If an instance has MAXDOP set at 1 and query hints are used to allow specific queries to go parallel, is the Cost Threshold For Parallelism value still used by SQL to decide whether or not to actually go parallel?

I haven’t been able to dig up this specific information although this link suggests that CTFP is ignored if MAXDOP is 1. This makes sense without query hints as no request, regardless of cost, will go parallel when MAXDOP is 1.

Can anyone let me know what the expected behaviour of these two requests will be?

Example 1:

Instance Maxdop: 1 
CTFP: 50 
Query hint: Maxdop=2 
Query cost: 30

Example 2:

Instance Maxdop: 1
CTFP: 50
Query hint: Maxdop=2
Query cost: 70
up vote 17 down vote accepted

If an instance has MAXDOP set at 1 and query hints are used to allow specific queries to go parallel, is the Cost Threshold For Parallelism value still used by SQL to decide whether or not to actually go parallel?

Simple answer: yes.

Details

There are a couple of separate things going on here, which it is important to separate:

  1. What is the effective maximum degree of parallelism available to a query?

    The contributors to this are (broadly in order of importance):

    • Resource Governor MAX_DOP setting
    • Query hint MAXDOP setting
    • The max degree of parallelism instance configuration option

    The details are explained in Server’s “Max Degree of Parallelism” setting, Resource Governor’s MAX_DOP and query hint MAXDOP–which one should SQL Server use? by Jack Li, Senior Escalation Engineer for Microsoft SQL Server Customer Service and Support. The table below is reproduced from that link:

    parallelism table

  2. Will a query plan use parallelism?

    The SQL Server query optimizer always finds a serial plan first.

    Then, if:

    • Further optimization is justified; and
    • The cost of the best serial plan exceeds the cost threshold for parallelism configuration value


    ...the optimizer will try to find a parallel plan.

    Then, if:

    • A parallel plan is found (i.e. is possible); and
    • The cost of the parallel plan is less than the best serial plan


    ...a parallel plan will be produced.

Note: the cost threshold for parallelism only affects whether the optimizer looks for a parallel plan. Once a parallel plan is cached, it will execute using parallelism when it is reused (so long as threads are available) regardless of the CTFP setting.


Examples

For both examples, with instance maxdop 1 and query hint maxdop 2, the effective available DOP is 2. If a parallel plan is chosen, it will use DOP 2.

Example 1

Given CTFP of 50 and a cheapest serial plan found cost of 30, SQL Server will not try to find a parallel plan. A serial plan will be produced.

Example 2

Given CTFP of 50 and a cheapest serial plan found cost of 70, SQL Server will try to find a parallel plan. If this plan (if found) has a cost less than 70 (the serial plan cost) then a parallel plan will be produced.

  • Thanks for adding the link from blogs.msdn, that is helpful. What do you mean "try to find a parallel plan". AFAIK barring certain cases optimizer would mostly produce many plans which would include both serial and parallel and depending on cost and configuration may choose best plan. So I believe there is always a parallel plan and it does not need to be found. – Shanky Aug 22 at 9:25
  • 1
    The end result of query optimization is always a single cached plan: serial or parallel. The optimizer finds only a serial plan in search0 (TP) and search1 (QP) phases. It may then (as described) re-run search1 with a requirement to produce a parallel plan. A choice is then made between serial and parallel based on best whole plan cost so far. That choice is binding in case optimization moves on to search2 (Full Optimization). Yes, each phase of optimization considers many alternatives, but the output from a stage is always a single best plan, which is either serial or parallel. – Paul White Aug 22 at 9:35
  • 4
    I wrote about some of this in Myth: SQL Server Caches a Serial Plan with every Parallel Plan – Paul White Aug 22 at 9:38
  • Not applicable to the version stated in the question, but perhaps a note about database MAXDOP is worth mentioning? I can't find a good place to edit it in. – Joe Obbish Aug 22 at 22:51

Example 1 Instance Maxdop: 1 CTFP: 50 Query hint: Maxdop=2 Query cost: 30

The MAXDOP query hint overrides the max degree of parallelism setting instance wide but since CTPF is 50 and query cost is 30 it may go for serial plan.

Example 2 Instance Maxdop: 1 CTFP: 50 Query hint: Maxdop=2 Query cost: 70

Here again max degree of parallelism will be taken as 2 since MAXDOP hint is there but CTFP will be taken as 50 and query, if possible like Paul mentioned may run in parallel.

If an instance has MAXDOP set at 1 and query hints are used to allow specific queries to go parallel, is the Cost Threshold For Parallelism value still used by SQL to decide whether or not to actually go parallel?

MAXDOP hint will override the instance wide setting of max degree of parallelism.

Quoting from MAXDOP hint docs.microsoft

MAXDOP number Applies to: SQL Server 2008 through SQL Server 2017.

Overrides the max degree of parallelism configuration option of sp_configure and Resource Governor for the query specifying this option. The MAXDOP query hint can exceed the value configured with sp_configure. If MAXDOP exceeds the value configured with Resource Governor, the Database Engine uses the Resource Governor MAXDOP value,

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