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Calculating the Adaptive Join Threshold

Paul White breaks out the math books:

One thing I want you to bear in mind throughout this piece is an adaptive join always starts executing as a batch mode hash join. This is true even if the execution plan indicates the adaptive join expects to run as a row mode apply.

Like any hash join, an adaptive join reads all rows available on its build input and copies the required data into a hash table. The batch mode flavour of hash join stores these rows in an optimized format, and partitions them using one or more hash functions. Once the build input has been consumed, the hash table is fully populated and partitioned, ready for the hash join to start checking probe-side rows for matches.

This is the point where an adaptive join makes the decision to proceed with the batch mode hash join or to transition to a row mode apply. If the number of rows in the hash table is less than the threshold value, the join switches to an apply; otherwise, the join continues as a hash join by starting to read rows from the probe input.

Read the whole thing and learn more about the cutoffs for adaptive joins.