Pausing Online Index Rebuilds

Andrew Pruski demos resumable online index rebuilds in SQL Server 2017:

Pretty cool, huh? Full information on this can be found here: –https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/t-sql/statements/alter-index-transact-sql

I think this is very useful but we do need to be careful. The documentation says that pausing an online index rebuild for a long time may affect query performance and disk utilisation. This is due to the newly rebuild index being created side-by-side to the original one so we’ll need to watch out for that.

It’s a good first look at what might be a very interesting solution for companies tight on maintenance window time.

Resumable Online Index Rebuilds

Niko Neugebauer introduces a new feature in SQL Server 2017:

After multiple executions, the first process (Resumable Online Index Rebuild) on the average took 65.8 seconds, while the second one (a simple online) took only 60.8 seconds, representing 8% of the improvement of the overall performance. I can’t say if it looks acceptable to you or not, but for me this is something I will be definitely considering to be as an advantage for the cases where the resumable process is needed.

I decided to run a test on much bigger table, the lineitem which for 10GB TPCH database contains 60 Million Rows. My expectation here was to see if the percentage would stay the same or will jump to a whole new level (please make sure that you do execute the following script at least a couple of times, to get the real results and not the results of your disk-drive prefetching :)):

The big table example result was somewhat surprising.  Niko is his normal, informative self, so definitely read the whole thing.

When To Add That Index

Kenneth Fisher shares his rules of thumb with regard to indexing:

Here are my general rules of thumb, although of course, you should always use your best judgment. Also, this is for OLTP systems (ex: data entry systems) not OLAP systems (ex: data warehouses).

  • No Clustered Index: You really should add a clustered index. Clustered indexes are important for a number of reasons, so if you don’t have one spend some time, figure one out and create it. When possible I like dates as a clustered index but of course, it’s highly specific to the table you are working on. There are a few types of tables, some load tables, for example, were not having a clustered index is appropriate but they are few and far between.

Indexes are like cookies:  you can’t have too many.  No, wait, that doesn’t sound right…

Considerations For Reducing I/O Costs

Monica Rathbun gives a few methods for reducing how many I/O operations a query requires:

Implicit Conversions

Implicit conversions often happen when a query is comparing two or more columns with different data types. In the below example, the system is having to perform extra I/O in order to compare a varchar(max) column to an nvarchar(4000) column, which leads to an implicit conversion, and ultimately a scan instead of a seek. By fixing the tables to have matching data types, or simply converting this value before evaluation, you can greatly reduce I/O and improve cardinality (the estimated rows the optimizer should expect).

There’s some good advice here if your main hardware constraint is being I/O bound.

Create Index With Drop_Existing Bug

Kendra Little describes a bug that she encountered in discussions with a reader:

My first thought was that perhaps there is some process that runs against the production system and the test system that goes to sleep with an open transaction, holding an X or an IX lock against this table. If the index create can’t get its shared lock, then it could be part of a blocking chain.

So I asked first if the index create was the head of the blocking chain, or if it was perhaps blocked by something else. The answer came back that no, the index create was NOT blocked. It was holding the shared lock for a long time.

My new friend even sent a screenshot of the index create running against the test instance in sp_WhoIsActive with blocking_session_id null.

Read on for the full story and keep those systems patched.

It Depends: Key Lookup Edition

Raul Gonzalez shows a case in which having a key lookup beats having a covering index:

This is a very special case where the covering index has three keys and then a couple of included columns, one of which is NVARCHAR(MAX) column, so the covering index is pretty big and we only seek in the leftmost column, which is also possible using another much smaller index on that single column.

In both cases, the operator is able to push the query predicate(s) to the seek and thanks to that, the number of rows coming out the operator is not that big. But the number of rows which match the leftmost key and therefore have to be read is quite big.

That’s why it’s so important to test queries rather than assuming you know how they will behave:  sometimes the normal answer isn’t quite so.

Indexing Foreign Keys

Kim Tripp looks at the practice of adding non-clustered indexes on columns which make up foreign key constraints:

I’m going to tie today’s post with a question I received recently: if I have a table that has 6 foreign key columns/references should I create one index with all 6 foreign key columns in it, or should I create 6 individual indexes – one for each foreign key reference.

This is an interesting question with a few tangents to cover for our SQL101 series. I consider indexing foreign keys as part of my “Phase 1 of index tuning.” But, let’s go back to some basics before we dive into the answer on this one.

Read on for Kim’s thoughts on the topic and some good practices.

Indexing Woes

Shane O’Neill relates a tale of trying to create an index with a SQL Agent job.  Easy, right?

Now I’m angry too since I count these failures as personal and I don’t like failing, so I get cracking on the investigation.
Straight away, that error message doesn’t help my mood.
I’m not indexing a view!
I’m not including computed columns!
It’s not a filtered index!
The columns are not xml data types, or spatial operations!
And nowhere, nowhere am I using double quotes to justify needing to set QUOTED_IDENTIFIER on!

SO WTF SQL SERVER, WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME THESE ERRORS???

Read the whole thing.

Clustered Index And Physical Storage

Wayne Sheffield busts a myth:

In several of my last few blog posts, I’ve shared several methods of getting internal information from a database by using the DBCC PAGE command and utilizing the “WITH TABLERESULTS” option to be allowed to automate this process for further processing. This post will also do this, but in this case, we’ll be using it to bust a common myth—data in a clustered index is physically stored on disk in the order of the clustered index.

Busting this myth

To bust this myth, we’ll create a database, put a table with a clustered index into this database, and then we’ll add some rows in random order. Next, we will show that the rows are stored on the pages in logical order, and then we’ll take a deeper look at the page internals to see that the rows are not stored in physical order.

Read on for the proof.

Maintenance Plan Updates

Kevin Hill looks at maintenance plan updates in SQL Server 2016:

True to my typical post style which focuses on small shops, accidental DBAs, and junior DBAs I went looking for something that could very easily benefit people that are using the basic SQL Server features.  In this case they may not even realize how limited they were.

I chose to write about Index Maintenance in the built-in Maintenance Plan portion of SQL Server.

A brief summary of the built-in Maintenance Plans is that they allow you to drag-and-drop your way to basic SQL Server maintenance items such as Backups, Index maintenance, CheckDB, Statistics updating, etc.  This a tool that has been around since at least version 7 that I know of.  It wasn’t always very good, and it gets a bad rap from a lot of DBAs.  It has been dramatically improved over the years in flexibility and reliability.

Read on for the changes.  I’m really not a fan of maintenance plans, but if they’re going to exist, they should at least be as good as possible.

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April 2017
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