Intrinsic Database Management with Database Projects (Chris Rummel)

Intrinsic Database Management with Database Projects (Chris Rummel)

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One of the new LightSwitch features in the Visual Studio 2013 Preview is enabling the use of SQL Server Data Tools projects (here’s the MSDN SSDT documentation and their blog).  When you add a database project to your LightSwitch project, the contents of the database project will be incorporated into the intrinsic database that LightSwitch deploys when you F5 or publish your application.  This enables a few interesting scenarios in your LightSwitch projects.  To start out, you can right-click on your LightSwitch solution, select “Add –> New Project” and select the SQL Server Database project template.



Then you can add items to the database project – start with a post-deployment script.  This script will be run as the last step in creating the intrinsic database, so your tables will already be created when it runs.  The last step to using the database project is to let LightSwitch know about it.  Open the LightSwitch project properties and select your database project.


Note that you won’t be able to select a database project if you don’t have any intrinsic tables, so if you’re trying this out in a new project you’ll have to create a table first.

Test Data for Your Development Database

During development you probably want some data to use in your application.  With a database project, you can do this en masse instead of creating the test data by hand.  Another nice aspect of this is that the database project can be checked in, so you can share sample data with others on your team.  To start out with, create an entity called “Person” with FirstName, LastName, and LastBlogPost properties:


Then back in the post-deployment script, you can add this code:

  3. MERGE INTO People AS Target
  5.   (1, 'Chris', 'Rummel', '2013-03-28T08:01:00'),
  6.   (2, 'Matt', 'Evans', '2013-04-15T11:44:00'),
  7.   (3, 'Andy', 'Kung', '2013-07-01T09:00:00'),
  8.   (4, 'Brian', 'Moore', '2013-05-14T08:07:00'),
  9.   (5, 'Matt', 'Sampson', '2013-05-03T06:07:00'),
  10.   (6, 'Steve', 'Lasker', '2013-04-22T09:38:00'),
  11.   (7, 'Heinrich', 'Wendel', '2013-04-10T08:13:00')
  12. )
  13. AS Source(Id, FirstName, LastName, LastBlogPost)
  14. ON Target.Id = Source.Id
  15. -- update matched rows
  17. UPDATE SET FirstName = Source.FirstName, LastName = Source.LastName, LastBlogPost = Source.LastBlogPost
  18. -- insert new rows
  20. INSERT (Id, FirstName, LastName, LastBlogPost)
  21. VALUES (Id, FirstName, LastName, LastBlogPost)
  22. -- delete rows that are in the target but not the source
  24. DELETE;
  28. GO


Next add a BrowsePeople screen.  Then when you F5, you’ll see the data from the script.


Using MERGE INTO with these match options, the development database will be reset to the same state each time the post-deploy script is run (see also the documentation on MERGE).  If we used INSERT instead, we could end up with duplicate rows, which isn’t what we want in this case - it might fit for your application though.  One thing to note is that the post-deploy script isn’t run every time you start debugging.  After this first time, it’ll only be run when the intrinsic database changes.  This includes changing an entity in the designer, changing authentication settings, or editing a file in the database project..  You can dirty the file by just adding whitespace or a comment and saving if you want to force the script to be run again.

SSDT also has a blog post on Including Data in a SQL Server Database Project with more details.

Conversion of Existing Data

There’s also a couple things you can do if you already have data that you want to update.  One time you might want to do this is if you’re moving a choice list into the database.  I created an Orders table that has a string choice list for the order status:



Now we want to change the order status to be an integer foreign key to an OrderStatus table but we’d like to preserve the existing data.  Let’s set up the OrderStatus table using our database project:


  3. MERGE INTO OrderStatusSet AS Target
  5.   (1, 'Received'),
  6.   (2, 'Payment Cleared'),
  7.   (3, 'Packed'),
  8.   (4, 'Shipped'),
  9.   (5, 'Delivered'),
  10.   (6, 'Backordered')
  11. )
  12. AS Source(Id, StatusText)
  13. ON Target.Id = Source.Id
  14. -- update matched rows
  16. UPDATE SET StatusText = Source.StatusText
  17. -- insert new rows
  19. INSERT (Id, StatusText)
  20. VALUES (Id, StatusText)
  21. -- delete rows that are in the target but not the source
  23. DELETE;
  27. GO

And then we can rename the old status column and add our OrderStatus relation:


Then we can add the actual code to do the update to our post-deployment script:

  1. UPDATE Orders SET Order_OrderStatus = OrderStatusSet.Id
  2. FROM Orders
  3. JOIN OrderStatusSet ON Orders.Status_OLD = OrderStatusSet.StatusText
  5. GO

Next we can add a BrowseOrders screen and see that we now have a foreign-keyed OrderStatus column that matches the old Status column:


 Now we can delete the old status column but still have all our old data.

Build Scripts

Another way to use SQL scripts is called a build script.  Build scripts are included as part of the build of the database project and are parsed by the database deploy rather than executed directly.  Add a build script to your database project:


Let’s say you have a query on Orders that filters by OrderStatus, and you’ve done some SQL profiling and this query is taking up a large chunk of time.  One possible performance improvement you can make is adding an index to the OrderStatus column.  Normally you could do this by checking the “Include in Unique Index” box in the entity properties, but OrderStatus isn’t unique in the table, so this won’t work.  Luckily we can use the database project to add a non-unique index to the column.  All you need is one line in your build script:

  1. CREATE INDEX OrderStatusIndex ON Orders(Order_OrderStatus)

If you used this line in your post-deploy script, it would cause a build error after the first time you F5 or deploy the project, because the index already exists.  But because the build script is parsed and compared against the existing schema instead of just executed, we won’t have that problem here.

Database projects also have pre-deploy scripts, which are run as the first step of the database deployment and can be similarly used to help resolve schema changes.  Another thing pre- and post-deploy scripts are useful for is type conversions that you want to resolve in a way other than the LightSwitch default – today, you could use this to narrow a column from integer to short but set any entry over the short maximum value to zero, for instance.  Future LightSwitch features might make this even more useful, so stay tuned.

So there’s some of the cool stuff you can do with database projects.  Let us know on the forums how you’re using the database projects or if you run into any problems.

Chris Rummel, LightSwitch SDET

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  • And will it allow Guids as primary keys?

  • It would be helpful if you explained what an intrinsic database is and what are the benefits.

  • Quick note to Robert: Bing "LightSwitch" "Intrinsic Database" this is a SQL LocalDB required for new LightSwitch Data entity development inside a project. I do not believe that Chris should not need to explain the basics of LightSwitch in an article of this level.

    Thanks for this article Chris these features are 'real world' practical. Now I feel that I have to install Visual Studio 2013 Preview and start playing. Very very cool.

  • Very Good

  • Good article highlighting the SSDT tool usage. What you have shown would be a good pattern for creating pre-populated databases at deployment time. Your guidance could be easily adapted to build reference tables, which BTW, I use by the bucket load, like any good RDb guy would! Excellent enhancement to LS.

  • Very nice.  Will any of this help the situation where an external SQL table is renamed and then update datasource LS operation dumps all objects based that table?  Would be nice if there were a way to point entities to the renamed table in this scenario.

  • Very nice! But why not add a check box to the deployment screen that determines whether the post-deployment script is executed or not, instead of people having to "dirty" a file?

  • Sorry for the late replies everybody, I was on vacation for the fourth.

    @Robert - the intrinsic database is the database that is used when you add a table in LightSwitch's entity designer or turn on authentication (as opposed to an "attached" database that you get when you select "Add Data Source").

    @Josh - LightSwitch still adds the ID as an integer for you.  It's not a good idea to have something different in your database than LightSwitch thinks it is - this can cause data type conversion errors when you try to F5 your app.

    @ZARDOZ, Victor, PlusOrMinus - Thanks!

    @joshbooker - Sorry, database projects can only be used with the intrinsic database, not the attached ones.

    @Yann Duran - I'll bring it up as a suggestion.  I think the idea of a file not being built unless it was changed is mostly familiar to VS developers, it's that the result of the build (the intrinsic database) isn't as obvious as most binaries.

  • Hello Chris

    Is it necessary to write all those scripts for all the tables of the Intrinsic DB that I want to add to the Project DB?

    I have my project created with an Intrinsic DB and tons of screens. Now I need business logic and for that reason I need to create stored procedures over my Intrinsic DB, that I will run from inside my LightSwitch app.

    Wiil this be a way to do it?

  • Hi joao_silva,

    Yes, you can use DB projects to add stored procedures to the intrinsic DB.  After that, your best bet to call them is probably something like these instructions to execute a stored procedure using a command-table-style pattern:

    You don't need to write scripts for any of the intrinsic tables unless you want to do something with them beyond what LightSwitch will do for you.  LightSwitch will still create and modify tables to match what you do in the entity designer.



  • It seems the first SQL snippets has lost a couple of spaces in the copy&paste process ;)

  • Thanks for letting me know, Jan.  I've fixed them up now.

  • I'm really struggling. I've got a project, with internal tables and I've added a database project but the drop down is blank in the project properties. I've made sure all projects were set to "Any CPU" in the config manager and I have not got a Platform entry in my environment variable but yet still my drop down is blank. Is no one else having this issue? Help would be GREATLY appreciated.

  • Great post. I hate to ask here, but I haven't been able to find an answer anywhere else.  When I attempt to follow your instructions, I hit a wall because I cannot select "SQL Server Database Project."  In fact, I have no "SQL Server" category. Using "Help | About" in VS, I've verified that I'm running VS Pro 2013 (v 12.0.21005.1 REL) and that SQL Server Data Tools at least appear to be installed.  (I see a version number of 12.0.30919.1 for this.)  Searching the Internet just takes me to pages on adding SSDT to other versions of VS with comments that it is automatically part of VS 2013.  Any thoughts???

  • got the same issue as Richard: I've added a SQl database project but I can't set it in LS project properties. I'm using VS 2013.

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