Benefits of Inline Indexes

Phil Factor covers a topic fairly close to my heart:

Usually, the added features of the CREATE TABLE syntax in new releases of SQL Server are esoteric, and unless you are dealing with memory-optimized tables or other esoteric stuff, they aren’t of great interest. However, the Inline INDEX for both a table and column index has just crept in quietly with SQL Server 2014 (12.x). This was interesting because the SQL Server team back-fitted it to all tables rather than just in-memory OLTP tables for which it was, at the time, found necessary. The new syntax was introduced which allows you to create certain index types inline with the table definition. These could be at column level, concerning just that column, or at the table level, with indexes containing several columns.

Why interesting? This affects multi-statement table functions, user-defined table types, table-valued parameters as well as table variables. It was considered a game-change for table variables because, for a start, it allowed non-unique indexes or explicit clustered indexes to be declared on columns for the first time because you can create indexes on table variables as part of the table definition. Of more significance were the table-level indexes that allowed you to specify multi-column indexes. Previous releases had allowed multi-column primary or unique constraints, but not explicitly named indexes. You still cannot declare an index after the table is created, which is a shame as there are good reasons for being able to do so after a table is stocked with data. Any sort of large import of data into a table that is over-indexed or prematurely-indexed is doomed to crawl rather than to run. I’ll show this later on in this article.

Click through for an analysis of inline indexes themselves as well as how they fit on table variables—something I tend not to do much.

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