We have a number of tables in our database with an identity column as the primary key & clustered index. Over the years records have been added and deleted from these tables and of course there are now gaps in the primary key column.

Is there any impact to the performance of the clustered index on these tables as a result of these "missing" identities?

From my understanding as long as the index b-tree is refreshed then there shouldn't be any problems, but I can't find anything specific to confirm this.


2 Answers 2


I don't see how gaps in your identity values could have A N Y negative impact on your performance.

After all - the values are still all 4-byte integer, they're still as optimal for JOINs as anything can be ..... and even if you have gaps, the IDENTITY values are ever-increasing....

Of course, if you physically deleted rows from your clustered index, then there will be "holes" in your pages (the "Swiss Cheese" problem :-) ) - but those would be fixed by a nightly database maintenance that you certainly do have in place, don't you??

And even if you do occasionally delete a row from your table, the impact on your index fragmentation will be marginal.

  • 3
    Sure, but is there any performance penalty from having gaps between the letters of the word any? :p Jan 27, 2012 at 6:39
  • @AndrewBarber: not entirely sure on that one :-)
    – marc_s
    Jan 27, 2012 at 7:01
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  • Thanks @marc_s. I had assumed that was the case and couldn't think of any reason why it wouldn't be. And yes we do have nightly maintenance plans to fix the fragmentation
    – Greg
    Jan 30, 2012 at 2:26

Addition and deletion of data over time will fragment your clustered index. These are the gaps you are seeing and they will decrease performance. This fragmentation is fixed by doing an index reorganization or an index rebuild. This is the maintenance @marc_s is talking about.

General guidelines are to use index reorganization for lightly fragmented indexes and index rebuilds for medium to highly fragmented indexes.

I hope this is what you meant by 'index b-tree is refreshed '.

  • Thanks @StanleyJohns. That is what I meant by "index b-tree is refreshed". Couldn't remember the word I was looking for
    – Greg
    Jan 30, 2012 at 23:50

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