I am looking for some best practices regarding table design when an entity is expected to evolve over time and get more properties.

As an example let's consider a process that has a bunch of metadata and can either be running or finished. A running process would have a startTime but no endTime, whereas a finished process needs to have an endTime. It is assumed that every runningProcess will be finished at some point.

I see some general approaches:

  1. A single table processes with a nullable endTime column where all processes are stored
  2. Two tables runningProcesses and finishedProcesses that look the same except for the finishedProcesses having an endTime column that the runningProcesses table lacks.
  3. An extra table processEndTimes that only stores a processId with a FK constraint and an endTime

Option 1) is pretty simple but has the disadvantage that a query for finishedProcesses would run on a larger table and filter by the endTime column.

Option 2) has the disadvantage that ending a process is not an atomic action any more but needs to be a transaction to delete a row from runningProcesses and insert a row in finishedProcesses. Additionally, a query for all processes with some metadata would always run on a union of the tables.

Option 3) seems to overcome the disadvantages of Option 1) and 2) but has the disadvantage that the table design does not reflect the way I'd model the processes in business logic.

What option would you go for? And why?

1 Answer 1


Option 4

process table with only process Metadata. No start_time/end_time.

processLog table with process ID, a log_type column (start, end, info, debug, error, "I'm on step X", etc) and a few others.

processStatus (materialized) view of the previous two tables.

And a few process_api procedures to control the flow of data.


In this design

  • the Model is hidden
  • you look at the data through a View
  • and Control the new data via API.


  • Thank you for your insights @Michael! However, is it to be considered good practice that the model is hidden at this level? In my actual projects, accessing a database will always be done over an API anyway, so the model is never exposed to the user. But wouldn't I want to expose the model to other developers including myself a few months down the road to reveal the intention at first glance? Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 10:21

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