Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dimension Table

In data warehousing, a dimension table is one of the set of companion tables to a fact table.

The fact table contains business facts (or measures), and foreign keys which refer to candidate keys (normally primary keys) in the dimension tables.

Contrary to fact tables, dimension tables contain descriptive attributes (or fields) that are typically textual fields (or discrete numbers that behave like text). These attributes are designed to serve two critical purposes: query constraining and/or filtering, and query result set labeling.

Dimension attributes should be:

    Verbose (labels consisting of full words)
    Complete (having no missing values)
    Discretely valued (having only one value per dimension table row)
    Quality assured (having no misspellings or impossible values)

Dimension table rows are uniquely identified by a single key field. It is recommended that the key field be a simple integer because a key value is meaningless, used only for joining fields between the fact and dimension tables. Dimension tables often use primary keys that are also surrogate keys. Surrogate keys are often auto-generated.

The use of surrogate dimension keys brings several advantages, including:

    Performance. Join processing is made much more efficient by using a single field (the surrogate key)
    Buffering from operational key management practices. This prevents situations where removed data rows might reappear when their natural keys get reused or reassigned after a long period of dormancy
    Mapping to integrate disparate sources
    Handling unknown or not-applicable connections
    Tracking changes in dimension attribute values

Although surrogate key use places a burden put on the ETL system, pipeline processing can be improved, and ETL tools have built-in improved surrogate key processing.

The goal of a dimension table is to create standardized, conformed dimensions that can be shared across the enterprise's data warehouse environment, and enable joining to multiple fact tables representing various business processes.

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