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In this database I have "accesses" - each access can have any number (usually less than 4, sometimes as many as 15) attributes. I also have "tickets" where N users are requesting M accesses, so I've got a sub-ticket table with the NxM "user access requests". Then for the sub-ticket, there is another table with the A attributes for that access (where "A" varies depending on the request).

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So, for example, if I have two users requesting three accesses, and those accesses have 2, 3 and 4 attributes respectively, I have 1 ticket record, 6 sub-tickets records, and 18 sub ticket attribute records.

The problem is that I want to quickly group the sub-tickets together, so that when I display them I can find all the ones for one type of access, then all the ones of another type of access, and then the third type of access. I know, each type of access should have been given a unique id somehow, but they weren't, and now it's my burden. I only am allowed to "suggest" database changes, not insist on them.

Any suggestions?

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    What comprises a "type of access?" A specific collection of attributes? Is it defined "at run time" by the attributes of the ticket when the access is asserted, or is it predefined? – Robert Harvey Mar 27 '14 at 21:14
  • There is another group of tables that determine what combination of attributes constitute a valid "access request". For some systems, it might just be a system name, on others it drills down to system, database or system, file share, permissions, etc. I don't recall all the bizarre combinations of attributes other than that it normally has fewer than 4 of them and sometimes has as many as 15. – Paul Tomblin Mar 28 '14 at 13:54
  • Not being primarily a database person, I'm trying to understand the question. In something vaguely similar that I did ages ago, there was one database that described the structure of another database. Then, since the first one changed at low frequency, there was benefit in precompiling it. – Mike Dunlavey Apr 3 '14 at 23:47
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We have a large (100 million row) tables which hold variable number of attributes per item too. For ad hoc querying I have created views which pivot the data i.e. turn rows into columns. The result can then be queried as if it were a "proper" table. You'll have to know the attribute names for this to work, however, or write a script which dynamically creates the SQL to create the view.

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After making some test data to show the problem, I've managed to convince the powers that be that since I know which "sub ticket attributes" belong to which "access" at ticket creation time, it would be better just to put a "access serial number" (asn) field into the sub ticket table so if I have N users and M accesses, I'll have N subtickets with asn "1", N with asn "2" and so on.

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