Change Detection Temporal Tables

Adam Machanic shows how to find net changes using temporal tables:

For now, consider the following set of propositions, given that we’re asking at time Y for all changes since a prior time X.

  • INSERT: The key did not exist at time X but does exist at time Y.
  • DELETE: The key existed at time X but does not exist at time Y.
  • UPDATE: The key existed at both time X and at time Y, and at least one change occurred between time X and time Y.

Given these assumptions, we can begin work on a temporal queries that return the necessary rows. Solving for these conditions will require all rows that were active as of time X, rows that were (or are) active at time Y, and for the final case, all rows that were active in-between times X and Y. Since this is a range-based scenario, our best Temporal predication option will be either FROM or BETWEEN. The difference between these two is subtle: FROM uses an open interval (non-inclusive at both endpoints), whereas BETWEEN uses a half-open interval, inclusive on the end date. Given the choice in the scenario, BETWEEN makes more sense, as we can take advantage of the inclusive endpoint to avoid dropping a badly-timed row. But more on that in a moment.

Adam put a lot of thought into edge cases, making this a must-read.

Temporal Tables

Alex Grinberg has a tutorial on temporal tables, including combining temporal tables with In-Memory OLTP:

Although the process of converting an In-Memory Optimized OLTP table to a system-versioned table is similar, there are some differences that we need to cover and demonstrate in this section.

You need to be aware of some specific details when converting the in-memory optimized table to the system-versioned table

Read on for those specifics.

Temporal Tables For Error Recovery

Dimitri Furman looks at using temporal tables to recover from user errors:

Have you ever got that sinking feeling after hitting the Execute button in SSMS, thinking “I should not have done that”? DML statements with missing WHERE clause, DROP statements accidentally targeting slightly mistyped (but existing) tables or databases, RESTORE statements overwriting databases with new data that haven’t been backed up, are all examples of actions prompting an “Oops…” (or worse) shortly thereafter. “Oops recovery” is the term that became popular to describe the process of fixing the consequences.

For most of these scenarios, the usual, and often the only, recovery mechanism is to restore the database from backup to a point in time just before the “oops”, known as point-in-time recovery (PITR). Even though PITR remains the most general and the most effective recovery mechanism, it does have some drawbacks and limitations: the recovery process requires a full database restore, taking the time proportional to the size of the database; a sequence of restores may be needed if multiple “oops” transactions have occurred; in the general case, there will be difficulties reconciling recovered data with data modified after the “oops” point in time, etc. Nevertheless, PITR remains the most widely applicable recovery method for SQL Server databases, both on-premises and in the cloud.

The solution entails a non-trivial amount of effort, but it is interesting.

Compression On Temporal Tables

Daniel Janik notes that system-generated temporal tables automatically use page-level compression:

At first I was a bit puzzled. I noticed that the system generated table was consistently smaller than my user created table. It was not only smaller it was twice as small!

I did some further testing on my Surface this weekend and here’s what I found:

— Side note:  I use Person.Address a lot in demos, so I decided to create a new table to test with in hopes of not breaking any other demos I do regularly.

I think this is a good decision for a default, but if you are unable to support page-level compression for some reason, there’s a workaround:  create your history table beforehand.

Connect Items Around Temporal Tables

Adam Machanic has a roundup of Connect items pertaining to temporal tables in SQL Server 2016:

I’ve been thinking a lot about SQL Server 2016 temporal tables of late. I think it’s possibly the most compelling feature in the release, with broad applications across a number of different use cases. However, just like any v.1 feature, it’s not without its faults.

I created a couple of new Connect items and decided to see what other things people had submitted. I combed the list and came up with a bunch of interesting items, all of which I think have great merit. Following is a summary of what I found. I hope you’ll consider voting these items up and hopefully we can push Microsoft to improve the feature in forthcoming releases.

I particularly like the idea about dropped column retention, at least as an optional feature.  If temporal tables are interesting to you, click through and check out these Connect items.

Temporal Database Theory

Kennie Pontoppidan reads and reviews a book on temporal database theory:

I have chosen to blog about Richard T. Snodgrass’ book “Developing time-oriented database applications in SQL.” I heard about this book last year around this time, when I started to investigate the new temporal feature “System versioned tables” in SQL Server 2016. I believe it was my old colleague Peter Gram from Miracle who pointed out the book to me, and usually when Peter recommends a book, I buy it and (eventually) read it. It was also about time (no pun intended), since I’m giving a talk on “All things time-related” for two SQL Saturdays during the next few months, and I needed to spice up the presentation with some new material.

In this blog post, I will quickly scratch down a few of the takeaways, I have taken from the book already.

Sounds like an interesting read.

Always Encrypted And Temporal Tables

Raul Gonzalez wants to combine Always Encrypted with temporal tables in SQL Server 2016:

Again the wall. There is no way you can choose a temporal table and apply encryption to a column or columns using the wizard.

I tried then using the powershell (after manually creating the keys) as this is true the only way to encrypt existing columns, just in case.

Raul doesn’t stop there, though, and he does figure out a workaround.

Temporal Tables Via SMO

Cody Konior shows how to create temporal tables in SQL Server 2016 using Powershell and Server Management Objects:

Why would you want to do this? In my case I have a PowerShell function to accept an input object, convert it to a DataSet (a .NET representation of tables and the links between them), and bulk copy the data into SQL Server. However because the input objects can vary slightly with additional tables or additional columns I use the flexibility of SMO to create the tables and columns on the fly.

There’s a lot of power in programmatically defining objects.  I’m not sure that’s a good default scenario, but there are times in which it can come in handy.

When To Use Temporal Tables

Randolph West wraps up his temporal tables series by asking when you should use them:

Tracking changes to your data is a big deal, and in databases with heavy churn, you can end up needing a massive amount of space to handle your history, especially if you need to retain seven years of data, like some of our customers.

If data storage is a concern, I’m going to recommend SQL Server Enterprise Edition. The Books Online documentation specifically states that the history tables for Temporal Tables are implemented with Page Compression by default, which is an Enterprise Edition feature.

My quick thought is, use them when you want a type 2 dimension without putting in the effort to create a type 2 dimension—in other words, non-warehouse systems in which you need long-term data changes.

More On Temporal Tables

Newly-minted Canadian citizen Randolph West’s latest article is on modifying temporal tables:

Last week I demonstrated how temporal tables in SQL Server 2016 work. If you have implemented a history table—populating it with triggers or stored procedures—it works the same way.

This week, we are going to look at how to modify a temporal table that already has data in the history table.

If you’re using temporal tables for auditing, it’s important to know that yes, data can be modified.

Reza Rad also has a recent blog post on temporal tables:

Temporal tables are new type of database tables introduced in SQL Server 2016, these tables are system-versioned and keep history of changes (insert, delete, update) of everything happened on data rows. Retrieving change log from these tables are easy. These tables can simply tell you what was the data at specific point of the time in the table. These tables works with datetime2 columns to keep FROM DATE and TO DATE information of each change. This means these tables can be used for implementing changes in dimensions, yes you know what it called; Slowly Changing Dimension!

Slowly-changing dimensions in an OLTP scenario was the first use I could think of for temporal tables, so I’m glad Reza put this article together.

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