Create and query a database using gcloud CLI

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This tutorial walks you through the following steps using the gcloud command-line tool.

  • Create a Spanner instance, database, and schema
  • Write data to the database and execute SQL queries that data
  • Clean up by deleting the database and instance

For the complete gcloud spanner reference, see gcloud spanner.


This tutorial uses Spanner, which is a billable component of the Google Cloud. For information on the cost of using Spanner, see Pricing.

Before you begin

  1. Complete the steps described in Set up, which covers creating and setting a default Google Cloud project, enabling billing, enabling the Cloud Spanner API, and setting up OAuth 2.0 to get authentication credentials to use the Cloud Spanner API.
    In particular, ensure that you run gcloud auth application-default login to set up your local development environment with authentication credentials.

Set a default project

If you haven't already done so, set the ID of a Google Cloud Platform project as the default project for the Google Cloud CLI:

gcloud config set project PROJECT_ID

If you don't set the default project, you must pass --project PROJECT_ID to each of the commands below as the first argument to gcloud spanner. For example:

gcloud spanner --project=PROJECT_ID instance-configs list


When you first use Spanner, you must create an instance, which is an allocation of resources that are used by Spanner databases. When you create an instance, you choose where your data is stored and how much compute capacity the instance has.

Instances and instance configurations

To create an instance, you must select an instance configuration, which is like a blueprint for your instance that defines the geographic placement and replication of your Spanner data.

List instance configurations

When you create an instance, you specify an instance configuration, which defines the geographic placement and replication of your databases in that instance. You can choose a regional configuration, which stores data in one region, or a multi-region configuration, which distributes data across multiple regions. Learn more in Instances.

To see the set of instance configurations that are available for your project:

gcloud spanner instance-configs list

You should see a list of regional and multi-region configurations.

Regional configurations distribute data in a single region, while multi-region configurations distribute data geographically across multiple regions. Read more about these in Instances.

Create an instance

To create an instance named test-instance with the display name My Instance using the regional instance configuration regional-us-central1 with 1 nodes:

gcloud spanner instances create test-instance --config=regional-us-central1 \
    --description="My Instance" --nodes=1

In the command above, the instance name is set to test-instance and --description sets the display name of the instance. Both of these values must be unique within a Google Cloud Platform project.

Set the default instance

You can set the default instance that Cloud Spanner uses when you have not specified an instance in your command. To set the default instance:

gcloud config set spanner/instance test-instance

Create a database

Create a database named example-db. The database dialect defaults to Google Standard SQL.

gcloud spanner databases create example-db

Create a schema

Use Spanner's Data Definition Language (DDL) to create, alter, or drop tables, and to create or drop indexes.

Let's create two tables

gcloud spanner databases ddl update example-db \
  --ddl='CREATE TABLE Singers ( SingerId INT64 NOT NULL, FirstName STRING(1024), LastName STRING(1024), SingerInfo BYTES(MAX) ) PRIMARY KEY (SingerId)'
gcloud spanner databases ddl update example-db \

Write data

Let's add some sample data to our database

gcloud spanner rows insert --database=example-db \
      --table=Singers \

gcloud spanner rows insert --database=example-db \
      --table=Singers \

gcloud spanner rows insert --database=example-db \
      --table=Singers \

gcloud spanner rows insert --database=example-db \
      --table=Albums \
      --data=SingerId=1,AlbumId=1,AlbumTitle="Total Junk"

gcloud spanner rows insert --database=example-db \
      --table=Albums \

gcloud spanner rows insert --database=example-db \
      --table=Albums \
      --data=^:^SingerId=2:AlbumId=2:AlbumTitle="Go, Go, Go"

By default, comma is used to delimit items in lists. In the last insert command, we specified colon (^:^) as the delimiter so that we could use comma in the album title.

Query data using SQL

Execute a query on the command line:

gcloud spanner databases execute-sql example-db \
    --sql='SELECT SingerId, AlbumId, AlbumTitle FROM Albums'

For the Spanner SQL reference, see Query syntax.

To see a list of flags you can use with the execute-sql command, see gcloud spanner databases execute-sql.


To avoid incurring additional charges to your Google Cloud account for the resources used in this tutorial, drop the database and delete the instance that you created.

Drop a database

To delete an existing instance:

gcloud spanner databases delete example-db

Delete an instance

To delete an existing instance:

gcloud spanner instances delete test-instance

Note that deleting an instance also drops all of the databases in that instance. Deleting an instance is not reversible.