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Archive for May, 2013

SQL Server: joining NULL values

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From Stack Overflow:

UPDATE  n
SET    AddressID = a.AddressID
FROM   #NewAddress n
JOIN   dbo.Address a
ON     (a.[LineA] = n.[LineA] OR (a.[LineA] is null AND n.[LineA] is null))
       AND (a.[LineB] = n.[LineB] OR (a.[LineB] is null AND n.[LineB] is null))
       AND (a.[LineC] = n.[LineC] OR (a.[LineC] is null AND n.[LineC] is null))
WHERE  n.Processed = 0

Any ideas on how to UNION or EXISTS this query? This seems to be a pretty common join condition I'm encountering.

Here's a JOIN condition: we should join two tables on a common key, also treating NULL values as equal. Normal equality conditions don't work here: in SQL, NULL values are not considered equal (strictly speaking, their equality is a boolean NULL rather than true or false).

ANSI standard defines a special predicate for that: IS NOT DISTINCT FROM, which is supported by PostgreSQL. This treats values the same value as DISTINCT does: two equal values, as well as two NULL values, are considered not distinct. MySQL also supports similar operator, < =>. Unfortunately, SQL Server supports neither.

In SQL Server, we can emulate this by using set operators which distinctify the queries. Set operators work on sets, so we would need some kind of a SELECT query for them. This would also help us to overcome SQL Server's inability to compare tuples directly. Basically, we need to tell if two tuples: (a.lineA, a.lineB, a.lineC) and (n.lineA, n.lineB, n.lineC) are distinct or not.

We can do that by selecting those tuples in dummy queries (those without a FROM clause), intersecting those queries (which would give us a one-record or zero-record resultset, depending on whether the two tuples are distinct or not) and applying EXISTS to the resultset. EXISTS is a boolean predicate and as such can serve as a join condition.

Let's check it. We'll create two tables, fill them with random values (including occasional NULLs here and there):

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Written by Quassnoi

May 8th, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Posted in SQL Server