SQL SERVER – Using expressor Composite Types to Enforce Business Rules

One of the features that distinguish the expressor Data Integration Platform from other products in the data integration space is its concept of composite types, which provide an effective and easily reusable way to clearly define the structure and characteristics of data within your application.  An important feature of the composite type approach is that it allows you to easily adjust the content of a record to its ultimate purpose.  For example, a record used to update a row in a database table is easily defined to include only the minimum set of columns, that is, a value for the key column and values for only those columns that need to be updated.

Much like a class in higher level programming languages, you can also use the composite type as a way to enforce business rules onto your data by encapsulating a datum’s name, data type, and constraints (for example, maximum, minimum, or acceptable values) as a single entity, which ensures that your data can not assume an invalid value.  To what extent you use this functionality is a decision you make when designing your application; the expressor design paradigm does not force this approach on you.

Let’s take a look at how these features are used.  Suppose you want to create a group of applications that maintain the employee table in your human resources database.

Your table might have a structure similar to the HumanResources.Employee table in the AdventureWorks database.  This table includes two columns, EmployeID and rowguid, that are maintained by the relational database management system; you cannot provide values for these columns when inserting new rows into the table.

Additionally, there are columns such as VacationHours and SickLeaveHours that you might choose to update for all employees on a monthly basis, which justifies creation of a dedicated application.

By creating distinct composite types for the read, insert and update operations against this table, you can more easily manage this table’s content.

When developing this application within expressor Studio, your first task is to create a schema artifact for the database table.  This process is completely driven by a wizard, only requiring that you select the desired database schema and table.  The resulting schema artifact defines the mapping of result set records to a record within the expressor data integration application.  The structure of the record within the expressor application is a composite type that is given the default name CompositeType1.  As you can see in the following figure, all columns from the table are included in the result set and mapped to an identically named attribute in the default composite type.

If you are developing an application that needs to read this table, perhaps to prepare a year-end report of employees by department, you would probably not be interested in the data in the rowguid and ModifiedDate columns.  A typical approach would be to drop this unwanted data in a downstream operator.  But using an alternative composite type provides a better approach in which the unwanted data never enters your application.

While working in expressor  Studio’s schema editor, simply create a second composite type within the same schema artifact, which you could name ReadTable, and remove the attributes corresponding to the unwanted columns.

The value of an alternative composite type is even more apparent when you want to insert into or update the table.  In the composite type used to insert rows, remove the attributes corresponding to the EmployeeID primary key and rowguid uniqueidentifier columns since these values are provided by the relational database management system.

And to update just the VacationHours and SickLeaveHours columns, use a composite type that includes only the attributes corresponding to the EmployeeID, VacationHours, SickLeaveHours and ModifiedDate columns.

By specifying this schema artifact and composite type in a Write Table operator, your upstream application need only deal with the four required attributes and there is no risk of unintentionally overwriting a value in a column that does not need to be updated.

Now, what about the option to use the composite type to enforce business rules?  If you review the composition of the default composite type CompositeType1, you will note that the constraints defined for many of the attributes mirror the table column specifications.  For example, the maximum number of characters in the NationaIDNumber, LoginID and Title attributes is equivalent to the maximum width of the target column, and the size of the MaritalStatus and Gender attributes is limited to a single character as required by the table column definition.  If your application code leads to a violation of these constraints, an error will be raised.  The expressor design paradigm then allows you to handle the error in a way suitable for your application.  For example, a string value could be truncated or a numeric value could be rounded.

Moreover, you have the option of specifying additional constraints that support business rules unrelated to the table definition.

Let’s assume that the only acceptable values for marital status are S, M, and D.  Within the schema editor, double-click on the MaritalStatus attribute to open the Edit Attribute window.  Then click the Allowed Values checkbox and enter the acceptable values into the Constraint Value text box.

The schema editor is updated accordingly.

There is one more option that the expressor semantic type paradigm supports.  Since the MaritalStatus attribute now clearly specifies how this type of information should be represented (a single character limited to S, M or D), you can convert this attribute definition into a shared type, which will allow you to quickly incorporate this definition into another composite type or into the description of an output record from a transform operator.

Again, double-click on the MaritalStatus attribute and in the Edit Attribute window, click Convert, which opens the Share Local Semantic Type window that you use to name this shared type.  There’s no requirement that you give the shared type the same name as the attribute from which it was derived.  You should supply a name that makes it obvious what the shared type represents.

In this posting, I’ve overviewed the expressor semantic type paradigm and shown how it can be used to make your application development process more productive.  The beauty of this feature is that you choose when and to what extent you utilize the functionality, but I’m certain that if you opt to follow this approach your efforts will become more efficient and your work will progress more quickly.  As always, I encourage you to download and evaluate expressor Studio for your current and future data integration needs.

Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.SQLAuthority.com)

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