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Parallelism Strategies For Grouping Operations

Itzik Ben-Gan continues his series on grouping data in SQL Server by looking at how these operations can go parallel:

Besides needing to choose between various grouping and aggregation strategies (preordered Stream Aggregate, Sort + Stream Aggregate, Hash Aggregate), SQL Server also needs to choose whether to go with a serial or a parallel plan. In fact, it can choose between multiple different parallelism strategies. SQL Server uses costing logic that results in optimization thresholds that under different conditions make one strategy preferred to the others. We’ve already discussed in depth the costing logic that SQL Server uses in serial plans in the previous parts of the series. In this section I’ll introduce a number of parallelism strategies that SQL Server can use for handling grouping and aggregation. Initially, I won’t get into the details of the costing logic, rather just describe the available options. Later in the article I’ll explain how the costing formulas work, and an important factor in those formulas called DOP for costing.

As you will later learn, SQL Server takes into account the number of logical CPUs in the machine in its costing formulas for parallel plans. In my examples, unless I say otherwise, I assume the target system has 8 logical CPUs. If you want to try out the examples that I’ll provide, in order to get the same plans and costing values like I do, you need to run the code on a machine with 8 logical CPUs as well. If you’re machine happens to have a different number of CPUs, you can emulate a machine with 8 CPUs—for costing purposes—like so:


Even though this tool is not officially documented and supported, it’s quite convenient for research and learning purposes.

This is a fairly long article, but a great one.