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Capturing Execution Plans with Extended Events

Pedro Lopes shows us how we can get actual execution plans using Extended Events:

Query execution plans, otherwise known as actual execution plans or just Showplan, provide a map of all the required operations to get the query output, which includes runtime performance statistics.

Query Store (QS) is a valuable tool for troubleshooting workload trends via specific queries – this is because QS aggregates performance data on queries. However, sometimes we need to get the specific, singleton query execution plan to analyze and troubleshoot – this is where xEvents come in.

Since SQL Server 2012 we’ve had the query_post_execution_showplan xEvent for this. As the name suggests, it gets you the actual query plan – because it is *after* execution – when we have the runtime statistics available. However this xEvent is based on the standard query execution statistics profile infrastructure(quite a mouthful) – or standard profiling for short (read more about it here). This has a very high overhead (75%+ with a TPC-C like workload) which is why its use needs to be seriously considered, and most likely not used unless in last resort.

In more recent releases we have other alternatives for these requirements to get the singleton actual execution plans, based on the lightweight query execution statistics profile infrastructure – or lightweight profiling for short (read more about it here). These xEvents are listed below, where we’ll see examples on how to use them.

Pedro does a good job of taking us through the available events and what we get from them.