Export (0) Print
Expand All
4 out of 5 rated this helpful - Rate this topic

Contained Database Collations

SQL Server 2012

Various properties affect the sort order and equality semantics of textual data, including case sensitivity, accent sensitivity, and the base language being used. These qualities are expressed to SQL Server through the choice of collation for the data. For a more in-depth discussion of collations themselves, see Collation and Unicode Support.

Collations apply not only to data stored in user tables, but to all text handled by SQL Server, including metadata, temporary objects, variable names, etc. The handling of these differs in contained and non-contained databases. This change will not affect many users, but helps provide instance independence and uniformity. But this may also cause some confusion, as well as problems for sessions that access both contained and non-contained databases.

This topic clarifies the content of the change, and examines areas where the change may cause problems.

All databases have a default collation (which can be set when creating or altering a database. This collation is used for all metadata in the database, as well as the default for all string columns within the database. Users can choose a different collation for any particular column by using the COLLATE clause.

Example 1

For example, if we were working in Beijing, we might use a Chinese collation:

ALTER DATABASE MyDB COLLATE Chinese_Simplified_Pinyin_100_CI_AS;

Now if we create a column, its default collation will be this Chinese collation, but we can choose another one if we want:

CREATE TABLE MyTable
      (mycolumn1 nvarchar,
      mycolumn2 nvarchar COLLATE Frisian_100_CS_AS);
GO
SELECT name, collation_name
FROM sys.columns
WHERE name LIKE 'mycolumn%' ;
GO

Here is the result set.

name            collation_name
--------------- ----------------------------------
mycolumn1       Chinese_Simplified_Pinyin_100_CI_AS
mycolumn2       Frisian_100_CS_AS

This appears relatively simple, but several problems arise. Because the collation for a column is dependent on the database in which the table is created, problems arise with the use of temporary tables which are stored in tempdb. The collation of tempdb usually matches the collation for the instance, which does not have to match the database collation.

Example 2

For example, consider the (Chinese) database above when used on an instance with a Latin1_General collation:

CREATE TABLE T1 (T1_txt nvarchar(max)) ;
GO
CREATE TABLE #T2 (T2_txt nvarchar(max)) ;
GO

At first glance, these two tables look like they have the same schema, but since the collations of the databases differ, the values are actually incompatible:

SELECT T1_txt, T2_txt
FROM T1 
JOIN #T2 
    ON T1.T1_txt = #T2.T2_txt

Here is the result set.

Msg 468, Level 16, State 9, Line 2

Cannot resolve the collation conflict between "Latin1_General_100_CI_AS_KS_WS_SC" and Chinese_Simplified_Pinyin_100_CI_AS" in the equal to operation.

We can fix this by explicitly collating the temporary table. SQL Server makes this somewhat easier by providing the DATABASE_DEFAULT keyword for the COLLATE clause.

CREATE TABLE T1 (T1_txt nvarchar(max)) ;
GO
CREATE TABLE #T2 (T2_txt nvarchar(max) COLLATE DATABASE_DEFAULT);
GO
SELECT T1_txt, T2_txt
FROM T1 
JOIN #T2 
    ON T1.T1_txt = #T2.T2_txt ;

This now runs without error.

We can also see collation-dependent behavior with variables. Consider the following function:

CREATE FUNCTION f(@x INT) RETURNS INT
AS BEGIN 
      DECLARE @I INT = 1
      DECLARE @İ INT = 2
      RETURN @x * @i
END;

This is a rather peculiar function. In a case-sensitive collation, the @i in the return clause cannot bind to either @I or @İ. In a case-insensitive Latin1_General collation, @i binds to @I, and the function returns 1. But in a case-insensitive Turkish collation, @i binds to @İ, and the function returns 2. This can wreak havoc on a database that moves between instances with different collations.

Since a design objective of contained databases is to make them self-contained, the dependence on the instance and tempdb collations must be severed. To do this, contained databases introduce the concept of the catalog collation. The catalog collation is used for system metadata and transient objects. Details are provided below.

In a contained database, the catalog collation Latin1_General_100_CI_AS_WS_KS_SC. This collation is the same for all contained databases on all instances of SQL Server and cannot be changed.

The database collation is retained, but is only used as the default collation for user data. By default, the database collation is equal to the model database collation, but can be changed by the user through a CREATE or ALTER DATABASE command as with non-contained databases.

A new keyword, CATALOG_DEFAULT, is available in the COLLATE clause. This is used as a shortcut to the current collation of metadata in both contained and non-contained databases. That is, in a non-contained database, CATALOG_DEFAULT will return the current database collation, since metadata is collated in the database collation. In a contained database, these two values may be different, since the user can change the database collation so that it does not match the catalog collation.

The behavior of various objects in both non-contained and contained databases is summarized in this table:

Item

Non-Contained Database

Contained Database

User Data (default)

DATABASE_DEFAULT

DATABASE_DEFAULT

Temp Data (default)

TempDB Collation

DATABASE_DEFAULT

Metadata

DATABASE_DEFAULT / CATALOG_DEFAULT

CATALOG_DEFAULT

Temporary Metadata

tempdb Collation

CATALOG_DEFAULT

Variables

Instance Collation

CATALOG_DEFAULT

Goto Labels

Instance Collation

CATALOG_DEFAULT

Cursor Names

Instance Collation

CATALOG_DEFAULT

If we temp table example previously described, we can see that this collation behavior eliminates the need for an explicit COLLATE clause in most temp table uses. In a contained database, this code now runs without error, even if the database and instance collations differ:

CREATE TABLE T1 (T1_txt nvarchar(max)) ;
GO
CREATE TABLE #T2 (T2_txt nvarchar(max));
GO
SELECT T1_txt, T2_txt
FROM T1 
JOIN #T2 
    ON T1.T1_txt = #T2.T2_txt ;

This works because both T1_txt and T2_txt are collated in the database collation of the contained database.

As long as a session in a contained database remains contained, it must remain within the database to which it connected. In this case the behavior is very straightforward. But if a session crosses between contained and non-contained contexts, the behavior becomes more complex, since the two sets of rules must be bridged. This can happen in a partially-contained database, since a user may USE to another database. In this case, the difference in collation rules is handled by the following principle.

  • The collation behavior for a batch is determined by the database in which the batch begins.

Note that this decision is made before any commands are issued, including an initial USE. That is, if a batch begins in a contained database, but the first command is a USE to a non-contained database, the contained collation behavior will still be used for the batch. Given this, a reference to a variable, for example, may have multiple possible outcomes:

  • The reference may find exactly one match. In this case, the reference will work without error.

  • The reference may not find a match in the current collation where there was one before. This will raise an error indicating that the variable does not exist, even though it was apparently created.

  • The reference may find multiple matches that were originally distinct. This will also raise an error.

We’ll illustrate this with a few examples. For these we assume there is a partially-contained database named MyCDB with its database collation set to the default collation, Latin1_General_100_CI_AS_WS_KS_SC. We assume that the instance collation is Latin1_General_100_CS_AS_WS_KS_SC. The two collations differ only in case sensitivity.

Example 1

The following example illustrates the case where the reference finds exactly one match.

USE MyCDB;
GO

CREATE TABLE #a(x int);
INSERT INTO #a VALUES(1);
GO

USE master;
GO

SELECT * FROM #a;
GO

Results:

Here is the result set.

x
-----------
1

In this case, the identified #a binds in both the case-insensitive catalog collation and the case-sensitive instance collation, and the code works.

Example 2

The following example illustrates the case where the reference does not find a match in the current collation where there was one before.

USE MyCDB;
GO

CREATE TABLE #a(x int);
INSERT INTO #A VALUES(1);
GO

Here, the #A binds to #a in the case-insensitive default collation, and the insert works,

Here is the result set.

(1 row(s) affected)

But if we continue the script...

USE master;
GO

SELECT * FROM #A;
GO

We get an error trying to bind to #A in the case-sensitive instance collation;

Here is the result set.

Msg 208, Level 16, State 0, Line 2

Invalid object name '#A'.

Example 3

The following example illustrates the case where the reference finds multiple matches that were originally distinct. First, we start in tempdb (which has the same case-sensitive collation as our instance) and execute the following statements.

USE tempdb;
GO

CREATE TABLE #a(x int);
GO
CREATE TABLE #A(x int);
GO
INSERT INTO #a VALUES(1);
GO
INSERT INTO #A VALUES(2);
GO

This succeeds, since the tables are distinct in this collation:

Here is the result set.

(1 row(s) affected)
(1 row(s) affected)

If we move into our contained database, however, we find that we can no longer bind to these tables.

USE MyCDB;
GO
SELECT * FROM #a;
GO

Here is the result set.

Msg 12800, Level 16, State 1, Line 2

The reference to temp table name '#a' is ambiguous and cannot be resolved. Possible candidates are '#a' and '#A'.

The collation behavior of contained databases differs subtly from that in non-contained databases. This behavior is generally beneficial, providing instance-independence and simplicity. Some users may have issues, particularly when a session accesses both contained and non-contained databases.

Community Additions

ADD
Show:
© 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.