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Re: advice on how to store variable attributes

From: Pavel Stehule <pavel(dot)stehule(at)gmail(dot)com>
To: David Johnston <polobo(at)yahoo(dot)com>
Cc: Linos <info(at)linos(dot)es>, "pgsql-sql(at)postgresql(dot)org" <pgsql-sql(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Re: advice on how to store variable attributes
Date: 2011-10-22 14:07:07
Message-ID: (view raw, whole thread or download thread mbox)
Lists: pgsql-sql
2011/10/22 David Johnston <polobo(at)yahoo(dot)com>:
> On Oct 22, 2011, at 6:41, Linos <info(at)linos(dot)es> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>>    i need a little of advice on what could be the best way to store this information.
>> We need to calculate the difference in costs for our operations, we are already
>> storing our vendor invoices in the database so calculate the monetary change it
>> is a no-brainer but we need to store special attributes for any of the invoices
>> that we need to compare too, for example:
>>    -electric provider: total Kw.
>>    -water provider: total m3.
>>    -car maintenance: kilometers of the car.
>>    -mobile phones provider: international call minutes, national minutes, number
>> of sms, etc..
>> And much more types/variables, the number of variables can change, not every day
>> but still can change, i would like that they can be defined/changed from our
>> application, so alter table to add columns don't seem the best way (still an
>> option though). We will have "generic" reports that will show us changes in
>> costs and specific reports for the types with "extended attributes" that we want
>> to compare.
>> To compare values from this "extended attributes" i think we have two ways:
>>    1- have them in columns and use standard SQL.
>>    2- create the columns with a function that reads this attrs and create the columns.
>> So far i thin we have this options:
>>    1- a bunch of columns that would be null except when the type of the invoice
>> uses them.
>>    2- a table related with the vendor invoices table for every type of invoice
>> with his specifics columns.
>>    3- a key/value in a separate table related with the vendor invoices table where
>> i store the extended attrs of every invoice that needs them.
>>    4- use a hstore column in the vendor invoces table to store this attrs.
>> The first two have the problem of probably changes to the number of attributes
>> of every type and give a more closed solution, apart from that 1- seems to be a
>> bit awkward and 2- would need the application that creates the query to know
>> with what table should join for every type (other point we will need to change
>> if we want to create new invoices types).
>> The last two have his own problems too, with 3 i will need to create a function
>> that return rows as columns to compare them, with 4- given that i will store the
>> attrs of every type in the database anyway i can use the operator -> (with a
>> CASE using operator ? returning 0 if the searched attr it is not in the hstore)
>> but still don't seem a clean solution for me.
>> For me it seems i am missing something, probably any of you have a much more
>> elegant (or correct) way to handle this situation, what would be your advice?
>> Thanks.
> Create a table with a single numeric column and multiple category columns.
> ( amount_value, amount_unit, amount_category, vendor_id )

This is EAV model - is good for smaller datasets, for larger datasets
is problematic. There is second possibility - using a "hstore" contrib
module - that emulates HASH table - It has better for larger datasets.


Pavel Stehule

> If necessary each "amount_value" data type should have it's own table since the processing logic will vary (I.e., you cannot subtract text or Boolean values).
> You are , in effect, creating multiple tables but combining them into one and using the category column to distinguish between them.
> David J.
> --
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