Data Warehousing and Data Science

14 January 2016

Temporal Tables in SQL Server 2016

Filed under: Data Warehousing,SQL Server — Vincent Rainardi @ 8:40 am

The temporal table feature in SQL Server 2016 is a breakthrough in data warehousing, because we no longer need to do anything to store the historical values. This cuts down the development effort of a data warehouse by approximately 15% (half of the ETL development effort which is about 30%; the other 70% is analysis, design, database development, BI/report development, management).

Usage scenarios:

  • Data audit/forensic
  • Point-in-time analysis (time travel)
  • Data anomaly detection
  • Slowly changing dimension (type 4!)
  • Repairing data corruption at row level

Up to now we always have to build a data warehouse, which stores a) the historical changes of attribute values from the source system, and b) fact snapshots over time. With temporal tables, we no longer need to create a data warehouse. We can do a) and b) above within the source system itself, as demonstrated by the above article. This effectively kills the idea of creating a data warehouse, increasing the time we saved from 15% to 95%*.

*This remaining 5% of effort reflects the extra time required to setup the temporal tables in the source system’s SQL Server, along with memory-optimized tables to store the current data in memory, and the full history of changes on the disk. That arrangement gives us the optimum balance between the performance and the cost.

The above article ( demonstrates that using temporal tables we can do SCD, and we can do snapshot fact tables (called Time Travel). The SCD that temporal tables do is not type 2, but type 4. Type 4 is an old technique where the data changes are kept in the history table. This keeps the original table small and compact as it only contains the latest version.



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