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Row Counts and Arrow Widths, Continued

Hugo Kornelis finishes a series on row counts and arrow widths with a look at Compute Scalar operators:

Compute Scalar operator is probably the most common of all operators. I hardly ever see an execution plan that doesn’t have at least a few occurrences of this operator. The task of the Compute Scalar operator is a simple one: to use some of the data in its input and, based on that, produce new data that is then added as extra columns in its output.

Because of the simplicity of this task, the actual execution of that task is often done by one of the other operators in the execution plan, and the Compute Scalar operator itself doesn’t actually execute. A side effect is that it can’t track how many rows it processes, because it doesn’t process anything at all. The result is that, even in an execution plan with run-time statistics (aka “actual execution plan”), no run-time statistics will be reported by a Compute Scalar operator when all its computations are performed by other operators. (See also the note in this (retired) Books Online article).

But then Hugo head-fakes us and shows us the real conclusion:

I already described, in a previous post, how sometimes the optimizer can create an execution plan that uses a Filter operator to evaluate a specific predicate, but then a post-optimization rewrite finds a way to push that predicate down into another operator, as a Predicate property, and then removes the Filter operator. When this happens with a bitmap filter, the Estimated Number of Rows is not adjusted, which can be quite confusing.

But for the issue in this post, the root cause was the same, but the error surfaces completely differently.

This has been a fun series to read, showing how an extremely useful signal can nonetheless exhibit problems in many edge cases.