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Category: Internals

How Foreign Keys Appear in Execution Plans

Hugo Kornelis shows us how foreign key contraints modify certain execution plans:

The top left of this execution plan looks very unsurprising. A Clustered Index Scan to read all rows from the #Products temporary table, and those rows are then passed to a Clustered Index Insert operator for insertion into our permanent table dbo.Products. But wait? Why is there no table or index name listed below the operator name? That’s actually because the operator has not one but three items in its Object property. When a Clustered Index Insert targets just a single index, SSMS can work out the name and show it. But when Clustered Index Insert targets multiple objects, SSMS plays it safe and displays none.

Read on to learn more.

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The Filter Operator

Hugo Cornelis continues a dive into execution plan operators:

The Filter operator is used to remove rows from a result set that do not satisfy a specified condition.

Its most common usage is to implement a WHERE clause, although many elements of a WHERE clause get implemented in other ways (e.g. by pushing them down into an Index Seek or Index Scan operator), and Filter operators can also be used when the optimizer transforms other query elements into any type of filtering.

The Filter operator can only verify conditions based on the data in the current row; if data from different rows needs to be compared for the filter, the optimizer generates an execution plan that first adds the data to be compared to the row, or it uses different operators.

Click through for Hugo’s normal in-depth look.

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The Sequence Project Operator

Hugo Kornelis continues on a quest:

The Sequence Project operator computes values for the “ranking functions”:  functions where the results depend on other rows in the result set, such as ROW_NUMBERRANKDENSE_RANK, and NTILE.

A Sequence Project can be considered as somewhat similar in function as Compute Scalar: both operators add new columns to the data based on expression. But Compute Scalar works on expressions other columns from the same row and constant values as input. Sequence Project computes expressions that are based on preceding rows in the data stream as their input.

Read on to learn more about what this operator does and how it works.

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Resolving Call Stack Symbols on SQL Server 2019

Paul Randal takes us through a change to SQL Server 2019:

After beating my head against the proverbial wall for an hour, I wondered if I had the wrong symbols somehow. I checked with the excellent SQLCallStackResolver tool from GitHub (authored by Arvind Shyamsundar from the Product Group) and that worked fine with the symbols I had, so it had to be something within SQL Server.

Read on to see the answer.

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Diving Into the Window Spool Operator

Hugo Kornelis continues a series on execution plan operators:

The Window Spool operator is one of the four spool operators that SQL Server supports. Like other spool operators, it retains a copy of data it receives and can then return those rows as often as needed. The specific functionality of the Window Spool operator allows it to replay rows within a window, as defined in a ROWS or RANGE specification of an OVER clause.

Read on to see how these work, as well as a few differences from their spool brethren.

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Making Use of Sort Rewinds: Closest Match

Paul White follows up on an article:

In When Do SQL Server Sorts Rewind? I described how most sorts can only rewind when they contain at most one row. The exception is in-memory sorts, which can rewind at most 500 rows and 16KB of data.

These are certainly tight restrictions, but we can still make use of them on occasion.

To illustrate, I am going reuse a demo Itzik Ben-Gan provided in part one of his Closest Match series, specifically solution 2 (modified value range and indexing).

Click through for the explanation.

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When SQL Server Sorts Can Rewind

Paul White turns back the hands of time:

Sorts use storage (memory and perhaps disk if they spill) so they do have a facility capable of storing rows between loop iterations. In particular, the sorted output can, in principle, be replayed (rewound).

Still, the short answer to the title question, “Do Sorts Rewind?” is:

Yes, but you won’t see it very often.

Read the whole thing.

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How SQL Server Stores sql_variant Data

Randolph West answers one of the mysteries in life:

By a show of hands, who uses the sql_variant data type? In my experience the answer is “no one,” and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a general philosophy in our industry where we assume that columns are a specific data type. This predictability makes writing queries and applications against those columns easier. It’s difficult enough dealing with NULL values, so adding confusion with handling data conversions is an invitation to introduce bugs.

The sql_variant data type is a bit of a relic. I think the people who used that were also big variant data type users in Visual Basic. Nonetheless, Randolph clarifies how SQL Server stores this data.

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The Merry-Go-Round Scan

David Fowler covers one of the best ways of optimizing frequent scans of large amounts of data:

As we all know, full table scans can be very expensive, poor old SQL is forced to read every single row in a table (of course that doesn’t always mean that it’s a bad choice for SQL).

Lets assume we’ve got a table scan happening that results in 1,000,000 page reads, that’s quite a bit of work for SQL to do. Now imagine another query comes in and needs to scan the same table, that’s also going to need to do 1,000,000 reads to get the data that it needs. If this table happens to be frequently accessed, this is soon going add up.

There’s a clever solution which tends to work better and better as you have more and more queries scanning the table.

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