When I look at the actual exection plan of some of my queries I notice that literal constants used in a WHERE clause show up as a nested chain of calculate scalar and constant scan.

sql studio screenshot

To reproduce this, I use the following table

    [col1] [bigint] NOT NULL,
    [col2] [varchar](50) NULL,
    [col3] [char](200) NULL

With some data in it:

INSERT INTO Table1(col1) VALUES (1),(2),(3),

When I run the following (nonsense) query:

SELECT a.col1, a.col2
  FROM Table1 a, Table1 b
  WHERE b.col1 > 2147483648

I see that it will do a Nested Loop drawing in the result of Index Seek and a scalar calculation (from a constant).

Note that the literal is larger than maxint. It does help to write CAST(2147483648 as BIGINT). Any idea why MSSQL is defrering that to the execution plan and is there a shorter way to avoid it than using the cast? Does it affect bound parameters to prepared statements (from jtds JDBC) as well?

The scalar calculation is not always done (seems to be index seek specific). And sometimes the query analyser does not show it graphically but as col1 < scalar(expr1000) in the predicate properties.

I have seen this with MS SSMS 2016 (13.0.16100.1) and SQL Server 2014 Expres Edition 64bit on Windows 7, but I guess it is a general behavior.


2 Answers 2

SELECT thing, 
       sql_variant_property(thing,'basetype') AS basetype,
       sql_variant_property(thing,'precision') AS precision, 
       sql_variant_property(thing,'scale') AS scale
FROM (VALUES (2147483648)) V(thing)

Shows you that the literal 2147483648 is interpreted as numeric(10,0). This behaviour pre-dates the introduction of the bigint in SQL Server (2000).

There is no syntax to indicate that a literal should be treated as bigint - adding an explicit CAST is the best solution. The article Dynamic Seeks and Hidden Implicit Conversions discusses the rest of the apparatus in the plan.

The plan itself shows that the nested loops has a seek predicate on

Seek Keys[1]: Start: [tempdb].[dbo].[Table1].col1 > Scalar Operator([Expr1005]), 
                End: [tempdb].[dbo].[Table1].col1 < Scalar Operator([Expr1006])

You can use an extended events session on query_trace_column_values to see that these are as follows.

enter image description here

The XML in the plan also shows this

      <ColumnReference Column="Expr1005" />
      <ColumnReference Column="Expr1006" />
      <ColumnReference Column="Expr1004" />
    <ScalarOperator ScalarString="GetRangeWithMismatchedTypes((2147483648.),NULL,(6))">
      <Intrinsic FunctionName="GetRangeWithMismatchedTypes">
          <Const ConstValue="(2147483648.)" />
          <Const ConstValue="NULL" />
          <Const ConstValue="(6)" />

This does not mean that it is literally doing a comparison < null rather

The range boundary expressions use NULL to represent 'unbounded' at either end. (Source)

So the net effect is that your query predicate of b.col1 > CAST(2147483648 AS NUMERIC(10, 0)) still ends up with a seek against b.col1 > CAST(2147483648 AS BIGINT)

Does it affect bound parameters to prepared statements (from jtds JDBC) as well?

I haven't used jtds JDBC but I presume it allows you to define parameter datatypes? If so just make sure the parameters are the correct datatype that match the column (bigint) so there's no need for SQL Server to deal with mismatched datatypes.


In relation to my question about JDBC prepared statements. jTDS uses sp_prepare/sp_execute (in default prepareSQL=3 mode).

With the following query (source):

use database
    cp.objtype, st.text
from sys.dm_exec_cached_plans cp
cross apply sys.dm_exec_sql_text(cp.plan_handle) st
where cp.objtype = 'prepared' and st.text like '%TABLE%'

I can see the prepared statement as issued by JTDS, and it does declare the variable as (@P0 bigint)... as expected.

So this is all good and I need to remember that when trying out the execution plans that it is better to actually define local typed variables instead of replacing them with literals (and/or using sp_execute to tap into the cached execution plan).

  • 1
    Alternatively you can make it a rule with you always to cast your literals to the type of the column you are matching against.
    – Andriy M
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 20:41

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