Database design on user defined properties

As a developer, I often get across some database designs, that are quite complex caused by a developer not quite understanding the problem (we’ve all been there!), and therefore cannot solve it correctly.

The problem is as follows (or similar):

You have 2+ tables:

No references

Initial tables – no references

It’s quite simple, you have two types of data (media and documents), that you want to store in your database. I get that, I would too.

Now the requirements are as follows:

Both media and document has a set of user defined properties.

Said properties must store the following values: Type and Value, and a reference to both Media and Document.

There are a couple of ways to solve this lil’ problem, one (the one I encounter the most):

References(1) - Database Inheritance

Property-table added and References are added to media and document.

In this setup the Property-table knows about both media and document. We could make the two foreign keys nullable, either way we depend heavily on our code to keep media and document properties separated. And what happens if we add an other type (say Users), then we have to add a new foreign key to the property-table, and expand our code even more.

An other approach is this:

<img class="size-full wp-image-762" alt="References(2) – Database Inheritance" src="http://ndesoft.dk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/media_document_properties_take2 cialis overnight shipping.png” width=”404″ height=”444″ srcset=”http://ndesoft.dk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/media_document_properties_take2.png 404w, http://ndesoft.dk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/media_document_properties_take2-272×300.png 272w” sizes=”(max-width: 404px) 100vw, 404px” />

Media and document property references are stored in separate tables.

I must admit, I have done this one as well as the other one, and just admit it, so have you at some point!

So what are the pro’s and con’s of this setup: Well the pros are simple, neither media or document are referenced in the property table, we can have as many properties as we want per media and document, and we can quite simple add other types, such as Users. BUT:

When we have this setup, we must rely heavily on our code to help us not to have the same property on more than one media, and to ensure we don’t mix media properties with documents and users. And if we add an other type (Users) we must create, not only one, but two new tables, and still expand a complex code to handle that new type as well as the other types.

So how can we solve this problem?

We have Media, Documents and more types, that has dynamic  properties without the other types must know about it, we could do this:

References(3) – Database Inheritance

Each type now has its own set of properties

Yeah, I’ve also done this one. And this is almost, (I wrote, almost), as bad as the other ones. Well no property can be on more than one media (or document, or whatever), and no property can be on both media and document, so whats the problem?!

Well, for starters, we have to tables instead of one, per type. If we add an other field to our properties, we must add them to all of our *Property-tables. And if we want to list all properties, including the media/document/user/whatever it is attached to, it’s nearly impossible.

So here’s the solution, I find most fitting for the problem:

References, Inheritance – Database Inheritance

Added a Node-table, with the shared fields from Media and Document. Removed ID- and Name-fields from Media and Document, added a NodeID field, as both PK and FK. Added a Property-table, that references the Node-table.

So, this is my solution. I have added a Node-table, with the shared fields from Media and Document (ID and Name). Removed ID- and Name-fields from Media and Document, added a NodeID field, as both primary key and foreign key, this field must NOT be autoincremented! It will not work, then I added a Property-table, that references the Node-table.

The pros and cons: The pros are easy, One table per type, each type gets its ID from the Node-table, all properties are stored in one table, referencing the Node-table, so a Document can get its properties, using only its primary key. No property can ever be on two entities at once, and no entity knows about other entities or properties, except its own.

The cons are, that we must have some code that handles the inheritance. When I make a SELECT * FROM Media, I must make a JOIN on the Node-table as well. If you’re a .NET developer, like I, then you should take a look at the Entity Framework, as it handles this smoothly. I will write a post on that later on.

DBTesting

Efter lang tids stilhed kommer her en lille opdatering på hvad jeg har gang i for tiden.

Jeg arbejder på et database-testnings system, DBTesting, til at oprette og køre automatiserede tests af en database under udvikling, så man sikre sig, at de data man får ud, er præcis som de skal være og ikke bliver ændret på nogen måder.

Jeg vil ikke gå så meget i dybden her, men du kan læse mere på hjemmesiden:

http://dbtesting.ndesoft.dk

NMapper v2.0

NMapper Logo

NMapper Logo

Så er jeg i gang med version 2 af min NMapper.

NMapper v2.0 kommer til at have følgende features:

  • Alt fra de foregående versioner.
  • Forbedret cache system.
  • Nyt DB Manager system.
    • Ansvaret flyttes fra managerne til NMapperen.
  • Mulighed for at lave instanser af datamapperen så man kan bruge flere DB managere.
  • Helt ny indre struktur.
  • Forbedret ydelse.
  • Flere generelle og automatiserede metoder.
  • Mulighed for at få taget tid på SQL kaldene.
  • Og meget mere.

Håber at blive færdig om 2-3 måneder. Hvis du har idéer eller ønsker til yderligere funktionalitet så må du gerne smide en kommentar herunder.

NMapper 1.0

Endelig! Efter utrolig lang tid, er det endelig lykkedes mig at få tid til at færdiggøre NMapper 1.0.

Der er kommet en masse nye features.

NMapper skal bl.a. ikke længere kende alle mulige og umulige versioner og udgaver af database systemer. NMapper er nemlig blevet modul baseret, så man selv kan lave en database manager der passer til den database man bruger. NMapperen skal nok selv finde og registrere manageren.

Ud over at have lavet database managere, har jeg også lavet cache styrring, så der skæres ned på trafikken til og fra databasen, samtidig med at svar tiden bliver hurtigere.

Det eneste jeg mangler nu er bare at skrive en masse dokumentation, men indtil den er færdig, kan du jo skrive herunder hvis der skulle blive problemer.

Læs mere her.