The Gift That Keeps On Giving
I love when a demo written for one purpose turns into an even better demo for another purpose.
While working with a client recently, they ran into a performance issue when trying to promote plan reuse by parameterizing the user-input number for TOP.
In part 1, I’m going to show you what happened and why, and in part 2 I’ll discuss some workarounds.
Regresso Chicken Face Soup
When executed with a literal value in the top, this query runs for around 10 seconds.
I’m not saying that’s great, but it’s a good enough starting place.
SELECT TOP (38) u.DisplayName, b.Name FROM dbo.Users u CROSS APPLY ( SELECT TOP (1) b.Name FROM dbo.Badges AS b WHERE b.UserId = u.Id ORDER BY b.Date DESC ) AS b WHERE u.Reputation >= 10000 ORDER BY u.Reputation DESC;
If we take that same query, put it in a proc, and run it with an identical value in the TOP, things will turn out not-so-well.
CREATE OR ALTER PROCEDURE dbo.SniffedTop (@Top INT) AS BEGIN SET NOCOUNT, XACT_ABORT ON; SELECT TOP (@Top) u.DisplayName, b.Name FROM dbo.Users u CROSS APPLY ( SELECT TOP (1) b.Name FROM dbo.Badges AS b WHERE b.UserId = u.Id ORDER BY b.Date DESC ) AS b WHERE u.Reputation >= 10000 ORDER BY u.Reputation DESC; END GO EXEC dbo.SniffedTop @Top = 38;
The query runs for a significantly longer amount of time.
Unofficially, when TOP uses a constant and the constant is “small” (under 101), the exchange packets are allowed to send earlier than normal, as long as the exchange is below the TOP operator. They’re allowed to send as soon as they have a row, rather than waiting for them to fill up completely.
This can only happen with constants (or…!), and the behavior is true going back to 2005. It may change in the future, so if you’re reading this at some far off date, please don’t be too harsh on me in the comments.
When you parameterize TOP, it’s considered unsafe to send the exchange buffers early. After all, you could stick anything in there, up through the BIGINT max. In cases where you’ve got a BIG TOP, sending, say, 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 rows one at a time would be significantly ickier than sending over a smaller number of full exchange buffers.
If you’re surprised to hear that parallel exchange buffers can send at different times, you’re not alone. I was also surprised.
SQL Server: Full Of Surprises. Horrible surprises.
In the second query, where exchange buffers are sent when full, we spend a lot longer waiting for them to fill up. This isn’t exposed anywhere in the plan, and you’d need either a debugger or this blog post to figure it out.
Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep.
Thanks for reading!
If this is the kind of SQL Server stuff you love learning about, you’ll love my training. I’m offering a 75% discount on to my blog readers if you click from here. I’m also available for consulting if you just don’t have time for that and need to solve performance problems quickly.