My SQL Server houses a logs table that has 4 columns:

  • Line - INT
  • Message VARCHAR(250)

Some table facts:

  • An operation may have anywhere between 1 and 380,000 messages
  • operationID is the same for all log lines that pertain to a particular operation
  • Line increments from 1 for each operationID (hence the combination of operationID and Line is unique- I don't know why the original table designer added a GUID PK)
  • The message varies considerably
  • A nonclustered nonunique index is present on OperationID. It INCLUDEs no other columns
  • The table has about 13.5 million rows

I find the following query reasonably performant, it returns 7000 rows in 5 seconds or less. The query plan shows index seek for all rows matching the operationID, key lookup on the primary key and then nested loops to produce the resultset:

FROM logs 
WHERE operationid = <some guid>

Side info: SQL Server Management Studio complains that the query would be better served if an index were created on OperationID that INCLUDEd line and message.

If I add something that I consider trivial:

FROM logs 
WHERE operationid = <some guid> AND Line > 2000

Suddenly the query takes well over 3 minutes to return a result. My immediate thought was to look at the execution plan differences. The only significant difference I find is that in addition to the "seek predicate" that is associating the table rows with index rows, there is a "predicate" section in the tooltip of the table for the nonperformant query. The "predicate" is listed as "line > 2000".

Side info: SQL Server has switched to complaining that the query would be better served by indexing OperationID and Line and INCLUDEing Message.

Is SQL Server doing things in the wrong order? i.e. is it looking through 13.5 million rows for all those whose Line > 2000, and then filtering and joining to the index?

As a human I can see this query should be sub-5-second, because filtering all the rows based on the index first (13.5M -> 7K) and then filtering 7K rows for the matching Line would be a better strategy, than finding potentially millions of rows with line > 2000. I was expecting that filtering any large table on an indexed column is something SQL Server would prefer over starting with non indexed columns in a where clause?

I don't really need an index on Line, as we don't select entries based on line ranges in common use - this is just for code development, I know for this particular operation I'm analysing now that all line entries before 2000 are uninteresting. I'm more interested as to why a query WHERE indexedcol = value is super fast but WHERE indexedcol = value and unindexedcol = othervalue runs like a dog. And by that I don't mean a greyhound.

  • 7
    Can you post the two plans please? Jul 18, 2017 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


You're getting a secondary predicate on the key lookup operation. That's going to slow stuff down. It's not doing a full scan, but remember that even seeks are just limited scans. So the key lookup is still doing what it did before, but now it's also adding a filtering step because of that added index.

You could look at exploring a covering index, however, because you have a SELECT *, covering means all columns, effectively creating a second clustered index. There'll be some sacrifice of performance on data modification queries and on disk space (depending on where you are on Azure SQL Database, that could bump you to another tier).

Instead, I'd start with experimenting with your existing nonclustered index. See if adding this new column to the key of that index helps at all. Keep it as the second column, other wise you're changing your histogram which could cause other issues.

You're going to have to experiment to see for sure what works best in your situation.

  • Can the filtering step explain the terrible (36x) slowdown? I agree on everything else but (I think) it's probably that either the plans are not exactly as described or there was some blocking issue on execution of the 2nd query. Jul 18, 2017 at 20:30
  • I don't think it would be that much slower, but it'll be slower, for sure. Stats might be off, all sorts of things. It's so hard to say for 100% certain without seeing the plans. Jul 19, 2017 at 1:47

I will leave aside the poor choice of GUID as PK as it is not important for this case but you might profit from changing that in the future.

Without seeing execution plan I can't tell for sure but by adding column Line to the query optimizer decided to ditch index altogether and go with table scan. You should see it in the execution plan.

Reason for this might be distribution of data, so first stop would be updating statistics on the table.


If it will not help, then you might try to force use of index. But it should be only last resort as it might burn you later when you remove index or rename it for some reason. The query will not work then.

FROM logs WITH (INDEX(your_index_name))
WHERE operationid = <some guid> AND Line > 2000

Side info: SQL Server has switched to complaining that the query would be better served by indexing OperationID and Line and INCLUDEing Message.

This is just how SQL Server is telling you to have index that sorts by OperationID and Line and has Message in INCLUDE part. It is because then you will create full coverage index, which means all data you need will be pulled out of the index and nothing else will have to be touched.
Consider adding Line into your existing index. It will not change working of it and will give you chance of querying data by Line number. Storage overhead will not be that big.
Including message to the index on the other hand will not be that useful. Unless you have really lot of queries over that table.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.