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Posted Oct 7, 2003

Implementing CRUD Operations Using Stored Procedures: Part 1 - Page 2

By Andrew Novick


There are a number of issues to discuss before actually creating the code for the stored procedures. It is difficult to discuss them in a vacuum so to illustrate the issues involved in making the CRUD procedures let's use the following theoretical product table:


EXEC sp_addtype N'AppUSERID', N'varchar (20)', N'not null'

    ProductID int NOT NULL identity (1,1) PRIMARY KEY 
  , ProductName varchar(100) DEFAULT 'Product unnamed'
  , [Description] varchar(2000) NULL
  , UnitCost money NOT NULL-- Cost of making it
  , UnitsInStock int NOT NULL -- units in the inventory
  , InventoryCost as UnitCost * UnitsInStock -- Computed column
  , CreatedDT datetime NOT NULL DEFAULT getdate()
  , CreatedByUSERID AppUSERID DEFAULT user_name()
  , LastUdDT datetime NULL
  , RowVrsn rowversion NOT NULL

I have kept the Product table deliberately short; each column is there to illustrate a particular point. You will find a similar table in the Northwind sample database and in many other databases that store product information.

Primary Keys

For the CRUD operations to work, every table must have a primary key or at least one unique index. Of course, most tables have primary keys anyway but sometimes there are a few tables that do not really need a primary key. For example, some tables used for historical reporting do not have any unique combinations of fields because they record non-unique situations. In these cases, an identity column must be added to the table to serve as the primary key. Without it our stored procedures will not work.

Identity Columns

Many tables use identity columns as the primary key. Whether you prefer the use of natural keys or create synthetic keys, such as identity columns, for every table, they are necessary in some circumstances, such as the one mentioned above and our Create procedure should return it to the caller.

If the table has an identity column, the Create stored procedure is responsible for returning it to the application program. SQL Server 2000 makes this easier than it was in previous versions by adding the SCOPE_IDENTITY() function. We will use it whenever a table has an identity column.

Concurrency Control and Timestamps

When a row of data is read by an application and presented to the user for possible modification, most applications do not hold a lock on the row. That is good because if they did hold locks while the user contemplated making changes, many lockout situations would occur. If fact, unless the application used the Read Uncommitted isolation level, other users could not even look at the data until the lock is released.

But if there are no locks held, how does one prevent incorrect successive updates to the same row? Let's say that a shipping application is updating the UnitsInStock column for the Products table. What we want to prevent is this sequence of updates:

  1. User A reads row X with UnitsInStock of 6
  2. User B reads row X with UnitsInStock of 5
  3. User B updates row X changing UnitsInStock to 1
  4. User A updates row X changing UnitsInStock to 2

The problem with allowing A's attempted update to succeed is that anything that B changed is ignored. B reduced the inventory level by 5 to 1. A's change to UnitsInStock column should not be allowed in this situation. Not only is A's change incorrect but I probably should not have been allowed at all because the total units shipped would be greater than the inventory.

The answer to preventing this problem lies in the WHERE clause of the UPDATE statement. As we have seen, the WHERE clause is used to identify the primary key to the row. It can also be used to identify the data that the client application thinks that it is updating. If the row has been changed since the client application read the row, it should not be allowed to apply updates. This is accomplished in one of two ways:

  • A clause specifying the original value of every column is added to the WHERE clause
  • A check on the timestamp column is added to the WHERE clause.

Many systems, including ADO, will write the check for the original value of every column. That technique works in every database management system, not just SQL Server. SQL Server offers the timestamp data type, which can be used to track when a row changes. Every time a row is updated, a timestamp (a.k.a rowversion) is updated to a new unique value. This simplifies writing the stored procedures because we only have to pass in the timestamp, not the original value of every column.

timestamp and rowversion

The SQL Server Books on-line discusses Microsoft's intent to change the timestamp data type to be in line with the SQL-92 standard, which calls for the timestamp to contain a date and time like the current SQL Server datetime data type. To accommodate this future change the rowversion data type has been added as a synonym to timestamp. It will be there when timestamp is changed. For that reason, I have used rowversion in the table and procedure definitions in this article.

Computed Columns

SQL Server allows columns to be defined as a computation on other columns in the same table. Using a User-Defined function, the computation can even extend to accessing data in other tables. In the product table, the computed column is InventoryValue, which is defined with the line:

  , InventoryCost as UnitCost * UnitsInStock -- Computed column

The Create, Read, and Update stored procedures must return the value of computed columns in the table. They will be OUTPUT parameters in each of the CRU procedures. The Delete procedure can ignore them.

Special Fields

For tables that might be edited by a user I add four fields to the server as a sort of audit trail. They capture the datetime and user when the row was inserted and when it was last updated. The Product table has them defined this way:

	  , CreatedDT datetime NOT NULL DEFAULT getdate()
	  , CreatedByUSERID AppUSERID NOT NULL DEFAULT user_name()
	  , LastUdDT datetime NULL

I have supplied defaults for the CreatedDT and CreatedByUSERID columns. The user_name() default returns the current user. If you're using an application role, the user_name() function doesn't help because it returns the name of the application role. In this and similar situations the application should supply an identity, not the database. Also, if your users are distributed across more than one time zone, using the database time is a good idea. That prevents some confusion about the order in which rows were created or modified.


This article has covered the rational and implementation issues surrounding the implementation of the CRUD operations in SQL Server. I hope that you're convinced that using stored procedures instead of ad hoc SQL statements is a good idea and that you've had a chance to think about some of the issues that will come up when we write the procedures.

Next month, I will go into detail about how to write each of the procedures, taking into consideration SQL Server features such as computed columns, timestamps and identity columns.

Writing those stored procedures can quickly add up to quite a task. However, because every such procedure in nearly identical, they are easy to generate with a program. That has been my practice for the past several years. There are many programs, both free and commercial, that will generate the procedure for you. Next month's article describes some of them and discusses what is involved in generating the procedures so you do not have to do it by hand.

» See All Articles by Columnist Andrew Novick

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