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Category: Temporal Tables

Automating Temporal Table Creation

Bill Fellows got an increasingly specific set of requirements about data collection:

This post is another in the continuing theme of “making things consistent.” We were voluntold to help another team get their staging environment set up. Piece of cake, SQL Compare made it trivial to snap the tables over.

Oh, we don’t want these tables in Custom schema, we want them in dbo. No problem, SQL Compare again and change owner mappings and bam, out come all the tables.

Oh, can we get this in near real-time? Say every 15 minutes. … Transaction replication to the rescue!

Oh, we don’t know what data we need yet so could you keep it all, forever? … Temporal tables to the rescue?

Yes, temporal tables is perfect. But don’t put the history table in the same schema as the table, put in this one. And put all of that in its own file group.

Click through for a helpful script, and tune in next time, when the other team has Bill move their furniture around.  Maybe move the couch just a hair to the right…no, a little more, oops, too much…

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Temporal Table Time Zones

Louis Davidson talks about how to translate temporal table start and end dates to your local time zone:

In my first 5 blogs on Temporal, I failed to note something pretty important about their usage. The start and end times for the row (and it follows, the historical rows) are likely not in your local time zone. They are stored in UTC time zone. This is obviously good because of that pesky daylight saving time issue where 1:30 AM occurs twice each year (here in the US, the time occurs on the first Sunday of November).

Unless you live in London, England or someplace where the offset from UTC is 0, it can make working with these tables confusing, because most people rarely work in UTC time, and even rarer is to think in UTC time when most of your data is likely in your local time zone. So you write your query and use local time…and then, most likely, data is returned…but not necessarily the data you actually desired.

Click through to see ways of translating those values.

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Temporal Memory-Optimized Tables

Ned Otter describes how hybrid disk + memory-optimized temporal tables differ from on-disk temporal tables:

As changes are made to rows in the temporal memory-optimized table, before being transferred to the history table on disk, they are first migrated to an internal memory-optimized staging table. That means when you query the “history table”, you could be retrieving rows from both the on-disk history table, and internal staging table. Because no custom indexing was possible on the internal staging table, there could be performance implications when executing queries against historical data. Microsoft addressed these potential performance issues in SQL 2016 SP1 (detailed in this CAT blog post).

The internal staging table only gets flushed to the on-disk history table when it reaches 8% of the size of the temporal table. Given the current capacities of Windows Server 2016 (24TB memory), it’s now possible to have very large memory-optimized tables. 8% of one of those large memory-optimized tables could be quite large, which will affect query performance, if predicates don’t match available indexes.

Read on for some sobering thoughts on the topic.

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Using Temporal Tables For SCD2

I have a post on pain that I experienced with temporal tables:

This query succeeds but returns results we don’t really want:

ProductModelTemporalSameDate

This brings back all 9 records tied to products 1 and 2 (because product 3 didn’t exist on July 2nd at 8 AM UTC). But it gives us the same start and end date, so that’s not right. What I really want to do is replace @InterestingTime with qsp‘s DatePredictionMade, so let’s try that:

ProductModelTemporalInvalid

This returns a syntax error. It would appear that at the time FOR SYSTEM_TIME is resolved, QuantitySoldPrediction does not yet exist. This stops us dead in our tracks.

This is one of the two things I’d really like to change about temporal tables; the other thing (now that auto-retention is slated for release) is the ability to backfill data without turning off system versioning.

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Automatic Temporal Table Data Purging

Bert Wagner has warmed the cockles of my heart with this news:

The problem with temporal tables is that they produce a lot of data. Every row-level change stored in the temporal table’s history table quickly adds up, increasing the possibility that a low-disk space warning is going to be sent to the DBA on-call.

In the future with SQL Server 2017 CTP3, Microsoft allows us to add a retention period to our temporal tables, making purging old data in a temporal table as easy as specifying:

I’m in a situation where this will be very useful.

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Business Use Cases For Temporal Tables

Bert Wagner walks through some of the business cases for using temporal tables:

I know this query seems lame — it’s just a SELECT FROM statement. There are no FOR SYSTEM TIME clauses, WHERE statements, and no other interesting T-SQL features.

But that’s the point! Have you ever had to get the “current” rows out of a table that is keeping track of all transactions? I’m sure it involved some GROUP BY statements, some window functions, and more than a few cups of coffee.

Temporal tables automatically manage your transaction history, providing the most current records in one table (dbo.CarInventory) and all of the historical transactions in another (dbo.CarInventoryHistory). No need for complicated queries.

Temporal tables definitely have their uses.  At present, those uses are primarily around versioned fact data.

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Transactional Replication And Temporal Tables

Transactional replication found Drew Furgiuele’s little black book of T-SQL syntax and went ballistic when it found out Drew was seeing temporal tables on the side:

So let’s say you ran this script (or, maybe someone checked it in as a database change to production). For a while, things are great: you’re making changes to data on your publisher and things are flowing nicely to your subscribers. Sooner or later though, someone’s going to ask you to set up a new subscription (or maybe you need to reinitialize one). Let’s simulate that on my lab: we’re going to remove Person.Address from replication and we’re going to put it back, and then create a snapshot. The key difference here is that now, Person.Address has system versioning turned on. When we try and add the table back to the publication, we’re in for a shock:

This could come back to bite you, so if you use replication and are interested in temporal tables, read this closely.

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Cleaning Up Erroneous Data Using Temporal Tables

Bert Wagner shows how to use a temporal table to clean up incorrectly entered data if you already have a temporal table in place:

The good news is that all of your data is still intact — it’s been copied over to the historical table. Phew!

Now all you need to do is rollback this inadvertent row insertion and make your tables look just like you did before you started breaking them.

This should be easy right?

Well not exactly — there’s no automatic way to roll back the data in a temporal table. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t write some clever queries to accomplish the same thing.

Read the whole thing, as there’s a multi-step process.

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Versioning R Code In SQL Server

Steph Locke shows how to combine R models and SQL Server temporal tables for versioning:

If we’re storing our R model objects in SQL Server then we can utilise another SQL Server capability, temporal tables, to take the pain out of versioning and make it super simple.

Temporal tables will track changes automatically so you would overwrite the previous model with the new one and it would keep a copy of the old one automagically in a history table. You get to always use the latest version via the main table but you can then write temporal queries to extract any version of the model that’s ever been implemented. Super neat!

I do exactly this.  In my case, it’s to give me the ability to review those models after the fact once I know whether they generated good outcomes or not.

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