We know that indexes improve select statement and at the same time, indexes have a cost of maintenance on every update/insert/delete statement.

I don't know how to measure/evaluate this cost.

Some context: There are a dozen key tables involved with several inserts/updates, having between 20M and 80M rows. 1400 transaction per second average.

In the lasts months, several indexes were added to optimize performance on different parts of the system. This worked right, but now some degradation on another part of the system appears.

I have this theory, but I don't know how to validate or refute it.

EDIT: I've read some other post, but most are SQL Server oriented, I'm running on SYBASE ASE 15.7, as tagged

  • Have you verified how many unused indexes you have on those tables? Disabling (not drop) might be an option to check if performance gets better. This question discuss about too many indexes. Apr 19 '17 at 13:13
  • @SqlWorldWide I've been there, thanks. Not sure if disabling an index avoid its cost of maintenance.
    – Horaciux
    Apr 19 '17 at 13:26
  • For SQL Server when you disable it only maintain the definition and not the physical B-tree. So yes it avoids the cost of maintenance. Details here. Apr 19 '17 at 13:29
  • 2
    @Horaciux - I've removed the sql tag since that tag is for questions about the structured query language itself. People may mistake that tag to mean this is about sql-server.
    – Hannah Vernon
    Apr 19 '17 at 14:05

Before trying to determine what indexes to disable (not doable in Sybase ASE) or drop, I'd want a better understanding of what 'some degradation on another part of the system appears' means. I'd want a lot more details as to the type and degree of degradation.

For the sake of discussion I'm going to assume 'degradation' refers to some queries that are now performing poorly, in which case I'd want to look at what work's been done to (re)tune said queries; are query plans showing the 'wrong' indexes being used? are query plans showing the 'wrong' join order?

Yes, the performance degradation could be tied to the increase in the number of indexes, but what I'm thinking is that the degradation doesn't have anything to do with the overhead of updating the indexes (again, assuming 'degradation' is related to queries now performing poorly) but rather the generation of 'poor' query plans.

When optimizing a query, Sybase ASE is going to attempt to evaluate every possible join order, utilizing every possible index, utilizing every possible statistic on all possible columns and indexes. Net result is the optimizer has a LOT of work to do for queries that reference a large number of tables, indexes and column stats.

While it's technically possible that the Sybase ASE optimizer could go off for an hour while trying to optimize some big-arse, gnarly query ... and yes, the optimizer does have some 'smarts' that allow it to quickly eliminate some join/index combinations ... in reality the optimizer has limitations (via configuration parameters) on how long it can search for the 'best' query plan, with the (unfortunate) result being that for really large, complicated queries the optimizer could time-out before it finds the 'best' query plan, thus leaving us with a 'best up to this point' (ie, not-so-efficient) query plan.

Assuming your degradation issue is related to some queries that have all-of-a-sudden started performing poorly, I'm guessing the additional indexes could have increased the optimizer's workload to the point that it's now timing out before it can find the 'best' query plan.

Under this scenario there are a few options for (re)tuning the queries ... give the optimizer more time to find the 'best' (or at least a 'better') query plan ... provide hints (eg, index hints, abstract query plans) to limit the combinations the optimizer has to consider ... rewrite the query to simplify the optimizer's workload ...

While there may be some other explanations for the degradation you're seeing, the first step would be to get more details about the type and degree of degradation ... something we're not given in this thread ... and (unfortunately) a process that is likely going to be too large/complicated to cover in detail in this medium.


Sybase ASE provides sp_sysmon which can be used to see how many index updates were performed over a specific sample period. You could use this in a controlled environment to see the impact of running a specific set of code both with, and without, the indexes in place.

For example:

EXEC dbo.sp_sysmon 'begin_sample'; --start sampling
   execute various pieces of code, client-side, to
   simulate the load you want to test
EXEC dbo.sp_sysmon 'end_sample', indexmgmt;

The output will be something similar to:

      Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise System Performance Report

Server Version:        Adaptive Server Enterprise/15.7
Run Date:              Apr 19, 2017
Statistics Cleared at: Apr 19, 2017 09:16:02
Statistics Sampled at: Apr 19, 2017 09:16:32
Sample Interval:       00:00:30
Sample Mode:           Reset Counters
Server Name:           myserver

Index Management

  Nonclustered Maintenance        per sec      per xact       count  % of total
  -------------------------  ------------  ------------  ----------  ----------
    Ins/Upd Requiring Maint           0.0           0.0           0       n/a
      # of NC Ndx Maint               0.0           0.0           0       n/a

    Deletes Requiring Maint           0.0           0.0           0       n/a
      # of NC Ndx Maint               0.0           0.0           0       n/a

    RID Upd from Clust Split          0.0           0.0           0       n/a
      # of NC Ndx Maint               0.0           0.0           0       n/a

    Upd/Del DOL Req Maint             1.5           2.4          46       n/a
      # of DOL Ndx Maint              1.9           3.1          58       n/a
      Avg DOL Ndx Maint / Op          n/a           n/a     1.26087       n/a

  Page Splits                         0.0           0.0           0       n/a

  Page Shrinks                        0.0           0.0           0       n/a

  Index Scans                     per sec      per xact       count  % of total
  -------------------------  ------------  ------------  ----------  ----------
    Ascending Scans                   0.1           0.2           4       1.1 %
    DOL Ascending Scans              11.6          18.3         347      96.7 %
    Descending Scans                  0.3           0.4           8       2.2 %
    DOL Descending Scans              0.0           0.0           0       0.0 %
                             ------------  ------------  ----------
    Total Scans                      12.0          18.9         359

This will allow you to see how many index-related operations occurred during the work you performed. It would be imperative to do this on an otherwise-quiet system, so you can get reliable results. I would repeat the test multiple times, both with the indexes enabled, and with the indexes removed. FYI, I don't believe Sybase ASE 15.7 supports disabling and re-enabling an index.

Hopefully, this should get you some actionable details.

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