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Category: Internals

Page and Data Row Structure in SQL Server

Deepthi Goguri digs into data page internals:

Each byte you see in the picture has a purpose. The first two blocks containing a byte, Status Bit A and Status Bit B contains the bitmap information about the row, like if the row is logically been deleted/ghosted, row type information, versioning tag, if the row contains any NULL values, Variable length columns. The next 2 bytes is used for storing the length of the fixed length data. The next n bytes are for storing the fixed length data itself. There is a null bitmap after that which will have both the 2-byte column count in the row and null bitmap array. Regardless of if the column in null or not, each and every column will have one bit per every column.

Read on to see how those 8kb pages fill up so quickly.

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Describing the Physical Join Operators

Deepthi Goguri explains the three physical join operators in SQL Server:

Merge join is not a bad thing and it may be efficient already in your execution plan. What you have to observe when you see the merge joins and performance slow on that plan is to focus on the upstream operations that are going into the merge join. Whether the data is presorted as you already have an index or whether the data is presorted in SQL Server own way then in that case, you can simply check if you can just add that missing column in the index and place in the last key column in the index or use a different join algorithm will be better. The other scenario might be you have lots of duplicate values in your data. If that is the case SQL Server will be using the work tables to handle how the duplicate values can be joined on. So, if you see the duplicate values or using tempdb, then finding the better options will be good.

Click through for more detail. Each physical operator has its place and does quite well within it, but the challenge comes when the optimizer thinks a particular route is better than the one you had in mind.

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Window Functions in Row and Batch Modes

Erik Darling digs into a new series:

To start things off, we’re going to talk about query plan patterns related to windowing functions.

There are several things to consider with windowing function query plans:

– Row vs Batch mode
– With and Without Partition By
– Index Support for Partition and Order By
– Column SELECTion
– Rows vs Range/Global aggregates

We’ll get to them in separate posts, because there are particulars about them that would make covering them all in a single post unwieldy.

Anyway, the first one is pretty simple, and starting simple is about my speed.

Read on for this quick coverage of row mode versus batch mode processing with respect to window functions.

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The Importance of LSNs to SQL Server

Jack Vamvas explains a concept:

I was talking to an Auditor recently – who specialises in large Corporate Audits – and they asked me how would I prove a certain database which is backed up is actually restored to another server.  One of the methods I described was using the Log Sequence Numbers (LSN).     

Read on for an explanation of how they work and how you can use LSNs to solve that auditing issue.

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Fun with Disabling Joins

David Alcock gives us a “wouldn’t it be neat to see this?” scenario:

If you’ve ever seen my session on Guillotines and the Query Optimiser I demonstrated how we can use query hints to switch off certain transformation rules in a query. Transformation rules use a pattern substitution which essentially swaps one expression for another. In SQL Server terms the best example of this is a join as although we use the logical expressions such as left join or inner join the physical join type used in the execution plan operator is substituted to be something like a Hash Match or Nested Loop Join.

This means we can force the behaviour of an execution plan by disabling certain rules. Now I can’t think of any practical reason for this and remember we can also use join hints in our queries but this is different as it affects the entire optimisation process for a query and not just one join so please follow in a sandbox environment.

In case you haven’t seen David’s session, it’s available on YouTube.

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Execution Plan Operator Timings

Paul White dives into a murky problem:

SQL Server 2014 SP2 and later produce runtime (“actual”) execution plans that can include elapsed time and CPU usage for each execution plan operator (see KB3170113 and this blog post by Pedro Lopes).

Interpreting these numbers is not always as straightforward as one might expect. There are important differences between row mode and batch mode execution, as well as tricky issues with row mode parallelism. SQL Server makes some timing adjustments in parallel plans to promote consistency, but they are not perfectly implemented. This can make it difficult to draw sound performance-tuning conclusions.

This article aims to help you understand where the timings come from in each case, and how they can be best interpreted in context.

My default advice is to read what Paul White writes, and this is no exception.

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The Logging Costs of DROP TABLE and TRUNCATE

Paul Randal explains that DROP TABLE and TRUNCATE TABLE are logged operations:

Hopefully you all know that it’s a myth that DROP TABLE and TRUNCATE TABLE are non-logged operations. If you didn’t know that, read my blog post on sqlperformance.com that explains about the deferred drop mechanism. Both operations are fully logged, and will generate quite a bit of transaction log.

The bulk of the log that’s generated comes from having to log the deallocation of extents and the pages within them. For each extent, a bit must be cleared in the corresponding GAM page and IAM page, and all 8 pages in the extent must be marked as deallocated in the corresponding PFS page (turning off the 0x40 bit in each PFS byte). So that’s three log records per allocated extent.

To get a feeling for how much that is, Paul provides an example of a 20TB table being dropped.

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Table Variable Deferred Compilation

Deepthi Goguri takes us through a fairly new feature in SQL Server:

With SQL Server 2017 and below versions, SQL Server always estimates one row for table variable as the table variable data gets inserted during the run time, so optimizer doesn’t know how many values it can expect coming out of the table variable. Due to this bad estimation, performance of the queries is effected.

Click through to see how this has changed in SQL Server 2019.

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So You’ve Run Out of Memory

Randolph West explains how the buffer pool handles low-memory situations:

One of the bigger clichés in the data professional vocabulary (behind “it depends”) is that you always give SQL Server as much RAM as you can afford, because it’s going to use it. But what happens when SQL Server runs out of memory?

Recently a question appeared on my post about how the buffer pool works, asking the following (paraphrased):

What happens if a data page doesn’t exist in the buffer pool, and the buffer pool doesn’t have enough free space? Does the buffer pool use TempDB, [and] does TempDB put its dirty pages into the buffer pool?

This is an excellent question (thank you for asking!). I spent 30 minutes writing my reply and then figured it would make a good blog post this week if I fleshed it out a little.

Read the whole thing.

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