Thursday, March 21, 2013
What is a Surrogate key?
A surrogate key is a substitution for the natural primary key.
It is just a unique identifier or number for each row that can be used for the primary key to the table. The only requirement for a surrogate primary key is that it is unique for each row in the table.
Data warehouses typically use a surrogate, (also known as artificial or identity key), key for the dimension tables primary keys. They can use Infa sequence generator, or Oracle sequence, or SQL Server Identity values for the surrogate key.
It is useful because the natural primary key (i.e. Customer Number in Customer table) can change and this makes updates more difficult.
Some tables have columns such as AIRPORT_NAME or CITY_NAME which are stated as the primary keys (according to the business users) but ,not only can these change, indexing on a numerical value is probably better and you could consider creating a surrogate key called, say, AIRPORT_ID. This would be internal to the system and as far as the client is concerned you may display only the AIRPORT_NAME.