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PART III
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If it is necessary to study all transactions above (or below) hierarchy members with a particular characteristic, it is not possible to qualify the query using a natural key. It will be necessary to make use of a subquery instead of joining the bridge to the fact table. The subquery will produce a distinct list of subordinates (or superiors) to members that have the characteristic in question. This list will be used to filter the main query. For example, a subquery can produce a distinct list of company_keys for companies that have superiors that are in the finance industry. This list of keys can then be used to qualify a query against the fact table to aggregate their transactions. See Further Reading for more information on this technique.
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Even experienced designers and developers need to pause and check their work when writing a query that includes a bridge table. For a novice user, the likelihood that things will be joined and qualified correctly is quite low. To avoid the danger that things will be done incorrectly, you can withhold the bridge table from these users. This will keep them out of trouble but will prevent them from being able to leverage the hierarchies in their reports. If you are keeping track, you may have noticed that this brings to three the number of possible ways to join the tables in a star when a bridge is available. The tables can be configured to support looking down at the facts from a member of the hierarchy, looking up at the facts from a member of the hierarchy, or studying facts in the context of direct transactions, with no regard for the hierarchy. Figure 10-9 depicts these three configurations. The top configuration in Figure 10-9 does not involve the bridge. This configuration is used for reports in which the hierarchy is not of interest. Order facts can be selected or grouped based on the companies with which order transactions occurred. This configuration also happens to be safe; there is no many-to-many relationship that might result in doublecounting. It is the only configuration that will be made available to novice users. The other two parts of the illustration recap the configurations used to look down from a particular member in the hierarchy and to look up. These configurations risk doublecounting if queries and reports are not constructed carefully. Only experienced developers will have access to the bridge table and these configurations, and it will be important to check and double-check their work. TIP Only expose the bridge table to trained and experienced developers. End users building ad hoc reports cannot be expected to avoid the pitfalls of double-counting. Because the bridge table will only be made available to elite developers, you may also choose to provide a flattened solution for end users. In this case, the company table will contain the flattened hierarchy attributes discussed earlier in the chapter; the bridge will be unchanged. This provides novice users with a limited ability to perform hierarchical summarization using the flattened version. NOTE As you have just seen, the presence of a hierarchy bridge table means there will be at least three ways to join the tables in a star. Business intelligence products that generate SQL queries can be hampered by designs in which there is more than one way to relate tables. Advice for handling this complication is provided in 16, Design and Business Intelligence.
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10 Recursive Hierarchies and Bridges 239
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Transactions by Company ORDER_FACTS day_key product_key salesrep_key company_key . . . order_dollars . . .
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COMPANY company_key company_id company_name company_type . . . Role: Transacted With
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ORDER_FACTS day_key product_key salesrep_key company_key . . . order_dollars . . .
superior_company_key subordinate_company_key levels_removed
company_key company_id company_name company_type . . . Role: Superior
Transactions Above Companies (looking up)
ORDER_FACTS day_key product_key salesrep_key company_key . . . order_dollars . . .
COMPANY_ HIERARCHY_ BRIDGE superior_company_key subordinate_company_key levels_removed
COMPANY company_key company_id company_name company_type . . . Role: Subordinate
Figure 10-9
Three join configurations are possible
Resolving the Many-to-Many Relationship
When a hierarchy bridge is used to facilitate looking up or looking down, it is placed in a many-to-many relationship with the fact table. As long as you take the precautions described, this can be done safely. However, many software products will not accommodate such a relationship. As 9 pointed out, some modeling tools, database products, and
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