The Halloween Problem And Deleting From Self-Referencing Tables

Louis Davdison walks us through a case where deleting from a table can be extremely slow:

I have a great interest in hierarchy solutions, as I plan to write a book on implementing hierarchies in SQL Server in the next year or so (after I see what happens in SQL Server vNext after 2017). Something I didn’t include in my design testing when I built my presentation on hierarchies (available from a link here) a few years back was the cost to remove nodes from a tree. I learned a big lesson today about the cost of deleting from a hierarchy (the hard way). It is definitely something I will be digging deeper into at some point in a lab environment, comparing multiple methods of deleting from a hierarchy, but I wanted to write down the issue with self-referencing table for future use (and hopefully for your use too.)

We have a table with 100s of millions of rows, and deletes from this table were taking forever. There were 17 foreign key constraints to this table, but each of the references were only showing as 1% of the plan. The physical DELETE from the clustered index operator was ~80%, but in the query, there showed up an operator that looked ominous.

Definitely worth a read.

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