About This Blog

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

Monday, 15 October 2012

Cardinality Estimation Bug with Lookups

Cardinality Estimation Bug with Lookups

Estimated row counts on Key or RID Lookups where a filtering predicate is applied can be wrong in SSMS execution plans.

This error does not affect the optimizer’s ultimate plan selection, but it does look odd.

There are other cases where estimated row counts are inconsistent (for defensible reasons) but the behaviour shown in this post in certainly a bug.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Why Doesn’t Partition Elimination Work?

Why Doesn’t Partition Elimination Work?

Given a partitioned table and a simple SELECT query that compares the partitioning column to a single literal value, why does SQL Server read all the partitions when it seems obvious that only one partition needs to be examined?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Compute Scalars, Expressions and Execution Plan Performance

Compute Scalars, Expressions and Execution Plan Performance

The humble Compute Scalar is one of the least well-understood of the execution plan operators, and usually the last place people look for query performance problems. It often appears in execution plans with a very low (or even zero) cost, which goes some way to explaining why people ignore it.

Compute Scalar

Some readers will already know that a Compute Scalar can contain a call to a user-defined function, and that any T-SQL function with a BEGIN…END block in its definition can have truly disastrous consequences for performance (see When is a SQL function not a function? by Rob Farley for details).

This post is not about those sorts of concerns.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Deletes that Split Pages and Forwarded Ghosts

Deletes that Split Pages and Forwarded Ghosts

Can DELETE operations cause pages to split?

Yes. It sounds counter-intuitive on the face of it. Deleting rows frees up space on a page, and page splitting occurs when a page needs additional space. Nevertheless, there are circumstances when deleting rows causes them to expand before they can be deleted.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Temporary Table Caching Explained

Temporary Table Caching Explained

SQL Server (since 2005) caches temporary tables and table variables referenced in stored procedures for reuse, reducing contention on tempdb allocation structures and catalogue tables.

A number of things can prevent this caching (none of which are allowed when working with table variables):

  • Named constraints (bad idea anyway, since concurrent executions can cause a name collision)
  • DDL after creation (though what is considered DDL is interesting)
  • Creation using dynamic SQL
  • Table created in a different scope
  • Procedure executed using WITH RECOMPILE

Temporary objects are often created and destroyed at a high rate in production systems, so caching can be an important optimization.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Temporary Table Caching in Stored Procedures

Temporary Table Caching in Stored Procedures

Introduction

Ask anyone what the primary advantage of temporary tables over table variables is, and the chances are they will say that temporary tables support statistics and table variables do not.

This is true, of course. The indexes that enforce PRIMARY KEY and UNIQUE constraints on table variables do not have populated statistics associated with them. Neither do any non-constraint table variable indexes (using inline index definitions, available starting with SQL Server 2014). Finally, it is not possible to manually create statistics on table variables.

Intuitively, then, any query that has alternative execution plans to choose from ought to benefit from using a temporary table rather than a table variable. This is also true, up to a point.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Parallel Execution Plans Suck

Parallel Execution Plans Suck

Summary: A deep dive into SQL Server parallelism, and a potential performance problem with parallel plans that use TOP.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Query Optimizer Deep Dive - Part 4

Query Optimizer Deep Dive - Part 4

This is the final part in a series of posts based on the content of the Query Optimizer Deep Dive presentations I have given over the last month or so at the Auckland SQL Users’ Group, and SQL Saturday events in Wellington, New Zealand and Adelaide, Australia.

Links to other parts of this series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Beating the Optimizer

Our AdventureWorks test query produces an optimized physical execution plan that is quite different from the logical form of the query.

The estimated cost of the execution plan shown below is 0.0295 units.

Optimizer plan

Since we know the database schema very well, we might wonder why the optimizer did not choose to use the unique nonclustered index on Name in the Product table to filter rows based on the LIKE predicate.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Query Optimizer Deep Dive – Part 3

Query Optimizer Deep Dive – Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts based on the content of the Query Optimizer Deep Dive presentations I have given over the last month or so at the Auckland SQL Users’ Group, and SQL Saturday events in Wellington, New Zealand and Adelaide, Australia.

Links to other parts of this series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 4

Storage of Alternative Plans

We saw in part 2 how optimizer rules are used to explore logical alternatives for parts of the query tree, and how implementation rules are used to find physical operations to perform each logical steps.

To keep track of all these options, the cost-based part of the SQL Server query optimizer uses a structure called the Memo. This structure is part of the Cascades general optimization framework developed by Goetz Graefe.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Query Optimizer Deep Dive – Part 2

Query Optimizer Deep Dive – Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts based on the content of the Query Optimizer Deep Dive presentations I have given over the last month or so at the Auckland SQL Users’ Group, and SQL Saturday events in Wellington, New Zealand and Adelaide, Australia.

Links to other parts of this series: Part 1 Part 3 Part 4

Cost-Based Optimization Overview

The input to cost-based optimization is a tree of logical operations produced by the previous optimization stages discussed in part one.

Cost-based optimization takes this logical tree, explores logical alternatives (different logical tree shapes that will always produce the same results), generates physical implementations, assigns an estimated cost to each, and finally chooses the cheapest physical option overall.

The goal of cost-based optimization is not to find the best possible physical execution plan by exploring every possible alternative. Rather, the goal is to find a good plan quickly.

Query Optimizer Deep Dive - Part 1

Query Optimizer Deep Dive - Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts based on the content of the Query Optimizer Deep Dive presentations I have given over the last month or so at the Auckland SQL Users’ Group, and SQL Saturday events in Wellington, New Zealand and Adelaide, Australia.

Links to other parts of this series: Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Introduction

The motivation behind writing these sessions is finding that relatively few people have a good intuition for the way the optimizer works. This is partly because the official documentation is rather sparse, and partly because what information is available is dispersed across many books and blog posts.

The content presented here is very much geared to my preferred way of learning. It shows the concepts in what seems to me to be a reasonably logical sequence, and then provides tools to enable the interested reader to explore further, if desired.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fun with Scalar and Vector Aggregates

Fun with Scalar and Vector Aggregates

There are interesting things to be learned from even the simplest queries.

For example, imagine you are asked to write a query that lists AdventureWorks product names, where the product has at least one entry in the transaction history table, but fewer than ten.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Dynamic Seeks and Hidden Implicit Conversions

Dynamic Seeks and Hidden Implicit Conversions

A LIKE predicate with only a trailing wildcard can usually use an index seek, as the following AdventureWorks sample database query shows:

SELECT 
    P.[Name]
FROM Production.Product AS P
WHERE 
    P.[Name] LIKE N'D%';

Friday, 23 December 2011

Forcing a Parallel Query Execution Plan

Forcing a Parallel Query Execution Plan

This article is for SQL Server developers who have experienced the special kind of frustration that only comes from spending hours trying to convince the query optimizer to generate a parallel execution plan.

This situation often occurs when making an apparently innocuous change to the text of a moderately complex query — a change which somehow manages to turn a parallel plan that executes in ten seconds, into a five-minute serially-executing monster.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

SQL Server Optimizer Bug with JOIN and GROUP BY

SQL Server Optimizer Bug with JOIN and GROUP BY

I came across a SQL Server optimizer bug recently that made me wonder how on earth I never noticed it before.

As the title of this post suggests, the bug occurs in common JOIN and GROUP BY queries. While it does not cause incorrect results to be returned, it will often cause a poor query plan to be selected by the optimizer.

If you are just interested in the bug itself, you will find a description in the section headed “the bug revealed”. It relates to cardinality estimation for serial partial aggregates.

As the regular reader will be expecting though, I am going to work up to it with a bit of background. The lasting value of this post (once the bug is fixed) is in the background details anyway.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Is Distinct Aggregation Still Considered Harmful?

Is Distinct Aggregation Still Considered Harmful?

Back in 2008, Marc Friedman of the SQL Server Query Processor Team wrote a blog entry entitled “Distinct Aggregation Considered Harmful”.

Marc shows a way to work around the poor performance that often results simply from adding the keyword DISTINCT to an otherwise perfectly reasonable aggregate function in a query.

This post is an update to that work, presenting a query optimizer enhancement in SQL Server 2012 that reduces the need to perform the suggested rewrite manually.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Finding the Statistics Used to Compile an Execution Plan

Finding the Statistics Used to Compile an Execution Plan

In this post, I show you how to determine the statistics objects used by the query optimizer in producing an execution plan.

Note: This technique only applies to queries compiled using the original (70) cardinality estimation model.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Can a SELECT query cause page splits?

Can a SELECT query cause page splits?

The SQL Server documentation has this to say about page splits:

When a new row is added to a full index page, the Database Engine moves approximately half the rows to a new page to make room for the new row. This reorganization is known as a page split. A page split makes room for new records, but can take time to perform and is a resource intensive operation. Also, it can cause fragmentation that causes increased I/O operations.

Given that, how can a SELECT statement be responsible for page splits?

Well, I suppose we could SELECT from a function that adds rows to a table variable as part of its internal implementation, but that would clearly be cheating, and no fun at all from a blogging point of view.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

SQL Server, Seeks, and Binary Search

SQL Server, Seeks, and Binary Search

The following table summarizes the results from my last two articles, Enforcing Uniqueness for Performance and Avoiding Uniqueness for Performance. It shows the CPU time used when performing 5 million clustered index seeks into a unique or non-unique index:

Test summary

In test 1, making the clustered index unique improved performance by around 40%.

In test 2, making the same change reduced performance by around 70% (on 64-bit systems – more on that later).

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Avoiding Uniqueness for Performance

Avoiding Uniqueness for Performance

In my last post, Enforcing Uniqueness for Performance, I showed how using a unique index could speed up equality seeks by around 40%.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Enforcing Uniqueness for Performance

Enforcing Uniqueness for Performance

A little while back, I posted a short series on seeks and scans:

One of the things I highlighted in the middle post was the difference between a singleton seek and a range scan:

  • A singleton equality seek always retrieves exactly one row, and is guaranteed to do so because a unique index exists to enforce it.

  • A range scan seeks down the B-tree to a starting (or ending) point, and scans forward (or backward) from that point using the next or previous page pointers.

Today’s short post shows how much faster a singleton seek is, compared with a range scan, even when both return exactly the same number of records.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Join Performance, Implicit Conversions, and Residuals

Join Performance, Implicit Conversions, and Residuals

Introduction

You probably already know that it’s important to be aware of data types when writing queries, and that implicit conversions between types can lead to poor query performance.

Some people have gone so far as to write scripts to search the plan cache for CONVERT_IMPLICIT elements, and others routinely inspect plans for that type of thing when tuning.

Now, that’s all good, as far as it goes. It may surprise you to learn that not all implicit conversions are visible in query plans, and there are other important factors to consider too.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bitmap Magic (or… how SQL Server uses bitmap filters)

Bitmap Magic (or… how SQL Server uses bitmap filters)

Question

Can a parallel query use less CPU than the same serial query, while executing faster?

The answer is yes! To demonstrate, I’ll use the following two (heap) tables, each containing a single column typed as integer:

Tables #BuiltInt and #Probe

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Undocumented Query Plans: The ANY Aggregate

Undocumented Query Plans: The ANY Aggregate

As usual, here’s a sample table:

CREATE TABLE #Example
(
    pk numeric IDENTITY PRIMARY KEY NONCLUSTERED,
    col1 sql_variant NULL,
    col2 sql_variant NULL,
    thing sql_variant NOT NULL,
);

Some sample data:

Sample data

And an index that will be useful shortly:

CREATE INDEX nc1 
ON #Example
    (col1, col2, thing);

There’s a complete script to create the table and add the data at the end of this post. There’s nothing special about the table or the data (except that I wanted to have some fun with values and data types).

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Undocumented Query Plans: Equality Comparisons

Undocumented Query Plans: Equality Comparisons

The diagram below shows two data sets, with differences highlighted:

Two data sets with differences highlighted

To find changed rows using T-SQL, we might write a query like this:

Query to find changed rows

The logic is clear: Join rows from the two sets together on the primary key column, and return rows where a change has occurred in one or more data columns.

Unfortunately, this query only finds one of the expected four rows:

Only one changed row found

The problem is that our query does not correctly handle NULLs.