be flagged as internal tables.

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