Blog 2022 02 07 Cleaning Up ETL Results in MongoDB by Transposing Multiple Arrays
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Cleaning Up ETL Results in MongoDB by Transposing Multiple Arrays

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When performing an ETL from a normalized relational dataset there’s a good chance a 1:1 conversion won’t produce the desired results on the first pass. For example, if the goal is to Model One-to-Many Relationships with Embedded Documents but the dataset contains a number of relationships mapped to individual fields as arrays of scalar values, you’ll likely want to convert these to subdocuments to facilitate access and interaction from your applications.

In this example, our data has been imported from a legacy system with the above design, and has produced documents in a punch_cards collection with the following schema:

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{
  "date": "December 1, 2020",
  "category": "AM",
  "events": {
    "employee": [ "Alex", "Max", "Will", "Sara" ],
    "action": [ "Punched In", "Punched In", "Punched Out", "Punched In" ],
    "timestamp": [ "2020/12/01 08:01", "2020/12/01 07:58", "2020/12/01 09:03", "2020/12/01 09:59"]
  }
},
{
  "date": "December 1, 2020",
  "category": "PM",
  "events": {
    "employee": [ "Alex", "Max", "Sara", "Will" ],
    "action": [ "Punched Out", "Punched Out", "Punched Out", "Punched In" ],
    "timestamp": [ "2020/12/01 16:00", "2020/12/01 16:30", "2020/12/01 20:00", "2020/12/01 23:58"]
  }
}
NOTE

The initial schema is a result of limitations with the initial import strategy. The goals of this article are to showcase how these limitations an be overcome once the initial ETL from source system to MongoDB has been completed.

The desired end state is a document with all events mapped to an array of subdocuments:

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{
    "events" : [
        {
            "employee" : "Alex",
            "action" : "Punched Out",
            "timestamp" : "2020/12/01 16:00"
        },
        {
            "employee" : "Max",
            "action" : "Punched Out",
            "timestamp" : "2020/12/01 16:30"
        },
        {
            "employee" : "Sara",
            "action" : "Punched Out",
            "timestamp" : "2020/12/01 20:00"
        },
        {
            "employee" : "Will",
            "action" : "Punched In",
            "timestamp" : "2020/12/01 23:58"
        }
    ]
}

Using MongoDB’s Aggregation functionality there are multiple ways to produce the desired results, two of which I’d like to share below.

The “Easy” Way

Starting in MongoDB 3.4 the $zip operator was introduced, which could be used to transpose an array of input arrays so that the first element of the output array would be an array containing, the first element of the first input array, the first element of the second input array, etc. If only $zip is used the resulting documents would appear as an array of arrays:

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db.punch_cards.aggregate([
{ $project: {
  events: {
    $zip: {
      inputs: [
      "$events.employee", "$events.action", "$events.timestamp"
    ]}
  }
}}]);
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// output
{
    "events" : [
        [
            "Alex",
            "Punched Out",
            "2020/12/01 16:00"
        ],
        [
            "Max",
            "Punched Out",
            "2020/12/01 16:30"
        ],
        [
            "Sara",
            "Punched Out",
            "2020/12/01 20:00"
        ],
        [
            "Will",
            "Punched In",
            "2020/12/01 23:58"
        ]
    ]
}

By providing the output of the $zip as the input to a $map the results can be easily rewritten to match our desired schema:

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db.punch_cards.aggregate([
{ $project: {
  events: {
    $map: {
      input: {
        $zip: {
          inputs: [
          "$events.employee", "$events.action", "$events.timestamp"
        ]}
      },
      as: "zipped",
      in: {
        employee:  { $arrayElemAt: [ "$$zipped", 0 ] },
        action:    { $arrayElemAt: [ "$$zipped", 1 ] },
        timestamp: { $arrayElemAt: [ "$$zipped", 2 ] }
      }
    }
  }
}}
]);
NOTE

These pipeline examples only project the events field. To include additional fields (ex: date, category) these would have to be included in the $project stage explicitely.

The “Hard” Way

Assuming you’re running MongoDB 3.2 or earlier (which is highly unlikely) and don’t have access to the $zip operator, a more complex aggregation pipeline can be created that $unwinds each array, then tags each document emitted with a field indicating if all results are from the same array index for each document, then filters out matches and re-$groups them:

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db.punch_cards.aggregate([
{ $unwind: { path: "$events.employee",  includeArrayIndex: "idx01" } },
{ $unwind: { path: "$events.action",    includeArrayIndex: "idx02" } },
{ $unwind: { path: "$events.timestamp", includeArrayIndex: "idx03" } },
{ $project: {
  events: 1,
  keep: { $cond: {
    if: { $and: [
      { $eq: ["$idx01", "$idx02" ] },
      { $eq: ["$idx02", "$idx03" ] } ,
      { $eq: ["$idx03", "$idx01" ] }
    ] }, then: true, else: false } }
}},
{ $match: { keep: true } },
{ $group: {
  _id: "$_id",
  events: { $push: "$events" }
}},
]);

I’ve included two variations of the pipeline to illustrate the different approaches you can take to solve the same problem. Depending on your use case the “hard” way may be more appropriate, however the “easy” way requires far less processing and should be more performant as a result.

Updating the Data

The pipeline examples above don’t acctually writing any changes back to disk. This is by design to ensure no copy/paste errors result in unanticipated data loss as a result.

Once you are satisfied with the transformations and are ready to write the results, either an $out or $merge stage can be added as the final stage in the pipeline.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.