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How MAXDOP Works

Paul White lets us in on a secret:

The nuance to the question is in the phrase “running concurrently”. There is a limit to the number of characters one can use in a Twitter poll. My intention was for people to focus on the number of threads that could have a status of RUNNING at any one moment.

There are various definitions for that status in different DMVs, but essentially RUNNING means actively executing on a processor — not waiting for its turn on a CPU or for some other resource to become available.

My expectation was that most people would think that MAXDOP 4 would limit a parallel query to using 4 CPU cores at any one moment in time. Indeed, that was the second most popular answer to the poll.

But read on to understand why 4 isn’t the correct answer.

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