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Exploit the Power of Joins in SQL SELECT Statements

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Inner joins, outer joins, exception joins, cross joins... Do you know how to take full advantage of all the types of joins?

 

Editor's Note: In this excerpt from SQL for eServer i5 and iSeries, author Kevin Forsythe explains how to use the various joins available in SQL.

 

In SQL, the basic SELECT statement displays one or more columns from a single file. When columns must be merged from two or more files, a join should be used. There are two ways to accomplish this. A join can be written either with or without the JOIN keyword. Creating simple joins is easy enough, but as they get more complex, using the JOIN keyword becomes more attractive.  

Join Without the JOIN Keyword

Creating a simple join that pulls two columns from different files is easy. Simply include each column name in the SELECT clause, include both files in the FROM clause (separated by a comma), and add a WHERE clause that indicates how the data is matched up between the two files:

 

SELECT CUSTNAME, ORDERNBR FROM CUSTMAST, ORDERMAST WHERE CUSTNBR = CUSTNO

 

Notice that the customer number fields in the WHERE clause are spelled differently. Had they been spelled the same, a different syntax would be required. When more than one file in the SQL statement contain field names that are spelled identically, a correlation name should be provided to identify in which column the referenced file exists:

 

SELECT CUSTNBR, CUSTNAME, ORDERNBR FROM CUSTMAST C, ORDERMAST O WHERE C.CUSTNBR = O.CUSTNO

 

Any number of files can be joined together in this fashion, although performance will degrade as the number of files increases. This style of join is an inner join, and it is illustrated in Figure 1.

 

100808ForsytheFigure1.PNG

Figure 1: Inner join. (Click images to enlarge.)

 

Only records that have a match in both files are included. Other kinds of joins are discussed below.

Using the Join Keyword

The JOIN keyword allows for both a simpler and more flexible syntax for joining files:

 

SELECT CUSTNAME, ORDERNBR FROM CUSTMAST JOIN ORDERMAST ON CUSTNBR = CUSTNO

 

This SQL statement functions exactly the same as the previous example, but it uses the JOIN keyword to explicitly identify the type of join being performed. The WHERE clause is replaced with the ON clause, which explicitly identifies the comparisons used to connect the data in the files being joined. This separation allows the WHERE clause to be used exclusively for record selection, thus making the statement much easier to read. This syntax also allows the join types listed in Figure 2 to be implemented more easily.

 

100808ForsytheFigure2.PNG

Figure 2: Join types.

Using a Left Outer Join

The left outer join uses the ON clause to filter which records to include in the result table from the "right" or second file listed. The ON clause is not applied to records from the "left" file. This is useful when you want all the records from a given file, whether the joined file has data or not. Consider the example given in Figure 1. In that example, only those customers who had orders in the order master were included in the result table. What if we had wanted to list all customers, even if they had no orders? The following SQL statement accomplishes that:

 

SELECT CUSTNBR, CUSTNAME, ORDERNBR FROM CUSTMAST LEFT OUTER JOIN ORDERMAST ON CUSTNBR = CUSTNO

This statement is similar to the previous inner join example, but in this case, customer number 105 is included in the result table, even though there is no order for that customer. On the other hand, customer number 104 is not included, because it does not exist in the Customer Master File, which is the "left" file. Figure 3 illustrates this technique.

 

100808ForsytheFigure3.PNG

Figure 3: Left outer join.

Using a Right Outer Join

The right outer join uses the ON clause to filter which records to include in the result table from the "left" or first file listed. The ON clause is not applied to records from the "right" file. This is useful when you want all the records from a given file, whether the joined file has data or not. In the previous example, all the records from the Customer Master File are included, whether those customers had orders or not. What if the reverse was wanted? By simply changing the keyword from LEFT OUTER JOIN to RIGHT OUTER JOIN, the behavior of the SQL statement is reversed. Consider the following SQL statement: 

 

SELECT CUSTNBR, CUSTNAME, ORDERNBR FROM CUSTMAST RIGHT OUTER JOIN ORDERMAST ON CUSTNBR = CUSTNO

In this case, customer number 104 is included in the result table because it had an order, even though it does not exist in the Customer Master File. But customer number 105 is not included, because it does not have any orders. An illustration of this technique is shown in Figure 4.

 

100808ForsytheFigure4.PNG

Figure 4: Right outer join.

Using an Exception Join

Corruption often creeps into any company's database. How many times have you heard--or even seen for yourself--that during a conversion to a new software package, a company finds that it has a large amount of invalid data in its database? What can be done to avoid this in your database? If you have the ability to modify the structure of your database, you can consider adding constraints (which are discussed in the book). If you can't use constraints to prevent corruption from weaseling its way into your database, then the next best option is to detect it when it does! Left and right exception joins are great tools for trapping invalid data. In the previous examples, invalid data existed in both files. To determine which records in the Order File have invalid customer numbers, the following SQL statement is used: 

 

SELECT CUSTNBR, ORDERNBR FROM CUSTMAST RIGHT EXCEPTION JOIN ORDERMAST ON CUSTNBR = CUSTNO

In the example shown in Figure 5, customer number 104 is included in the result table because it does not exist in the Customer Master File.

 

100808ForsytheFigure5.PNG

Figure 5: Right exception join.

 

The left exception join is useful when searching for master records with no detail. For example, an SQL statement is created that lists all order master records with no detail:

 

SELECT CUSTNO, ORDERNBR FROM ORDERMAST M LEFT EXCEPTION JOIN ORDERDETL D ON M.ORDERNBR = D.ORDERNBR

Order numbers 3159 and 3366 are included in the result table (shown in Figure 6), because they do not exist in the Order Detail File.

 

100808ForsytheFigure6.PNG

Figure 6: Left exception join.

Using a Cross Join

The most unusual kind of join (and the hardest to find a good use for) is the cross join, also called a Cartesian join. The cross join connects every record from the left-hand file to every record on the right-hand file. The result table created by this SQL statement can be huge. Typically, some sort of selection criteria is applied to the result table to minimize the number of records selected. So the question is, how do we use a cross join in the real world? Consider this example: We want to create a list of all our customers, and for each customer, we want to include a list of all items that are available for a special offer:

 

SELECT CUSTNBR, ITEM FROM CUSTMAST CROSS JOIN ITEMMAST WHERE SOCODE = 'X'

 

In this case, all customers are selected and each item marked with an "X" in its special offer code column is included for each customer. Figure 7 shows an illustration of this technique.

 

100808ForsytheFigure7.PNG

Figure 7: Cross join.

 

It may not be a technique you're likely to use every day, but you may stumble across situations where it comes in handy.

 

Vertical Joins with Unions 

The joins discussed might be described as horizontal joins, meaning that columns from different tables are merged together within the same record. A different technique creates a vertical join, or union. A union merges together rows of data from different files. Very different from the previous joins, however, the union must select the exact same number of columns from each table. And the data type for each column selected must match the data type in the other selected column. This kind of SQL statement is most useful when merging data from files that contain similar data. For example, a database might contain a Salaried Employee file and an Hourly Employee file. To create one list of employees, the following union can be used:

 

SELECT EMPNBR, EMPNAME FROM SALARIED

UNION ALL

SELECT EMNO, ENAME FROM HOURLY

 

All the employee names from both files are included in the result set, shown in Figure 8.

 

100808ForsytheFigure8.PNG

Figure 8: Union ALL.

 

The UNION keyword merges the two SELECT statements together, and the ALL keyword indicates that duplicate records in the result set are allowed. Without the ALL keyword, the duplicates are eliminated.

Sorting Unions by Column Number

Notice that the union created above is not in any particular sorted order; it is presented however the SQL engine threw it together. At the end of all UNION statements, an ORDER BY clause can be added to specify the sort order of the result table. The difficulty here is that the ORDER BY clause normally contains column names such as this:

 

SELECT EMPNAME FROM SALARIED

ORDER BY S_NAME

 

This will not work with unions, because the column names may not be consistent between the SELECT statements being merged together. Do not give up hope, though. It is still possible to sort the data. Simply use the ordinal number of the column or columns to sort by. Ordinal numbers represent the sequence number of the columns in the SELECT statements. Ordinal number 1 is the first column, 2 is the second column, and so on. So, to sort the previous union by employee name, use this statement:

 

SELECT EMPNBR, EMPNAME FROM SALARIED

UNION ALL

SELECT EMNO, ENAME FROM HOURLY

ORDER BY 2

 

The result set created by this SQL statement is shown in Figure 9. It merges the data from both SELECTs together, sorted by the second column.

 

100808ForsytheFigure9.PNG

Figure 9: Sorted union.

Handling Inconsistent Data Types in Unions 

Each SELECT statement must provide the same number of columns and the same basic data type for each column. The exact data type or length is not an issue: For example, a quantity column could be packed decimal in one file and zoned decimal in another. The SQL engine handles that situation with no trouble. But what happens if one of the files has a column called YEAR that stores the date as a two-digit numeric field, and the other file being merged by the union has YEAR stored as a two-byte character field? Some sort of conversion must be performed to allow the union to execute:  

 

SELECT EMPNBR, EMPNAME, HIREYEAR FROM SALARIED

UNION ALL

SELECT EMNO, ENAME, DIGITS(HYEAR) FROM HOURLY

ORDER BY 1

 

As illustrated in Figure 10, the DIGITS function in this example converts the numeric field HYEAR to a two-byte character field.

 

100808ForsytheFigure10.PNG

Figure 10: Converting numeric data to character.

 

The CHAR function would have worked as well, but it would have dropped leading zeros and left-justified the value. That doesn't work well with year numbers. The DIGITS function performs a more disciplined translation to text by simply converting each digit and performing no other editing.

 

What if we had wanted to convert the character field to numeric, instead of the numeric to character, as in the last example? Other SQL functions are available to convert character fields into numeric:

  

SELECT EMPNBR, EMPNAME, DEC(HIREYEAR) FROM SALARIED

UNION ALL

SELECT EMNO, ENAME, HYEAR FROM HOURLY

ORDER BY 1

 

Figure 11 displays the results of this union.

 

100808ForsytheFigure11.PNG

Figure 11: Converting character data to numeric.

 

The DEC function used in this example converts the character data in HIREYEAR to a two-digit numeric field. The CAST function would have worked as well, but it is quicker to type the DEC function, so I use that instead! DEC also has optional parameters for specifying the number of digits and decimal places: 

 

DEC(HIREYEAR,2,0)

Handling Missing Data in Unions 

In the previous examples, we talked about using consistent data types for each column, but what if one of the files involved simply doesn't have a particular column in any form? A missing column can be handled by providing a place holder in one SELECT. For example, if the SALARIED file contains a column called PERDAYS for personal days, the HOURLY file may not contain a similar column if hourly employees do not receive personal days. To include that column from the SALARIED file, the HOURLY file must hard-code a value to correspond to the PERDAYS field, and its data type must match:

 

SELECT EMPNBR, EMPNAME, PERDAYS FROM SALARIED

UNION ALL

SELECT EMNO, ENAME, 0 FROM HOURLY

ORDER BY 1

 

This example creates a consistent set of columns in both SELECT statements by hard-coding the necessary values. The results of this statement are illustrated in Figure 12.

 

100808ForsytheFigure12.PNG

Figure 12: Hard-coded zero to create consistent data.

 

The 0 specified for the second column from HOURLY forces a zero value into that column for every record selected from the HOURLY file. If the column without a corresponding match is a character field, use a blank within quotes to signify the default value.

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  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.