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Join Elimination

Welcome to another insightful session of DataVault Friday! I’m Michael Olschimke, the CEO of Scalefree, and I’m here to address your questions on various data-driven topics. From Data Vault 2.0 and data lakes to cloud computing and data mining, we cover it all. Every Friday, we dive into your queries, offering solutions and insights to enhance your data management strategies. Today, we received an intriguing question about join elimination in SQL Server, specifically concerning PIT (Point-in-Time) tables in Data Vault. Let’s explore this topic in depth.

Understanding PIT Tables and Their Role in Data Vault

In Data Vault 2.0, PIT tables are crucial for efficient data retrieval. They are designed to reference the most recent changes (deltas) in satellite tables linked to a hub or link. This setup is instrumental in creating dimension tables that reflect a snapshot of your data at a specific point in time.

The Query at Hand

The question we received revolves around the challenge of optimizing queries using PIT tables. The scenario is familiar: you’ve built dimensions from PIT tables, which join to satellite entries valid at the snapshot time. However, when users query only a few attributes, unnecessary joins to multiple satellites can significantly slow down performance. The goal is to ensure join elimination works effectively, allowing the SQL optimizer to bypass unnecessary joins and thus speed up query execution.

The Join Elimination Dilemma

Join elimination is a technique where the SQL optimizer skips joins that aren’t needed for the final result. This is particularly useful in data warehousing scenarios where large dimension tables are involved. In SQL Server, achieving efficient join elimination, especially with PIT tables, involves several considerations:

Inner Joins vs. Left Joins:

Inner joins are commonly used but can be problematic because SQL Server requires foreign keys between tables for optimal join elimination.
Left joins, on the other hand, can sometimes make join elimination easier for the optimizer, as they are less restrictive.

Foreign Keys:

For SQL Server to perform join elimination efficiently, there must be a foreign key relationship between the PIT table and the satellite tables.
This foreign key doesn’t have to be active but must exist to inform the optimizer about the relationships.

Column Considerations:

Ideally, the foreign key should be based on a single column. In Data Vault, where primary keys often consist of composite keys (e.g., hash key and load date), this can complicate matters.

Practical Steps for Efficient Join Elimination

Here are some practical steps to ensure join elimination works effectively in SQL Server:

Use Left Joins:

By using left joins instead of inner joins, you can simplify the optimizer’s task. In many cases, left joins with equi join conditions perform as efficiently as inner joins.

Implement Foreign Keys:

Ensure that foreign keys exist between your PIT tables and satellite tables. Even if these keys are inactive, they provide the necessary metadata for the optimizer.

Simplify Foreign Key Structures:

Where possible, simplify the foreign key structures to single columns. This can help the optimizer in performing join elimination more efficiently.

Testing and Verification

Given the complexity of join elimination, thorough testing is essential. Ensure that your SQL Server setup supports the required features and verify the execution plans to confirm that unnecessary joins are indeed being eliminated. Tools like SQL Server Profiler and Execution Plan Viewer can be invaluable for this purpose.

Tailoring Information Marts for Performance

Another critical aspect is the design of your information marts. Traditional data warehousing often involved creating large, comprehensive information marts. However, in the Data Vault paradigm, it’s more efficient to create smaller, purpose-specific marts. Here’s why:

Performance Optimization:

Smaller marts tailored to specific reports or queries minimize the amount of data processed, thus speeding up query execution.


By virtualizing information marts in SQL Server, you can dynamically assemble the necessary data without physically storing it, reducing storage requirements and increasing flexibility.

Conformed Dimensions:

When dimensions are based on the same PIT tables, they are inherently conformed, allowing for seamless joins across different information marts.


Join elimination is a powerful technique for optimizing queries in SQL Server, especially when working with Data Vault 2.0 and PIT tables. By using left joins, implementing foreign keys, and simplifying key structures, you can enhance the performance of your data retrieval processes. Additionally, designing smaller, purpose-specific information marts tailored to specific use cases can further boost efficiency.

If you have more questions or need further clarification, feel free to use the form at to submit your queries. You can also join our monthly webinars on WhereScape and dbt or engage with the Data Innovators community for real-time assistance.

Enjoy your weekend and see you next Friday!

Meet the Speaker

Microsoft SQL Server Join Elimination and Data Vault PIT Tables

Michael Olschimke

Michael has more than 15 years of experience in Information Technology. During the last eight years he has specialized in Business Intelligence topics such as OLAP, Dimensional Modelling, and Data Mining. Challenge him with your questions!

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