About This Blog

Including my content from SQLBlog.com and some from SQLPerformance.com

Friday 31 May 2024

Impossible Execution Plan Timings

Erik Darling (@erikdarlingdata) shared an interesting SQL Server execution plan with me recently. The demo script is at the end of this article.

The important section is shown below: 

Impossible timings?

The Gather Streams operator appears to execute for less time (2.16s) than the Sort operator below it (5.431s). This seems impossible on the face of it. 

The Parallelism (Gather Streams) operator runs in row mode (as always), while the Sort and Hash Match (Inner Join) operators both run in batch mode. This mixed mode plan adds a little complexity to interpreting plan timings because: 
  • A batch mode operator reports CPU and elapsed times for that operator alone 
  • A row mode operator reports times for itself and all its children 
I've written about those aspects before in Understanding Execution Plan Operator Timings, which also covers a confusing situation that can arise in exclusively row mode parallel plans.

I showed a hidden option to make all operators report only their individual times in More Consistent Execution Plan Timings in SQL Server 2022. That feature isn't complete yet, so the results aren't perfect, and it's not documented or supported.

I mention all that in case you are interested in the background. None of the foregoing explains what we see in this mixed mode plan. The row mode Gather Streams elapsed time ought to include its children. The batch mode Sort should just be reporting its own elapsed time. With that understanding in mind, there's no way the Sort could run for longer than the Gather Streams. What's going on here?