Creating a Columnstore Index

Monica Rathbun shows a scenario where creating a clustered columnstore index can make data retrieval much faster:

Using AdventureworksDW2016CTP3 we will work with the FactResellerSalesXL table which has 11.6 million rows in it. The simple query we will use as a demo just selects the ProductKey and returns some aggregations grouping them by the different product keys.

First, we will run the query with no existing columnstore index and only using the current clustered rowstore (normal) index. Note that I turned on SET STATISTICS IO and TIME on. These two SET statements will help us better illustrate the improvements provided by the columnstore index. SET STATISTICS IO displays statistics on the amount of page activity generated by the query. It gives you important details such as page logical reads, physical reads, scans, and lob reads both physical and logical. SET STATISTICS TIME displays the amount of time needed to parse, compile, and execute each statement in the query. The output shows the time in milliseconds for each operation to complete. This allows you to really see, in numbers, the differences.

Click through for the example.

Simplifying Columnstore

Monica Rathbun takes us through concepts behind columnstore indexes:

Now, I admit when these first were introduced in SQL Server 2012 I found them very intimidating (additionally, you couldn’t update them directly). For me, anytime you say columnstore, my mind tends to set off alarms saying wait stay away, this is too complicated. So, in this post I am going to try and simplify the feature for you.

To do that first you need to understand some terminology and the difference between a columnstore index and a row store index (the normal kind we all use). Let’s start with the terminology.

There are some interesting complications around columnstore indexes but for analytical or warehousing queries, they’re excellent.

Diving Into Columnstore Index Scans

Hugo Kornelis continues a series of posts on index scans:

The Columnstore Index Scan is not really an actual operator. You can encounter it in graphical execution plans in SSMS (and other tools), but if you look at the underlying XML of the execution plan, you will see that it is either an Index Scan or a Clustered Index Scan operator.

SQL Server currently supports three types of index storage: rowstore, columnstore, and memory-optimized. Indexes of each of those types can be the target of an Index Scan or Clustered Index Scan, as indicated by the Storage property. When the Storage property is RowStore or MemoryOptimized, then the normal icon for (clustered) index scan is use, but when Storage is ColumnStore than SSMS (and other tools) choose to show a different icon instead.

Click through for more details.

Causing Error 666 When Loading Into Columnstore Index

Joe Obbish has moved into Erik Darling’s Internet Basement and has a doozy of a first post there:

I need to find a relatively efficient way to advance the CSILOCATOR because I need to do it over 2 billion times, if my theory is correct about the maximum allowed value. Both updating all of the rows in a delta rowgroup and deleting and reinserting advance the CSILOCATOR. I expected that small batch sizes would work best, and they did. For my table’s schema, the sweet spot for updates is about 275 rows and the sweet spot for delete/inserts is about 550 rows. Delete/inserts appeared to be faster than updates for the purpose of constantly reloading the same rows over and over.

Great post, Brent!

Errors Updating Stats on Columnstore Indexes

Max Vernon walks us through some problems trying to update statistics on columnstore indexes:

The first error above would be seen if you have a SQL Server Agent job that updates statistics. The second error is how it looks in an SSMS Query window.

The error message claims that UPDATE STATISTICS can only be used on a columnstore index with the STATS_STREAM option. However, the Microsoft Docs UPDATE STATISTICS shows very “thin” documentation for the option, showing only these two tidbits:

<update_stats_stream_option>
Identified for informational purposes only. Not supported. Future compatibility is not guaranteed.

Columnstore indexes really don’t want their stats updated, apparently, and will fight you tooth and nail to prevent it.

Clustered Columnstore Index Memory Timeouts

Joe Obbish takes a deep look at a clustered columnstore index insertion scenario:

Why should we care about memory grant timeouts for CCI insert queries? Simply put, lots of bad things can happen when those queries can time out, both for serial and for parallel inserts. For serial insert queries, I’ve observed deadlocks, extremely poor performance along with long SLEEP_TASK waits, and extremely long rollbacks. For parallel insert queries, I’ve observed queries that run seemingly forever, poor performance of the SELECT part, and error 8645. You probably don’t want any of that occurring in production. It would be very helpful if it was possible to extend the 25 second time-out for queries that insert into columnstore tables.

Read through as Joe learns the true meaning of Christmas a KB article.

Triggering KB 4462481

Joe Obbish shows how you can recreate the error described in KB 4462481:

Consider a query execution that meets all of the following criteria:

1. A parallel INSERT INTO… SELECT into a columnstore table is performed

2. The SELECT part of the query contains a batch mode hash join

3. The query can’t immediate get a memory grant, hits the 25 second memory grant timeout and executes with required memory

The query may appear to get stuck. 

Click through for Joe’s demo. The fix? Update to SQL Server 2017 CU11.

Preventing Issues With Columnstore Indexes

Kevin Chant has a post covering issues in his experience with the creation of columnstore indexes:

Error due to online statement

It’s a very common error caused usually by somebody copying a rowstore “Create Index” command. The “online=on” option you use with rowstore indexes does not work with creating columnstore indexes yet. For the record the online option will work in SQL Server 2019.

This one I’ve run into, as I like clustered columnstore indexes a lot but occasionally need single-row results from them.  If the table is empty, creating an index offline is no problem.  But once you get a billion or so rows in it, that’s a non-starter in a 24×7 uptime shop.  Read the whole thing.

Avoid Key Lookups On Clustered Columnstore Indexes

Joey D’Antoni points out a potential big performance problem with clustered columnstore indexes:

In the last year or so, with a large customer who makes fairly heavy use of this pattern, I’ve noticed another concern. Sometimes, and I can’t figure out what exactly triggers it, the execution plan generated, will do a seek against the nonclustered index and then do a key lookup against the columnstore as seen below. This is bad for two reasons–first the key lookup is super expensive, and generally columnstores are very large, secondly this key lookup is in row execution  mode rather than batch and drops the rest of the execution plan into row mode, thus slowing the query down even further.

Joey also has a UserVoice item as well, so check it out.

Tempdb Blocking With Non-Clustered Columnstore Indexes

Ned Otter runs into a tricky issue:

I have a client that used Itzik Ben-Gan’s solution of creating a filtered nonclustered columnstore index to achieve batch mode on a rowstore (in fact I proposed that the client consider it). They have an OLTP system, and often perform YTD calculations. When they tested, processing time was reduced by 30 to 50 percent, without touching a single line of application code. If that ain’t low hanging fruit, I don’t know what is —

However, during testing, I noticed some intermittent blocking that didn’t make sense to me. But I couldn’t nail it down, and they went live with the “filtered nonclustered columnstore index” solution.

Once they deployed – and there was a lot of concurrency – I could see what had eluded me during my proof of concept: blocking in tempdb.

Read on for the repro and check out Ned’s UserVoice bug report.

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