ETL processes often involve aggregating data from various sources into a data warehouse or data lake. Bucketing can be used during the transformation phase to aggregate data into predefined buckets or intervals. For example, you might want to aggregate daily sales data into monthly buckets or hourly sensor readings into daily buckets. 

It plays a crucial role in ensuring data quality as it can help identify and handle data quality issues during the transformation phase. By categorizing data into buckets based on certain criteria, you can easily identify missing values or data that doesn’t fit within expected ranges. This allows you to apply data cleansing or data validation rules to specific buckets. 

Let’s dig deeper into the ways to bucket data in sql and how to troubleshoot common issues faced. 

What is Data Bucketing in SQL?

Bucketing, also known as binning, helps to find groupings in continuous data, especially numbers and time stamps. While it’s often used to generate histograms, bucketing can also be used to group rows by business-defined rules. In ETL, it’s common to encounter data skew, where some partitions have significantly more data than others. This can be mitigated by evenly distributing data into buckets.

Additionally, bucketing can improve the performance of join operations and query performance in ETL processes. When you join two or more tables, if the data is bucketed on the join key, you can efficiently match records in the corresponding buckets, reducing the need for shuffling and data movement across the cluster.

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Easy Ways to Bucket Data in SQL

1. TRUNC function

With TRUNC function, you can reduce the precision of its first numeric, DATE, or DATETIME argument by returning the truncated value. As it can be used to reduce the decimal part of a number, it helps to categorize based on number ranges. Let’s take a look at an example of TRUNC function.

SELECT TRUNC(SYSDATE, 'MONTH') AS start_of_month FROM dual;

TRUNC(SYSDATE, ‘MONTH’) truncates the current date to the beginning of the month so it retains the year and month but sets the day to 01.

2. Using the Case Statement

You can use CASE statements to create buckets based on specific conditions. For example, suppose you have a column age in your data, and you want to bucket people into age groups (e.g., ‘Child,’ ‘Adult,’ ‘Senior’):

        WHEN age < 10 THEN 'Child'
        WHEN age >= 10 AND age < 50 THEN 'Adult'
        ELSE 'Senior'
    END AS age_group,
FROM source_table;

This query creates an age_group column based on the age conditions.

3. Using Window Functions

Window functions can be helpful for bucketing data based on rankings or percentiles to perform operations on the subset of the data. For example, you can use NTILE to divide data into quartiles or percentiles:

    NTILE(4) OVER (ORDER BY column_to_bucket) AS quartile,
FROM source_table;

This query creates quartiles based on the values in column_to_bucket.

For row-wise operations, you go for either Windrow or Case function. For columns, aggregate functions will help. 

Now, let’s take a look at a real-life example. Suppose you are a business analyst creating a dashboard in Tableau about the technical issues customers face while using your product. 

You have the data about the number of customer issues on a monthly basis for 9 months. You can use TRUNC function to count the customer issues on a quarterly basis.

SELECT quarter, SUM( count of ticket)

SELECT , create, month, count of ticket,
date_trunc(‘Quarter’, create_month) as quarter
create _month

This query selects the quarter and the sum of the count of tickets for each quarter. It also selects all of the data from the create_month table and adds a new column called quarter. The quarter column uses the date_trunc() function to truncate the create_month column to the quarter precision.

The outer query then groups the results by the quarter column and sums the count of the ticket column for each quarter. Now, you can easily visualize the output and understand the data on customer issues on a monthly and quarterly basis. 

bucket data in sql -Data on Customer Issues on Monthly Basis
Data on Customer Issues on Monthly Basis
bucket data in sql - Data on Customer Issues on Quarterly Basis
Data on Customer Issues on Quarterly Basis

Best Practices for Troubleshooting Common Problems in Data Bucketing

You can use Hevo’s post load transformations for troubleshooting the following issues when you bucket data in SQL. Hevo provides both Python console and drag-and-drop interfaces

1. Missing Data

Some data points not appearing in any bucket will lead to missing or unaccounted-for data. Check your bucketing conditions to ensure that they cover all possible cases. Ensure that the conditions in your SQL query accurately reflect the desired grouping. You can use an “ELSE” clause in a CASE statement to catch data that doesn’t meet any specified conditions.

2. Overlapping Buckets

When data points are assigned to multiple buckets, it causes ambiguity in the results. Refine your bucketing criteria to ensure that each data point is assigned to only one bucket. This might involve adjusting the conditions in your SQL query to avoid overlapping.

3. Empty Buckets and Performance Issues

If some buckets have no data, which may not be intended, you should check for any mistake in the logic that leads to empty buckets. Examine your data and the bucketing conditions and that your conditions are relevant to your dataset

The inefficient bucketing logic will also lead to slow query performance, especially with large datasets. Optimize your SQL query and indexing strategies and consider indexing columns used in the bucketing criteria for faster access.

4. Inconsistent Bucket Labels

Inconsistent naming or labeling of buckets makes it difficult to interpret the results. Consistency in bucket labels or naming conventions makes it easier to understand the meaning of each bucket.

5. Inaccurate Bucket Sizes

Buckets may have uneven sizes, which can affect the interpretation of results. Review the bucketing criteria and conditions to ensure that they result in approximately equal-sized buckets. Adjust the criteria as needed to achieve more balanced bucket sizes.

6. Data Type Mismatch

Data types in your bucketing conditions may not match the data in your table, leading to unexpected results. Ensure that data types in your bucketing conditions match the data in your table columns. Use appropriate typecasting or conversion functions if necessary.

7. NULL Values

NULL values may not be handled correctly in your bucketing conditions, leading to unexpected results. Consider explicitly handling NULL values in your bucketing conditions using the IS NULL or IS NOT NULL operators as needed.


Bucketing data in SQL helps to find groupings in continuous data, especially numbers and time stamps. You can use CASE statements, Window functions, or TRUNC functions for grouping data. 

Some best practices to troubleshoot the problems when you bucket data in SQL include making sure to choose the right bucketing factor. You should also decide the number of buckets to create. This can be based on the data size and available resources. 

Experimenting with different bucketing criteria and improving query performance is good for finding the optimal balance. Also, make sure that each bucket has a roughly equal number of rows. Otherwise, unequal bucket sizes cause skewed data distribution and sub-optimal query performance. You should regularly monitor and re-balance buckets as data evolves. 

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Anaswara Ramachandran
Content Marketing Specialist, Hevo Data

Anaswara is an engineer-turned writer having experience writing about ML, AI, and Data Science. She is also an active Guest Author in various communities of Analytics and Data Science professionals including Analytics Vidhya.

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