Comparing Results using T-SQL

Usually, in data migration or ETL projects there is a need for comparing source data with that of the destination once the data is loaded. The challenge is in comparing each field from the source with its counterpart on the destination, for each record – and you can have a whole lot of fields.

The query that you would write to do the comparison, would be a large tangle of comparison operators – even for tables of a few columns, increasing in complexity as the number of columns grow.

A simpler solution would be to first convert the source and the destination into tables of just three fields: The Key field, the Field field and the Value field. (In case you have a multi-column key, you would obviously have more than three fields – but the principle is the same)

Consider the following source:

Table 1: Source
Seq_code Product_Name Color Unit_Price Category_Name Weight
C01 Crystal parrot None 130.00 ORNAMENT .75
C02 Silver pirate Silver 35.00 ORNAMENT 1
C03 Pearl necklace White 220.00 JEWELRY .35
C05 Ceramic dog Blue 15.00 ORNAMENT .35

and then consider the following destination (assuming that data is already loaded through some sort of ETL process):

Table 2: Destination
Code Name Color Price Category Weight
C01 Crystal parrot None 130.00 Ornament 75
C02 Silver pirate Silver 35.00 Ornament 1
C03 Pearl necklace White 220.00 Jewelry 35
C05 Ceramic dog Blue 15.00 Ornament 35

The Need

You need to compare these two, in order to pull out any discrepancies.

The Plan

You first mold each of these (i.e. the source and destination) to look like this:

Table 3: Pivoted Destination
Key Field Value
C01 Name Crystal parrot
C01 Color None
C01 Price 130.00
C01 Category Ornament
C01 Weight 75
C02 Name Silver pirate
C05 Weight 35

Here, you have the Key field (Code) of each record repeated for each field of that record along with the name of the field and the value of the field.

Before you do the molding you need to ensure that the field names in the original tables are the same. I.e. Seq_code in the source and Code in the destination should be changed to have the same name: Code, maybe.

Hence, the molded source should look like this:

Table 4: Pivoted Source
Key Field Value
C01 Name Crystal parrot
C01 Color None
C01 Price 130.00
C01 Category ORNAMENT
C01 Weight .75
C02 Name Silver pirate
C05 Weight .35

You now do the comparison using INNER JOIN on the Key + Field columns, and a WHERE to filter out the values that do not match. The molding can be done using UNPIVOT, so that there is no need to create any intermediate tables.

The Code

-- Pivot the source data
	SELECT	[Code],
				SELECT	[Code] =		[Seq_Code],
						[Name] =		[Product_Name],
						[Price] =		CAST([Unit_Price] AS VARCHAR(20)),	-- Data type conversion since all
						[Category] =	[Category_Name],					-- fields have to be of the same
						[Weight] =		CAST([Weight] AS VARCHAR(20))		-- data type.
				FROM	Source
			) AS Source
				[Value] FOR [Field] IN ([Name], [Color], [Price], [Category], [Weight])
			) AS UnPvt

-- Pivot the destination data
	SELECT	[Code],
				SELECT	[Code],
						[Price] =	CAST([Price] AS VARCHAR(20)),
						[Weight] =	CAST(CAST([Weight] AS DECIMAL(8, 2)) AS VARCHAR(20))
				FROM	Destination
			) AS Destination
				[Value] FOR [Field] IN ([Name], [Color], [Price], [Category], [Weight])
			) AS UnPvt

-- Query for discrepancies
		SP.[Value] AS [SourceValue],
		DP.[Value] AS [DestinationValue]
FROM	SourcePivot SP
		INNER JOIN DestinationPivot DP
			ON SP.[Code] = DP.[Code]
			AND SP.[Field] = DP.[Field]
WHERE	SP.[Value] <> DP.[Value] COLLATE SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CS_AS -- Use a case-sensitive collation on case insensitive
																	  -- tables/datbase if case difference is a concern.

The Result

Table 5: Comparison Result
Code Field SourceValue DestinationValue
C01 Category ORNAMENT Ornament
C01 Weight 0.75 75
C02 Category ORNAMENT Ornament
C03 Category JEWELRY Jewelry
C03 Weight 0.35 35
C05 Category ORNAMENT Ornament
C05 Weight 0.35 35

<<Download sample code>>

The Length of an Expression

We all take things for granted. And one such thing are functions that we are familiar with. When we use a function for the first time, we use it in a certain way and it works. It works a second and third time, and it continues to work – we take it for granted. We expect it to work like it always has. Until one fine day – 10 years later, you find that it does not work the way you thought it would – but you still suspect that something else is wrong. You spend too much time trying to figure it out until you finally realize that it’s your dear old friend who’s gone wonky. It happens to all of us – or at least to those of us who don’t read documentation in its entirety.

I was just working on some T-SQL that required simple string manipulations. You know, the usual data from text file to staging table, pull out the field and throw in some functions to separate first and last names. I was using the LEN function to get the length of the string so that I can use it to pull out the last name. Something that goes like this:

 1: RIGHT([EmployeeName], LEN([EmployeeName]) - CHARINDEX(' ', [EmployeeName]))

A simple employee name field, that separates first and last name with a space. This would work alright, except when there are trailing spaces. This I did not know (I’m ashamed to say). That was because I have always used LEN believing that it will return the length of the entire string, which it does but ignoring trailing spaces.

So how would you work around this? I can think up of two ways:

  1. Trim your string first:
     1: RIGHT(RTRIM([EmployeeName]), LEN(RTRIM([EmployeeName])) - CHARINDEX(' ', RTRIM([EmployeeName])))

    You would get longer codes, especially if it is more complex than my mere mortal example.

  2. or use the DATALENGTH function:
     1: RIGHT([EmployeeName], DATALENGTH([EmployeeName]) - CHARINDEX(' ', [EmployeeName]))

    DATALENGTH counts the number of bytes that your string contains (including that of your trailing spaces). But, you need to be forewarned that if it’s an Unicode expression that you are dealing with it would show double the length, since Unicode uses up 2 bytes per character.

So there you go, a post that was not supposed to be technical, but philosophical – Don’t take things for granted.