String Splitting And Concatenation

Aaron Bertrand and Steve Hughes talk about string splitting, and Aaron also discusses string concatenation.  First Aaron:

That may not look like a massive simplification, but don’t forget about all the logic buried behind the table-valued function in the first example. And if you’re like several shops I know, if you look across your codebase and see all the messy uses you have for either of these methods, the benefits should be even more clear – and testing should bear that the performance savings compared to traditional, expensive methods are the sweetest part of the deal.

And Steve:

The STRING_SPLIT function will return a single column result set. The column name is “value”. The datatype will be NVARCHAR for strings that are NCHAR or NVARCHAR. VARCHAR is used for strings that are CHAR or VARCHAR types.

These two functions are small, but come in handy quite frequently.

AT TIME ZONE And Reports

Rob Farley shows how to use AT TIME ZONE without sacrificing performance:

Because how am I supposed to know whether a particular date was before daylight saving started or after? I might know that an incident occurred at 6:30am in UTC, but is that 4:30pm in Melbourne or 5:30pm? Obviously I can consider which month it’s in, because I know that Melbourne observes daylight saving time from the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in April, but then if there are customers in Brisbane, and Auckland, and Los Angeles, and Phoenix, and various places within Indiana, things get a lot more complicated.

To get around this, there were very few time zones in which SLAs could be defined for that company. It was just considered too hard to cater for more than that. A report could then be customised to say “Consider that on a particular date the time zone changed from X to Y”. It felt messy, but it worked. There was no need for anything to look up the Windows registry, and it basically just worked.

But these days, I would’ve done it differently.

Now, I would’ve used AT TIME ZONE.

Read on for the scenario.

Session Context

Ewald Cress looks at SESSION_CONTEXT() as a replacement for CONTEXT_INFO():

SESSION_CONTEXT() brings two major innovations. Firstly, it replaces a 128-byte scalar payload with a key-value structure that can accommodate 256kB of data. You can really go to town filling this thing up.

The second change is less glamorous, but possibly more significant: it is possible to set an entry to read-only, meaning that it can safely be used for the kind of contextual payload you don’t want tampered with. This makes me happy, not because I currently have a great need for it, but because it neatly ties in with things I have been thinking about a lot lately.

Read on for more.

Metaphones In SQL

Phil Factor builds a function to generate metaphones in SQL Server:

Metaphone algorithms are designed to produce an approximate phonetic representation, in ASCII, of regular “dictionary” words and names in English and some Latin-based languages. It is intended for indexing words by their English pronunciation. It is one of the more popular of the phonetic algorithms and was published by Lawrence Philips in 1990. A Metaphone is up to ten characters in length.

It is used for fuzzy searches for records where each string to be searched has an index with a Metaphone key. You search for all records with the same or similar metaphone key and then refine the search by some ranking algorithm such as Damerau–Levenshtein distance. Metaphone searches are particularly popular with ‘ancestor’ sites that search on surnames where spellings vary considerably for the same surname. The current version, Metaphone 3, is actively maintained by Lawrence Philips, developed to account for all spelling variations commonly found in English words, first and last names found in the United States and Europe, and non-English words whose native pronunciations are familiar to English-speakers. The source of Metaphone 3 is proprietary, and Lawrence charges a fee to supply the source.

Read on for the script.

Generating SQL Permutations

Kevin Feasel



Michael J. Swart uses a recursive common table expression and bit shifting to build a full set of permutations:

If you google “generating permutations using SQL”, you get thousands of hits. It’s an interesting problem if not very useful.
I wrote a solution recently and thought I’d share it. If you’re keen, try tackling it yourself before moving on.

Click through for the script.  It’s an interesting approach and might be worth playing a round of code golf.

Understanding DATEADD And DATEDIFF

Matan Yungman and Guy Glantser take a hack at DATEDIFF versus DATEADD for date calculations.  First up is Matan:

Pretty simple right?

Well, it is, and since this problem is pretty common, I used this solution in many performance tuning sessions I performed over the years.

There’s a slight problem though: This solution isn’t 100% accurate.

When carefully looking at the results, I find out that for the first query, I get 5859 rows, and for the second query, I get 5988 rows. Where does this difference come from?

Then, Guy gives his take on the problem:

I tested both queries on a sample table, which has millions of rows, and only around 500 rows in the last 90 days. The first query produced a table scan, while the second query produced an index seek. Of course, the execution time of the second query was much lower than the first query.

Both queries were supposed to return the orders in the last 90 days, but the first query returned 523 rows, and the second query returned 497 rows. So what’s going on?

The answer has to do with the way DATEDIFF works. This function returns the number of date parts (days, years, seconds, etc.) between two date & time values. It does that by first rounding down each one of the date & time values to the nearest date part value, and then counting the number of date parts between them.

They both start from the same base problem, but end up with slightly different formulations of a solution.

Searching For A Query

Kevin Feasel



Kendra Little shows how to search the plan cache and query store for a particular query:

If I’m looking in SQL Server’s Execution Plan Cache, I like to use the sys.dm_exec_text_query_plan dynamic management view. This stores those XML query plans as text.

I learned about using this DMV from Grant Fritchey in his post, “Querying the Plan Cache, Simplified.” Grant points out that while doing wildcard searches in the text version of a query plan isn’t fast, querying it as XML is often even slower.

This is definitely worth a read.

JSON Basics In SQL Server

Kevin Feasel



Neil Gelder gives an introduction to JSON in SQL Server 2016:

A new feature in SQL Server 2016 (also available in Azure SQL database) is the ability to create and query  JSON (Javascript object notation) documents, which have now become a common alternative to XML.

Lets look at some examples, I’ll be using tables from the new sample database for SQL Server 2016 WorldWideImporters which you can download from this link

I’m of two minds with JSON support:  I think it’s very useful for building output sets for service calls and might be fine for inputs when you can’t use a table-valued parameter for some reason, but if you’re doing a lot of JSON splitting of data in a table, that’s a violation of first normal form.

Getting The Decimal Part Of A Number

Kevin Feasel



Madhivanan JR shows two methods for extracting the decimal value of a number:

One of the questions asked in a forum.  “What are the different methods to extract decimal part from a number?”.

There can be many methods. Two simple methods are as shown below

Click through for the two methods.  I knew method #1 but didn’t think about method #2 because I’ve always thought of the modulo with respect to integers, but it makes sense.


Manoj Pandey points out a new string function in SQL Server vNext:

Here in this post I’ll discuss about one more new function i.e. CONCAT_WS(), here “_WS” means “With Separator”.

This is very similar to the existing CONCAT() function introduced back in SQL Server 2012, which concatenates a variable number of arguments or string values.

The difference is the new function CONCAT_WS() accepts a delimiter specified as the 1st argument, and thus there is no need to repeat the delimiter after very String value like in CONCAT() function.

It’s a small change, but I think a rather useful one.  Do think about how you’d want to interpret NULL values, though, as CONCAT_WS() does not include separators for NULL values.


May 2017
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