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In the first part of this blog series we introduced you to dbt. Now let’s take a look at how you can implement Data Vault 2.0 with dbt and what advantages this offers. If you don’t know the first part yet, you can read it here

dbt provides the ability to create models and generate and execute SQL dynamically out of these models. This allows you to write your data transformations in models using SQL and reusable macros powered by Jinja2 to run your data pipelines in a clean and efficient way. However, the most important part for the Data Vault use case is the ability to define and use those macros.

But first we should clarify how models work in dbt.

Dbt handles the compilation and execution of models written using SQL and the Jinja macro language. Each model consists of exactly one SQL SELECT statement. Jinja code is translated into SQL during compilation.

This figure shows a simple model in dbt. A big advantage of Jinja is the possibility to generate sql programmatically, for example with loops and conditions. Also, through the ref() functions, dbt understands the relationships between the models and builds a dependency graph. This ensures that the models are built in the correct order and that the data lineage is documented.

A lineage graph may look like this:

The materialization of models can be defined at different configuration levels. This allows fast prototyping with views and switching to materialized tables if necessary for performance reasons.

Data Vault 2.0 and macros

But how can Data Vault 2.0 be implemented in dbt? The most important part for using Data Vault 2.0 is the ability to define and use macros. Macros can be called in models and then generate into that macro additional SQL or even the entire SQL code.

For example, you could create a macro to generate a hub that gets the source/staging model as an input parameter, as well as the specification of the columns for the business key(s), load date and record source. The sql code for the hub is then generated dynamically from this. The advantage of this is that a change to the macro would directly affect each individual hub, which greatly improves maintainability.

At this point, you also gain huge benefits from the active open-source community around dbt. There are many open-source packages with which dbt can be extended.

There are also already some packages that are perfect for using data vault 2.0. 

We at Scalefree are currently developing an open-source dbt package that provides macros to translate a Data Vault model “on paper”, to actual tables and views like Hubs, Links, Satellites and more. Subscribe to our Newsletter to get notified as soon as it’s available.

The only thing you need in your model, for example for a hub, is just one macro call:


hub(src_pk, src_nk, src_ldts, src_source, source_model) 


With the parameters of the macro call you define the source table where the columns can be found (source_model) and the column names for the hash-key (src_pk), business key(s) (src_nk), load date (src_ldts) and the record source (src_source) column. When the model and the macro(s) defined in the model are executed, the SQL gets compiled and processed on the database system.

The metadata needed can for example be defined in variables with jinja directly in the model:

What you also can see is that dbt provides different options for the materialization. The incremental materialization for example will load an entity as a table on an incremental basis.

When the model is executed, dbt generates the whole sql out of the macro and decides how the records are loaded. If the hub table does not exist, yet it is created and all records are loaded, if it already exists the table is loaded incrementally. 

For people who tried or managed to implement a Data Vault with “vanilla” SQL, you will realise that this is a real game-changer. The team can now focus entirely on the Data Vault design itself. Once the metadata is identified, dbt along with your macros can take care of the entire logic.

Openly available packages can add basic Data Vault 2.0 principles to dbt and therefore allow users to quick-dive into Data Vault implementation. Dbt’s general openness allows you to adjust all macros for example to your company or project specific Data Vault flavor to meet your technical and business requirements. 

However it is important to mention, that existing dbt packages for Data Vault 2.0 does not completely fulfill Data Vault 2.0 standards and deviates from them in details. Currently, we at Scalefree are working on an open-source dbt package that provides all important Data Vault 2.0 entities, as well as the latest standards and best practices and will be released soon. But these details are worth another blog post!


-by Ole Bause (Scalefree)


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To support the creation of Visual Data Vault drawings in Microsoft Visio, a stencil is implemented that can be used to draw Data Vault models. The stencil is available at


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