About This Blog

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

Sunday, 27 February 2011

SQL Server Bug: Slow T-SQL Sums and Averages

SQL Server Bug: Slow T-SQL Sums and Averages

It’s a curious thing about SQL that the SUM or AVG of no items (an empty set) is not zero, it’s NULL.

In this post, you’ll see how this means your SUM and AVG calculations might run at half speed, or worse. As usual though, this entry is not so much about the result, but the journey we take to get there.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Advanced TSQL Tuning: Why Internals Knowledge Matters

Advanced T-SQL Tuning: Why Internals Knowledge Matters

There is much more to query tuning than reducing logical reads and adding covering nonclustered indexes. Query tuning is not complete as soon as the query returns results quickly in the development or test environments.

In production, your query will compete for memory, CPU, locks, I/O, and other resources on the server. Today’s post looks at some tuning considerations that are often overlooked, and shows how deep internals knowledge can help you write better T-SQL.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

I see no LOBs!

I see no LOBs!

Is it possible to see LOB (large object) logical reads from STATISTICS IO output on a table with no LOB columns?

I was asked this question today by someone who had spent a good fraction of their afternoon trying to work out why this was occurring — even going so far as to re-run DBCC CHECKDB to see if corruption was the cause.

The table in question wasn’t particularly pretty. It had grown somewhat organically over time, with new columns being added every so often as the need arose.

Nevertheless, it remained a simple structure with no LOB columns — no text or image, no xml, no max types — nothing aside from ordinary integer, money, varchar, and datetime types.

To add to the air of mystery, not every query that ran against the table would report LOB logical reads — just sometimes — but when it did, the query often took much longer to execute.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Seeking Without Indexes

Seeking Without Indexes

A seek can contain one or more seek predicates, each of which can either identify (at most) one row in a unique index (a singleton lookup) or a range of values (a range scan).

When looking at an execution plan, we often need to look at the details of the seek operator in the Properties window to see how many operations it is performing, and what type of operation each one is.

As seen in the first post of this mini-series, When is a Seek not a Seek? the number of hidden seeking operations can have an appreciable impact on performance.

So…is it a Seek or a Scan?

So…is it a Seek or a Scan?

You might be most familiar with the terms ‘Seek’ and ‘Scan’ from the graphical plans produced by SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). You might look to the SSMS tool-tip descriptions to explain the differences between them:

Scan and Seek tooltips

Both mention scans and ranges (nothing about seeks) and the Index Seek description maybe implies that it will not scan the index entirely (which isn’t necessarily true). Not massively helpful.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

When is a Seek not a Seek?

When is a Seek not a Seek?

The following script creates a single-column clustered table containing the integers from 1 to 1,000 inclusive.

IF OBJECT_ID(N'tempdb..#Test', N'U') IS NOT NULL
BEGIN
    DROP TABLE #Test
END;
GO
CREATE TABLE #Test
(
    id integer PRIMARY KEY CLUSTERED
);
INSERT #Test
    (id)
SELECT
    V.number
FROM master.dbo.spt_values AS V
WHERE
    V.[type] = N'P'
    AND V.number BETWEEN 1 AND 1000;

Let’s say we are given the following task:

Find the rows with values from 100 to 170, excluding any values that divide exactly by 10.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Beware Sneaky Reads with Unique Indexes

Beware Sneaky Reads with Unique Indexes

I saw a question asked recently on the #sqlhelp hash tag:

Might SQL Server retrieve (out-of-row) LOB data from a table, even if the column isn’t referenced in the query?

Leaving aside trivial cases like selecting a computed column that does reference the LOB data, one might be tempted to say that no, SQL Server does not read data you haven’t asked for.

In general, that is correct; however, there are cases where SQL Server might sneakily read a LOB column.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Heaps of Trouble?

Heaps of Trouble?

Brad Schulz recently wrote about optimizing a query run against tables with no indexes at all. The problem was, predictably, that performance was not very good. The catch was that we are not allowed to create any indexes (or even new statistics) as part of our optimization efforts.

In this post, I’m going to look at the problem from a different angle, and present an alternative solution to the one Brad found.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Myth: SQL Server Caches a Serial Plan with every Parallel Plan

Myth: SQL Server Caches a Serial Plan with every Parallel Plan

Many people believe that whenever SQL Server creates an execution plan that uses parallelism, an alternative serial plan is also cached.

The idea seems to be that the execution engine then decides between the parallel and serial alternatives at runtime. I’ve seen this on forums, in blogs, and even in books.

In fairness, a lot of the official documentation is not as clear as it might be on the subject. In this post I will show that only a single (parallel) plan is cached. I will also show that SQL Server can execute a parallel plan on a single thread.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Case of the Missing Shared Locks

The Case of the Missing Shared Locks

This post covers a little-known locking optimization that provides a surprising answer to the question:

If I hold an exclusive lock on a row, can another transaction running at the default read committed isolation level read it?

Most people would answer ‘no’, on the basis that the read would block when it tried to acquire a shared lock. Others might respond that it depends on whether the READ_COMMITTED_SNAPSHOT database option was in effect, but let’s assume that is not the case, and we are dealing simply with the default (locking) read committed isolation level.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sequence Tables

Sequence Tables

It is frequently useful to generate sequences of values within SQL Server, perhaps for use as surrogate keys. Using the IDENTITY property on a column is the easiest way to automatically generate such sequences:

CREATE TABLE dbo.SomeTable
(
    row_id integer IDENTITY PRIMARY KEY,
    [data] sql_variant NOT NULL,
);

Sometimes though, the database designer needs a more flexible scheme than is provided by the IDENTITY property. One alternative is to use a Sequence Table.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A Tale of Two Index Hints

A Tale of Two Index Hints

If you look up Table Hints in the official documentation, you’ll find the following statements:

If a clustered index exists, INDEX(0) forces a clustered index scan and INDEX(1) forces a clustered index scan or seek.

If no clustered index exists, INDEX(0) forces a table scan and INDEX(1) is interpreted as an error.

The interesting thing there is that both hints can result in a scan. If that is the case, you might wonder if there is any effective difference between the two.

This blog entry explores that question, and highlights an optimizer quirk that can result in a much less efficient query plan when using INDEX(0). I’ll also cover some stuff about ordering guarantees.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Inside the Optimizer: Plan Costing

Inside the Optimizer: Plan Costing

A detailed look at costing, and more undocumented optimizer fun.

The SQL Server query optimizer generates a number of physical plan alternatives from a logical requirement expressed in T-SQL. If full cost-based optimization is required, a cost is assigned to each iterator in each alternative plan, and the plan with the lowest overall cost is ultimately selected for execution.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Sorting, Row Goals, and the TOP 100 Problem

Sorting, Row Goals, and the TOP 100 Problem

When you write a query to return the first few rows from a potential result set, you’ll often use the TOP clause.

To give a precise meaning to the TOP operation, it will normally be accompanied by an ORDER BY clause. Together, the TOP…ORDER BY construction can be used to precisely identify which top ‘n’ rows should be returned.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Row Goals and Grouping

Row Goals and Grouping

You might recall from Inside the Optimizer: Row Goals In Depth that query plans containing a row goal tend to favour nested loops or sort-free merge join over hashing.

This is because a hash join has to fully process its build input (to populate its hash table) before it can start probing for matches on its other input. Hash join therefore has a high start-up cost, balanced by a lower per-row cost once probing begins.

In this post, we will take a look at how row goals affect grouping operations.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Inside the Optimizer: Row Goals In Depth

Inside the Optimizer: Row Goals In Depth

Background

One of the core assumptions made by the SQL Server query optimizer cost model is that clients will eventually consume all the rows produced by a query.

This results in plans that favour the overall execution cost, though it may take longer to begin producing rows.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Viewing Another Session’s Temporary Table

Viewing Another Session’s Temporary Table

Is it possible to view the contents of a local temporary table, created on a different connection?

Say we run this code on connection 1:

CREATE TABLE #Private
(
    [data] nvarchar(30) NOT NULL
);
GO
INSERT #Private
(
    [data]
)
VALUES
(
    N'Only I can see this'
);

Is there a way to see the contents of the #Private table from connection 2?

It isn’t particularly easy, but a user with sysadmin permissions, a bit of internal knowledge (and some patience) can do it.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Impact of Non-Updating Updates

The Impact of Non-Updating Updates

From time to time, I encounter a system design that always issues an UPDATE against the database after a user has finished working with a record — without checking to see if any of the data was in fact altered.

The prevailing wisdom seems to be “the database will sort it out”. This raises an interesting question: How smart is SQL Server in these circumstances?

In this post, I’ll look at a generalisation of this problem: What is the impact of updating a column to the value it already contains?

The specific questions I want to answer are:

  • Does this kind of UPDATE generate any log activity?
  • Do data pages get marked as dirty (and so eventually get written out to disk)?
  • Does SQL Server bother doing the update at all?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Iterators, Query Plans, and Why They Run Backwards

Iterators, Query Plans, and Why They Run Backwards

Iterators

SQL Server uses an extensible architecture for query optimization and execution, using iterators as the basic building blocks.

Iterators are probably most familiar in their graphical showplan representation, where each icon represents a single iterator. They also show up in XML query plan output as RelOp nodes:

Each iterator performs a single simple function, such as applying a filtering condition, or performing an aggregation. It can represent a logical operation, a physical operation, or (most often) both.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

An Interesting MERGE Bug

An Interesting MERGE Bug

Investigating an optimizer transformation that exposes a bug in SQL Server’s MERGE implementation.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan – Part 4

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan – Part 4

More undocumented ways to explore how the query optimizer works.

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan – Part 3

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan – Part 3

Presenting an undocumented Dynamic Management View we can use to identify the optimization rules involved in producing an executable plan.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan - Part 2

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan - Part 2

Continuing the series of posts looking at how the optimizer matches and applies internal rules to refine a query plan.

The last post ended with this query plan:

The optimizer has pushed the predicate ProductNumber LIKE 'T%' down from a Filter to the Index Scan on the Product table, but it remains as a residual predicate.

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan - Part 1

Inside the Optimizer: Constructing a Plan - Part 1

For today’s entry, I thought we might take a look at how the optimizer builds an executable plan using rules. To illustrate the process performed by the optimizer, we will configure it to produce incrementally better plans by progressively applying the necessary rules.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Ranking Function Optimizer Transformations

Ranking Function Optimizer Transformations

In my last post I showed how SQL Server 2005 and later can use a Segment Spool to implement aggregate window functions and the NTILE ranking function.

The query optimizer is also smart enough to recognise that some queries are logically equivalent to a window function, even if they are written using different syntax.