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SQLDIY: Gathering A Data Dictionary

In this installment we are looking at assembling a basic data dictionary from the column level meta data stored in SQL Server. This is a little different from the rest. You can still do quite a bit with the information provided but to leverage this to the fullest requires a bit of developer buy in. Or a bit more work for whomever is your schema designer. Extended properties have been available to you since the stone ages of SQL Server. Two fine fellows Mark Chaffin and Brian Knight(blog|twitter) expound on the power of extended properties in the article on Managing Metadata in SQL Server 2005. Well worth the read. Using a couple of stored procedures you can store some very rich metadata about every object in your database.

Here are some examples of how to add descriptions to your objects.

–Adding a description to a table
EXEC sp_addextendedproperty
@name = N’MS_Description’,
@value = N’New Description for the Server table’,
@level0type = N’SCHEMA’, @level0name = dbo,
@level1type = N’TABLE’, @level1name = Server;


–adding a description to a column
EXEC sp_addextendedproperty
@name = N’MS_Description’
,@value = N’Login is trusted’
,@level0type = N’Schema’, @level0name = dbo
,@level1type = N’Table’,  @level1name = Server
,@level2type = N’Column’, @level2name = Trusted;
–updating that column description
EXEC sp_updateextendedproperty
@name = N’MS_Description’
,@value = N’Login is windows authenticated’
,@level0type = N’Schema’, @level0name = dbo
,@level1type = N’Table’,  @level1name = Server
,@level2type = N’Column’, @level2name = Trusted;

Pretty simple, yet I’ve always received push back from both developers and database administrators. To me knowledge is power and building the documentation directly into the database metadata is an extremely powerful tool to have handy. At any point I can query sys.extended_properties on an object and find its usage, without having to guess by the object name what it may, or may not actually represent.

A second use case for having the metadata and a history of changes pretty straight forward, checking for schema changes. If you don’t want to implement DDL triggers or use a third party tool to watch for schema changes this is another handy tool in your tool belt. I’ve used this data to track schema deployed across servers to make sure that they are always in sync and if they are out of sync to send an alert.

Couple of quick notes for you. When you are querying sys.extended_properties minor_id is the column_id if you are looking at a class of 1. See sys.extended_properties on technet.

This one is a two in one enjoy!

Series to Date SQLDIY: Manage and Monitor SQL Server Yourself

Link to the script Gather Table Level Metadata

Link to the script Gather Database Level Metadata

I’m hosting all my scripts from this series on GitHub as I do with all my open source projects.

As always, if you find any bugs please let me know and I will correct them!

SQL Man of Mystery

Wes Brown is a PASS chapter leader and SQL Server MVP. He writes for SQL Server Central and maintains his blog at http://www.sqlserverio.com. Wes is Currently serving as a Senior Lead Consultant at Catapult Systems. Previous experiences include Product Manager for SQL Litespeed by Quest software and consultant to fortune 500 companies. He specializes in high availability, disaster recovery and very large database performance tuning. He is a frequent speaker at local user groups and SQLSaturdays.


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