Your Reminder Not To MERGE

Kevin Wilkie points out the numerous problems with the MERGE operator:

Now, when I last posted, I’m sure you thought I was done talking about the MERGE statement. You are so wrong, compadre! One more post is absolutely needed!

There are a few issues with the MERGE statement. Well, as of this writing, there are 361 possible issues according to Microsoft Connect – the actual website where Microsoft checks to see what issues exist!

So, if you want to use the MERGE statement, please read through every issue listed on the link above and make sure that none of those scenarios could exist for you. If they don’t, great. Knock yourself out and use it.

But wait, there’s more!  Read on to see what else could be a problem.

NULL Replacement In SQL Server And Oracle

Daniel Janik shows a pair of non-standard functions you can use to replace NULL values:

It’s Wednesday and that means another SQL/Oracle post. Today we’ll be discussing NULL Values, which can sometimes be a real pain. Don’t worry though there’s a simple solution. Simply replace the NULL value with another.

Comparing a column with NULL and replacing with another value is really simple. There are built in functions for replacing NULL values. I’m not going to discuss the ANSI standard COALESCE here. If you want to know more about it you can find it on Bing.

I provide no comment on Daniel’s claim regarding being able to find something on Bing…  Click through to see the custom NULL replacement functions in SQL Server versus Oracle.

Substrings: Powershell Versus T-SQL

Shane O’Neill contrasts the SUBSTRING function in T-SQL with Powershell’s Substring method:

The main difference that I can see when using SUBSTRING() in SQL Server versus in PowerShell is that SQL Server is very forgiving.

If you have a string that is 20 characters longs and you ask for everything from the 5th character to the 100th character, SQL Server is going to look at this, see that the string does not go to the 100th character, and just give you everything that it can.

It’s a small difference but an important one.

Date Conversions In Oracle And SQL Server

Daniel Janik compares Oracle and SQL Server date conversion functions:

There are many ways to create a date from a string. First you’ve got the CONVERT() function and the CAST() function. Next you’ve got DATEFROMPARTS(), DATETIMEFROMPARTS(), DATETIME2FROMPARTS(), SMALLDATETIMEFROMPARTS(), TIMEFROMPARTS(), and DATETIMEOFFSETFROMPARTS().

That’s a lot of functions for one simple task isn’t it? To be fair, it’s really more than 1 simple task. Each of these functions is meant to be paired with the matching data type so you get just what you want. To go along with these you also have the ISDATE() function which tests the value to be sure it’s a date.

I never liked the verbosity of the Oracle TO_DATE() function…but I am biased.

Pagination In Oracle Versus SQL Server

Daniel Janik is currently running an Oracle versus SQL Server series, looking at how the two database systems expose common functionality.  His latest topic is pagination:

Today’s topic is Pagination. Paging is a really important feature for web pages and applications. Without it you’d be passing large amounts of data to the application and expecting the application code to figure out which rows it needed to display.

Thankfully, someone smart came up with a way to do this on the database so you’re not returning gigs and gigs of data to the webserver to sort through.

Read on to see how the two platforms do this.

Working With UTC And Local Times

Jo Douglass shows how to use the DATETIMEOFFSET data type and AT TIME ZONE syntax to convert between UTC and local times:

Run select SysDateTimeOffset(); and you should see a date and time which mirrors your server’s current time, plus a time zone offset showing its current offset from UTC; this includes any time zone offset, plus any daylight savings time offset.

If I were to run this (from the UK) on August 15th, 2017 while my clock is showing that it’s noon exactly, I would get 2017-08-15 12:00:00.0000000 +01:00; the +01:00 offset is because the UK is offset by one hour from UTC during daylight savings. The datetime2 portion of a datetimeoffset is in local time, not UTC.

My normal operation is to store everything in UTC and let the application convert to local times.  That allows you to compare dates much more easily and reduces confusion around daylight savings time.

Left Versus Right Joins

Denis Gobo doesn’t like RIGHT JOIN:

Do you use RIGHT JOINs? I myself rarely use a RIGHT JOIN, I think in the last 17 years or so I have only used a RIGHT JOIN once or twice. I think that RIGHT JOINs confuse people who are new to databases, everything that you can do with a RIGHT JOIN, you can also do with a LEFT JOIN, you just have to flip the query around

So why did I use a RIGHT JOIN then?

Don’t be lazy; switch out those right joins.  The trick is that for every RIGHT JOIN statement, there is an equivalent statement which does not use RIGHT JOIN.  The percentage of the time that you might benefit from RIGHT JOIN is so low that the fixed costs of mentally processing what’s going on tend to overwhelm the slight benefit of that style of join.

Selecting Into A Specific Filegroup

Andrew Pruski shows off a new feature in SQL Server 2017:

Now I can run the SELECT…INTO statement using the new ON FILEGROUP option. I’m going to run an example SELECT statement to capture Sales in the UK: –

We are one step closer to CTAS on-prem…  Being able to select into a specific filegroup is nice when you want to segregate tables by filegroup to make recovery of the most critical tables faster:  having a primary filegroup, and then a filegroup for the critical tables for your application, followed by the history tables and other large tables that the app doesn’t need immediately.

Using The COMPRESS Function In SQL Server

Kendra Little explains the COMPRESS() function in SQL Server 2016:

One cool little feature in SQL Server 2016 is COMPRESS(). It’s a TSQL function available in all editions that shrinks down data using the GZIP algorithm (documentation).

Things to know about COMPRESS():

  • Compressed data is in the VARBINARY(max) data type

  • You get the data “back to normal” by  using the DECOMPRESS function – which also outputs VARBINARY(max)

  • You can’t use columns of the VARBINARY(max) type in an index key column– but it may be useful to use the column as a filter in a filtered index, in some cases

COMPRESS() uses standard GZip compression, so you could use methods other than DECOMPRESS() to inflate the data—for example, bring the compressed data out to your application and use language-specific GZip libraries to decompress the data.  Read the whole thing.

MERGE With Deletion

Kevin Wilkie shows an example of deleting data as part of a merge operation:

The last time we were together, we learned how to use the MERGE statement when we wanted to insert rows that didn’t exist and update rows that didn’t. This time we’re going to add onto that. We’re adding the seldom used, but delightfully potent – delete rows that no longer exist in the original table.

MERGE is an enticing but dangerous piece of syntax.  It looks so nice until you realize how many bugs and oddities there are in the command.

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