Multiple Distinct Aggregates: Still Harmful (Without Batch Mode)

Growler


Well over 500 years ago, Paul White wrote an article about distinct aggregates. Considering how often I see it while working with clients, and that Microsoft created column store indexes and batch mode rather than allow for hash join hints on CLR UDFs, the topic feels largely ignored.

But speaking of all that stuff, let’s look at how Batch Mode fixes multiple distinct aggregates.

Jumbo Size


A first consideration is around parallelism, since you don’t pay attention or click links, here’s a quote you won’t read from Paul’s article above:

Another limitation is that this spool does not support parallel scan for reading, so the optimizer is very unlikely to restart parallelism after the spool (or any of its replay streams).

In queries that operate on large data sets, the parallelism implications of the spool plan can be the most important cause of poor performance.

What does that mean for us? Let’s go look. For this demo, I’m using SQL Server 2019 with the compatibility level set to 140.

SELECT
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.PostId) AS PostId,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.UserId) AS UserId,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.BountyAmount) AS BountyAmount,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.VoteTypeId) AS VoteTypeId,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.CreationDate) AS CreationDate
FROM dbo.Votes AS v;

In the plan for this query, we scan the clustered index of the Votes table five times, or once per distinct aggregate.

skim scan

In case you’re wondering, this results in one intent shared object lock on the Votes table.

<Object name="Votes" schema_name="dbo">
  <Locks>
    <Lock resource_type="OBJECT" request_mode="IS" request_status="GRANT" request_count="9" />
    <Lock resource_type="PAGE" page_type="*" index_name="PK_Votes__Id" request_mode="S" request_status="GRANT" request_count="14" />
  </Locks>
</Object>

This query runs for 38.5 seconds, as the crow flies.

push the thing

A Join Appears


Let’s join Votes to Posts for no apparent reason.

SELECT
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.PostId) AS PostId,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.UserId) AS UserId,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.BountyAmount) AS BountyAmount,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.VoteTypeId) AS VoteTypeId,
   COUNT_BIG(DISTINCT v.CreationDate) AS CreationDate
FROM dbo.Votes AS v
JOIN dbo.Posts AS p
    ON p.Id = v.PostId;

The query plan now has two very distinct (ho ho ho) parts.

problemium

This is part 1. Part 1 is a spoiler. Ignoring that Repartition Streams is bizarre and Spools are indefensible blights, as we meander across the execution plan we find ourselves at a stream aggregate whose child operators have executed for 8 minutes, and then a nested loops join whose child operators have run for 20 minutes and 39 seconds. Let’s go look at that part of the plan.

downstream

Each branch here represents reading from the same spool. We can tell this because the Spool operators do not have any child operators. They are starting points for the flow of data. One thing to note here is that there are four spools instead of five, and that’s because one of the five aggregates was processed in the first part of the query plan we looked at.

The highlighted branch is the one that accounts for the majority of the execution time, at 19 minutes, 8 seconds. This branch is responsible for aggregating the PostId column. Apparently a lack of distinct values is hard to process.

But why is this so much slower? The answer is parallelism, or a lack thereof. So, serialism. Remember the 500 year old quote from above?

Another limitation is that this spool does not support parallel scan for reading, so the optimizer is very unlikely to restart parallelism after the spool (or any of its replay streams).

In queries that operate on large data sets, the parallelism implications of the spool plan can be the most important cause of poor performance.

Processing that many rows on a single thread is painful across all of the operators.

Flounder Edition


With SQL Server 2019, we get Batch Mode On Row store when compatibility level gets bumped up to 150.

The result is just swell.

 

yes you can

The second query with the join still runs for nearly a minute, but 42 seconds of the process is scanning that big ol’ Posts table.

Grumpy face.

Thanks for reading!



3 thoughts on “Multiple Distinct Aggregates: Still Harmful (Without Batch Mode)

  1. I wonder why table elimination doesn’t happen since we aren’t actually selecting anything form the Posts table though?

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