Don’t Be Afraid Of tempdb

It’s There For A Reason


When tuning queries, one pattern I see over and over again is people running crazy-long queries. Maybe they worked well-enough at some point, but over the years they just kept getting slower and slower.

Sometimes there are comments, and other times there’s enough domain knowledge on the call to understand how a query ended up in the shape it’s in. One persistent idea is that tempdb is something to be avoided. Either because it was “slow” or to avoid contention.

Granted, if a query has been around long enough, these may have been valid concerns at some point. In general though, temp tables (the # kind, not the @ kind) can be quite useful when query tuning.

You Might Be Using It, Anyway


Even if there’s some rule against directly using temp tables, queries can end up using tempdb by the caseload anyway.

Consider that Spool operators explicitly execute in tempdb, any spills will go to tempdb, and work tables that are used in a number of circumstances occur in tempdb. The bigger and more complicated your queries are, the more likely you are to run into cases where the optimizer Spools, Spills, or use some other workspace area in tempdb in your query plan.

Worse, optimizations available for temp tables aren’t available to on-the-fly operators. You also lose the ability to take further action by indexing your temp tables, etc.

It’s Often Easier Than Other Options


Many times when tuning queries, I’ll be puzzled by the optimizer’s choices. Sometimes it’s join type, other times it’s join order, or something else. Perhaps the most common reason is some misestimation, of course.

Query and index hints are great to experiment with, but are often unsatisfying as permanent fixes. I’m not saying to never use them, but you should explore other options first. In other words, keep temp tables on the table.

Thanks for reading!

Making The Most Of Temp Tables Part 4: Batch Mode

Le Big Zoom Zoom


When you have queries that need to process a lot of data, and probably do some aggregations over that lot-of-data, batch mode is usually the thing you want.

Originally introduced to accompany column store indexes, it works by allowing CPUs to apply instructions to up to 900 rows at a time.

It’s a great thing to have in your corner when you’re tuning queries that do a lot of work, especially if you find yourself dealing with pesky parallel exchanges.

Oh, Yeah


One way to get that to happen is to use a temp table with a column store index on it.

SELECT 
    v.UserId, 
    SUM(v.BountyAmount) AS SumBounty
FROM dbo.Comments AS c
JOIN dbo.Votes AS v
    ON  v.PostId = c.PostId
    AND v.UserId = c.UserId
GROUP BY v.UserId
ORDER BY SumBounty DESC;

CREATE TABLE #t(id INT, INDEX c CLUSTERED COLUMNSTORE);

SELECT 
    v.UserId, 
    SUM(v.BountyAmount) AS SumBounty
FROM dbo.Comments AS c
JOIN dbo.Votes AS v
    ON  v.PostId = c.PostId
    AND v.UserId = c.UserId
LEFT JOIN #t AS t 
    ON 1 = 0
GROUP BY v.UserId
ORDER BY SumBounty DESC;

Keep in mind, this trick won’t work if you’re on SQL Server 2019 and using in memory tempdb. But aside from that, you’re free to rock and roll with it.

If you end up using this enough, you may just wanna create a real table to use, anyway.

Remarkable!


If we look at the end (or beginning, depending on how you read your query plans) just to see the final times, there’s a pretty solid difference.

you can’t make me

The first query takes around 10 seconds, and the second query takes around 4 seconds. That’s a pretty handsome improvement without touching anything else.

Thanks for reading!

A Word From Our Sponsors


First, a huge thank you to everyone who has bought my training so far. You all are incredible, and I owe all of you a drink.

Your support means a lot to me, and allows me to do nice stuff for other people, like give training away for free.

So far, I’ve donated $45k (!!!) worth of training to folks in need, no questions asked.

Next year, I’d like to keep doing the same thing. I’d also like to produce a whole lot more training to add value to the money you spend. In order to do that, I need to take time off from consulting, which isn’t easy to do. I’m not crying poor, but saying no to work for chunks of time isn’t easy for a one-person party.

I’m hoping that I can make enough in training bucks to make that possible.

Because this sale is extra sale-y, I’ve decided to name it after the blackest black known to man.

From today until December 31st, you can get all 25 hours of my recorded training content for just $100.00. If you click the link below to add everything to your cart, and use the discount code AllFor100 to apply a discount to your cart.

Everything

Everything

Everything

Some fine print: It only works if you add EVERYTHING. It’s a fixed amount discount code that you need to spend a certain amount to have kick in.

Thank for reading, and for your support.

Making The Most Of Temp Tables Part 3: More Opportune Indexes

I Know You


You have too many indexes on too many tables already, and the thought of adding more fills you with a dread that has a first, middle, last, and even a confirmation name.

This is another place where temp tables can save your bacon, because as soon as the query is done they basically disappear.

Forever. Goodbye.

Off to buy a pack of smokes.

That Yesterday


In yesterday’s post, we looked at how a temp table can help you materialize an expression that would otherwise be awkward to join on.

If we take that same query, we can see how using the temp table simplifies indexing.

SELECT
    p.OwnerUserId,
    SUM(p.Score) AS TotalScore,
    COUNT_BIG(*) AS records,
    CASE WHEN p.PostTypeId = 1 
         THEN p.OwnerUserId
         WHEN p.PostTypeId = 2
         THEN p.LastEditorUserId
    END AS JoinKey
INTO #Posts
FROM dbo.Posts AS p
WHERE p.PostTypeId IN (1, 2)
AND   p.Score > 100
GROUP BY CASE
             WHEN p.PostTypeId = 1 
             THEN p.OwnerUserId
             WHEN p.PostTypeId = 2 
             THEN p.LastEditorUserId
         END,
         p.OwnerUserId;

CREATE CLUSTERED INDEX c ON #Posts(JoinKey);

SELECT *
FROM #Posts AS p
WHERE EXISTS
(
    SELECT 1/0
    FROM dbo.Users AS u
    WHERE p.JoinKey = u.Id
);

Rather than have to worry about how to handle a bunch of columns across the where and join and select, we can just stick a clustered index on the one column we care about doing anything relational with to get the final result.

Thanks for reading!

A Word From Our Sponsors


First, a huge thank you to everyone who has bought my training so far. You all are incredible, and I owe all of you a drink.

Your support means a lot to me, and allows me to do nice stuff for other people, like give training away for free.

So far, I’ve donated $45k (!!!) worth of training to folks in need, no questions asked.

Next year, I’d like to keep doing the same thing. I’d also like to produce a whole lot more training to add value to the money you spend. In order to do that, I need to take time off from consulting, which isn’t easy to do. I’m not crying poor, but saying no to work for chunks of time isn’t easy for a one-person party.

I’m hoping that I can make enough in training bucks to make that possible.

Because this sale is extra sale-y, I’ve decided to name it after the blackest black known to man.

From today until December 31st, you can get all 25 hours of my recorded training content for just $100.00. If you click the link below to add everything to your cart, and use the discount code AllFor100 to apply a discount to your cart.

Everything

Everything

Everything

Some fine print: It only works if you add EVERYTHING. It’s a fixed amount discount code that you need to spend a certain amount to have kick in.

Thank for reading, and for your support.

Making The Most Of Temp Tables Part 2: Materializing Expressions

Bad Data


A lot of the time when I see queries that are written with all sorts of gymnastics in the join or where clause and I ask some questions about it, people usually start complaining about the design of the table.

That’s fine, but when I ask about changing the design, everyone gets quiet. Normalizing tables, especially for Applications Of A Certain Age™ can be a tremendously painful project. This is why it’s worth it to get things right the first time. Simple!

Rather than make someone re-design their schema in front of me, often times a temp table is a good workaround.

Egg Splat


Let’s say we have a query that looks like this. Before you laugh, and you have every right to laugh, keep in mind that I see queries like this all the time.

They don’t have to be this weird to qualify. You can try this if you have functions like ISNULL, SUBSTRING, REPLACE, or whatever in joins and where clauses, too.

SELECT
    p.OwnerUserId,
    SUM(p.Score) AS TotalScore,
    COUNT_BIG(*) AS records
FROM dbo.Users AS u
JOIN dbo.Posts AS p
    ON u.Id = CASE 
                   WHEN p.PostTypeId = 1 
                   THEN p.OwnerUserId
                   WHEN p.PostTypeId = 2
                   THEN p.LastEditorUserId
              END
WHERE p.PostTypeId IN (1, 2)
AND   p.Score > 100
GROUP BY p.OwnerUserId;

There’s not a great way to index for this, and sure, we could rewrite it as a UNION ALL, but then we’d have two queries to index for.

Sometimes getting people to add indexes is hard, too.

People are weird. All day weird.

Egg Splat


You can replace it with a query like this, which also allows you to index a single column in a temp table to do your correlation.

SELECT
    p.OwnerUserId,
    SUM(p.Score) AS TotalScore,
    COUNT_BIG(*) AS records,
    CASE WHEN p.PostTypeId = 1 
         THEN p.OwnerUserId
         WHEN p.PostTypeId = 2
         THEN p.LastEditorUserId
    END AS JoinKey
INTO #Posts
FROM dbo.Posts AS p
WHERE p.PostTypeId IN (1, 2)
AND   p.Score > 100
GROUP BY CASE
             WHEN p.PostTypeId = 1 
             THEN p.OwnerUserId
             WHEN p.PostTypeId = 2 
             THEN p.LastEditorUserId
         END,
         p.OwnerUserId;

SELECT *
FROM #Posts AS p
WHERE EXISTS
(
    SELECT 1/0
    FROM dbo.Users AS u
    WHERE p.JoinKey = u.Id
);

Remember that temp tables are like a second chance to get schema right. Don’t waste those precious chances.

Thanks for reading!

A Word From Our Sponsors


First, a huge thank you to everyone who has bought my training so far. You all are incredible, and I owe all of you a drink.

Your support means a lot to me, and allows me to do nice stuff for other people, like give training away for free.

So far, I’ve donated $45k (!!!) worth of training to folks in need, no questions asked.

Next year, I’d like to keep doing the same thing. I’d also like to produce a whole lot more training to add value to the money you spend. In order to do that, I need to take time off from consulting, which isn’t easy to do. I’m not crying poor, but saying no to work for chunks of time isn’t easy for a one-person party.

I’m hoping that I can make enough in training bucks to make that possible.

Because this sale is extra sale-y, I’ve decided to name it after the blackest black known to man.

From today until December 31st, you can get all 25 hours of my recorded training content for just $100.00. If you click the link below to add everything to your cart, and use the discount code AllFor100 to apply a discount to your cart.

Everything

Everything

Everything

Some fine print: It only works if you add EVERYTHING. It’s a fixed amount discount code that you need to spend a certain amount to have kick in.

Thank for reading, and for your support.

Making The Most Of Temp Tables Part 1: Parallel Inserts

Sing Along


If you have a workload that uses #temp tables to stage intermediate results, and you probably do because you’re smart, it might be worth taking advantage of being able to insert into the #temp table in parallel.

Remember that you can’t insert into @table variables in parallel, unless you’re extra sneaky. Don’t start.

If your code is already using the SELECT ... INTO #some_table pattern, you’re probably already getting parallel inserts. But if you’re following the INSERT ... SELECT ... pattern, you’re probably not, and, well, that could be holding you back.

Pile On


Of course, there are some limitations. If your temp table has indexes, primary keys, or an identity column, you won’t get the parallel insert no matter how hard you try.

The demo code is available here if you’d like to test it out.

amanda lear

The first thing to note is that inserting into an indexed temp table, parallel or not, does slow things down. If your goal is the fastest possible insert, you may want to create the index later.

No Talent


When it comes to parallel inserts, you do need the TABLOCK, or TABLOCKX hint to get it, e.g. INSERT #tp WITH(TABLOCK) which is sort of annoying.

But you know. It’s the little things we do that often end up making the biggest differences. Another little thing we may need to tinker with is DOP.

little pigs

Here are the query plans for 3 fully parallel inserts into an empty, index-less temp #table. Note the execution times dropping as DOP increases. At DOP 4, the insert really isn’t any faster than the serial insert.

If you start experimenting with this trick, and don’t see noticeable improvements at your current DOP, you may need to  bump it up to see throughput increases.

Also remember that if you’re doing this with clustered column store indexes, it can definitely make things worse.

Page Supplier


Though the speed ups above at higher DOPs are largely efficiency boosters while reading from the Posts table, the speed does stay consistent through the insert.

If we crank one of the queries that gets a serial insert up to DOP 12, we lose some speed when we hit the table.

oops

Next time you’re tuning a query and want to drop some data into a temp table, you should experiment with this technique.

Thanks for reading!

A Word From Our Sponsors


First, a huge thank you to everyone who has bought my training so far. You all are incredible, and I owe all of you a drink.

Your support means a lot to me, and allows me to do nice stuff for other people, like give training away for free.

So far, I’ve donated $45k (!!!) worth of training to folks in need, no questions asked.

Next year, I’d like to keep doing the same thing. I’d also like to produce a whole lot more training to add value to the money you spend. In order to do that, I need to take time off from consulting, which isn’t easy to do. I’m not crying poor, but saying no to work for chunks of time isn’t easy for a one-person party.

I’m hoping that I can make enough in training bucks to make that possible.

Because this sale is extra sale-y, I’ve decided to name it after the blackest black known to man.

From today until December 31st, you can get all 25 hours of my recorded training content for just $100.00. If you click the link below to add everything to your cart, and use the discount code AllFor100 to apply a discount to your cart.

Everything

Everything

Everything

Some fine print: It only works if you add EVERYTHING. It’s a fixed amount discount code that you need to spend a certain amount to have kick in.

Thank for reading, and for your support.

SQL Server 2019 Disappointment: sp_estimate_data_compression_savings

Missed It The First Time


This is documented, but I know a lot of people are allergic to documentation, whether it’s writing or reading.

In SQL Server 2019:

  • Exciting stuff: In memory tempdb!
  • Exciting stuff: sp_estimate_data_compression_savings can evaluate columnstore compression!
  • Disappointing stuff: If you use in memory tempdb, you can’t have any columnstore anything in tempdb

That means if you’re using sneaky tricks like clustered columnstore indexes on temp tables to induce batch mode, you’re gonna get a lot of errors.

Likewise, you won’t be able to evaluate if columnstore will help your tables.

EXEC sp_estimate_data_compression_savings 
     @schema_name = 'dbo',
     @object_name = 'Badges',
     @index_id = 1,
     @partition_number = 1,
     @data_compression = 'COLUMNSTORE';

Msg 11442, Level 16, State 1, Line 4
Columnstore index creation is not supported in tempdb when memory-optimized metadata mode is enabled.

There’s no workaround for this, either. You can’t tell it to use a different database, this is just the way it’s built.

Hopefully in the future, there will be more cooperation between these two features.

Thanks for reading!

When Should You Index Temp Tables?

What I Mean Is


You already know that your temp table needs an index. Let’s say there’s some query plan ouchie from not adding one. You’ve already realized that you should probably use a clustered index rather than a nonclustered index. Adding a nonclustered index leaves you with a heap and an index, and there are a lot of times when nonclustered indexes won’t be used because they don’t cover the query columns enough.

Good. We’ve fixed you.

But, like, when should you create the index?

Options


You can do one of these things:

  • Inline, when you create the table
  • After you create the table
  • After you load data into the table

This requires a bit of testing to get right.

Inline


In many cases, this is the best option, for reasons outlined by Pam Lahoud.

Do not explicitly drop temp tables at the end of a stored procedure, they will get cleaned up when the session that created them ends.
Do not alter temp tables after they have been created.
Do not truncate temp tables
Move index creation statements on temp tables to the new inline index creation syntax that was introduced in SQL Server 2014.

Where it can be a bad option is:

  • If you can’t get a parallel insert even with a TABLOCK hint
  • Sorting the data to match index order on insert could result in some discomfort

After Creation


This is almost always not ideal, unless you want to avoid caching the temp table, and for the recompilation to occur for whatever reason.

It’s not that I’d ever rule this out as an option, but I’d wanna have a good reason for it.

Probably even several.

After Insert


This can sometimes be a good option if the query plan you get from inserting into the index is deficient in some way.

Like I mentioned up above, maybe you lose parallel insert, or maybe the DML Request Sort is a thorn in your side.

This can be awesome! Except on Standard Edition, where you can’t create indexes in parallel. Which picks off one of the reasons for doing this in the first place, and also potentially causes you headaches with not caching temp tables, and statement level recompiles.

One upside here is that if you insert data into a temp table with an index, and then run a query that causes statistics generation, you’ll almost certainly get the default sampling rate. That could potentially cause other annoyances. Creating the index after loading data means you get the full scan stats.

Hooray, I guess.

This may not ever be the end of the world, but here’s a quick example:

DROP TABLE IF EXISTS #t;
GO 

--Create a table with an index already on it
CREATE TABLE #t(id INT, INDEX c CLUSTERED(id));

--Load data
INSERT #t WITH(TABLOCK)
SELECT p.OwnerUserId
FROM dbo.Posts AS p;

--Run a query to generate statistics
SELECT COUNT(*)
FROM #t AS t
WHERE t.id BETWEEN 1 AND 10000
GO 

--See what's poppin'
SELECT hist.step_number, hist.range_high_key, hist.range_rows, 
    hist.equal_rows, hist.distinct_range_rows, hist.average_range_rows
FROM tempdb.sys.stats AS s
CROSS APPLY tempdb.sys.dm_db_stats_histogram(s.[object_id], s.stats_id) AS hist
WHERE OBJECT_NAME(s.object_id, 2) LIKE '#t%'
GO 
DROP TABLE #t;


--Create a query with no index
CREATE TABLE #t(id INT NOT NULL);

--Load data
INSERT #t WITH(TABLOCK)
SELECT p.OwnerUserId
FROM dbo.Posts AS p;

--Create the index
CREATE CLUSTERED INDEX c ON #t(id);

--Run a query to generate statistics
SELECT COUNT(*)
FROM #t AS t
WHERE t.id BETWEEN 1 AND 10000

--See what's poppin'
SELECT hist.step_number, hist.range_high_key, hist.range_rows, 
    hist.equal_rows, hist.distinct_range_rows, hist.average_range_rows
FROM tempdb.sys.stats AS s
CROSS APPLY tempdb.sys.dm_db_stats_histogram(s.[object_id], s.stats_id) AS hist
WHERE OBJECT_NAME(s.object_id, 2) LIKE '#t%'
GO 
DROP TABLE #t;
Neckin’ Neck

On the left is the first 20 steps from the first histogram, and on the right is the first 20 from the second one.

You can see some big differences — whether or not they end up helping or hurting performance would take a lot of different tests. Quite frankly, it’s probably not where I’d start a performance investigation, but I’d be lying if I told you it never ended up there.

All Things Considerateded


In general, I’d stick to using the inline index creation syntax. If I had to work around issues with that, I’d create the index after loading data, but being on Standard Edition brings some additional considerations around parallel index creation.

Thanks for reading!

No Column Store Indexes With In-Memory Tempdb? No Problem!

Old Habits


Let’s say you’re on SQL Server 2019. No, seriously. It’s been out for a couple weeks now.

You could be.

I say that you could be because you’re the kind of brave person who tries new things and experiments with their body server.

You may even do crazy things like this.

Stone Cold


CREATE TABLE #t ( id INT, INDEX c CLUSTERED COLUMNSTORE );

SELECT    COUNT_BIG(*) AS records
FROM      dbo.Users AS u
JOIN      dbo.Posts AS p
    ON u.Id = p.OwnerUserId
JOIN      dbo.Comments AS c
    ON u.Id = c.UserId
LEFT JOIN #t AS t ON 1 = 0;

Woah ho ho. What happened there? A #temp table with a clustered column store index on it left joined on 1 = 0?

Yes. People do this.

People do this because it’s getting some batch mode operations “for free”, which have the nasty habit of making big reporting queries run a lot faster.

Yonder Problem


When you enable 2019’s new in memory tempdb, which can really help with stuff tempdb needs help with, you may find yourself hitting errors.

Msg 11442, Level 16, State 1, Line 14
Columnstore index creation is not support in tempdb when memory-optimized metadata mode is enabled.
Msg 1750, Level 16, State 1, Line 14
Could not create constraint or index. See previous errors.

The good news is that this works with *real* tables, too.

CREATE TABLE dbo.t ( id INT, INDEX c CLUSTERED COLUMNSTORE );

SELECT    COUNT_BIG(*) AS records
FROM      dbo.Users AS u
JOIN      dbo.Posts AS p
    ON u.Id = p.OwnerUserId
JOIN      dbo.Comments AS c
    ON u.Id = c.UserId
LEFT JOIN dbo.t AS t ON 1 = 0;

And you can get plans with all sorts of Batchy goodness in them.

Long way from home

Yeah, you’re gonna have to change some code, but don’t worry.

You’re the kind of person who enjoys that.

Right?

Thanks for reading!