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The Schema Debate

By Steve Jones,

I saw a piece recently by Brent Ozar about the lack of value in using database schemas. I have, for most of my career, had Brent's viewpoint that they weren't that useful and I haven't seen much value in using them, even in terms of permissions. Perhaps that's because I've seen a number of third party applications that used incredibly poor database design and soured the notion of schemas for me. Or possibly I don't like them since I've had any number of issues in development as people create their own objects under their own schema and cause integration issues.

In any case, I followed the discussion on Brent's blog, and then on alater editorial from Phil Factor. I noticed that the topic seemed to come up in a number of other blogs, like Alexander Kuznetsov's, and I have to say that I might be changing my mind. My guess is that I haven't run into a situation where I was stumped enough to turn to a schema, but as I read through the arguments given by various people in support of schemas, I suspect that I just haven't encountered enough problems.

The biggest reason I've seen for schemas seems to be the multi-user database, where you have different  types of data or different application data that you want to somehow co-locate in the same database and apply referential integrity. That, and CDC, which seems to use schemas in creative way.

I don't buy the permissions argument, especially as I've often had two different permissions needs for a set of tables.  Roles work fine, and I can see the permissions easily set by the role or object. Perhaps that is more work, but it's never felt even remotely difficult to maintain for me when I have hundreds of tables and thousands of stored procedures.

I am still not sold that schemas are that valuable for most purposes, and I think they can easily confuse people. I'd recommend that you stick with one schema until you know better, and then have a good case for using multiple ones, but if I'm wrong, let me know. And if you want to share your use of schemas, send me an article.

Steve Jones

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Steve Jones