How to use switching to make metadata changes online

Metadata changes, like modifying a clustered index, or many types of column changes, will create locks in SQL Server that will block users from working with that table until the change is completed. In many cases, those locks will extend to the system objects, so you won’t even be able to expand the “Tables” or “Views” nodes in Management Studio.

I want to show you how you can perform those changes using a copy of the table, then instantly switching the table with the copy. The secret is partition switching, and contrary to popular belief, you won’t need Enterprise Edition, or even partitions, to do it.

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Reloading fact tables with zero downtime

If you’re working with data warehousing or reporting, you’ll recognize this problem as a recurring headache whenever you’re designing an ETL process for fact tables: If you want to completely reload all the rows of a fact table, you would typically start by emptying (or truncating) the fact table, and then load new data into it. But during the loading process, depending on what your job does, there won’t be any data in the table, or worse, it will be half-filled and incorrect. Worst-case: If your ETL job crashes, the table will remain empty. Now, if your ETL job takes an hour to run, that’s a problem.

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