Monday, February 09, 2015

Nulls Cannot Be Ignored!

NULLs are one of the more controversial things that a DB2 professional has to deal with. And I do mean HAS to deal with. 

Because of all the controversy about their usefulness, implementation, and confusing nature, some DB2 folks just decide to hide their head in the sand and ignore NULLs. The thinking goes something like this: “If I do not create any nullable columns in any of my DB2 tables, then I can blissfully ignore the whole NULL mess and be happy!”

Well, that is simply not true. You can follow this approach and still write a query that will return NULL. Don’t believe it? Run this query then:


PRSTAFF is defined as a DECIMAL(5,2) column and we are trying to find the average staffing for a specific department. The PRSTAFF column can contain nulls, but even if it could not, the result here would be the same. This query returns a NULL (unless someone inserted a row with the value of ‘XOX’ for DEPTNO at your site).

Why? There is no department ‘XOX’ in the sample databases (provided with DB2). So, the query is attempting to find an average for the empty set. This is NULL. Some folks think this query should return 0, but it won't! The sum of all PRSTAFF for the department ‘XOX’ is not zero, but is unknown…

So, take the time to understand how NULLs work in DB2, because they cannot be ignored!

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