12

I'm trying to produce a sample query plan to show why UNIONing two result-sets can be better than using OR in a JOIN clause. A query plan I've written has me stumped. I'm using the StackOverflow database with a nonclustered index on Users.Reputation.

Query plan image The query is

CREATE NONCLUSTERED INDEX IX_NC_REPUTATION ON dbo.USERS(Reputation)
SELECT DISTINCT Users.Id
FROM dbo.Users
INNER JOIN dbo.Posts  
    ON Users.Id = Posts.OwnerUserId
    OR Users.Id = Posts.LastEditorUserId
WHERE Users.Reputation = 5

The query plan is at https://www.brentozar.com/pastetheplan/?id=BkpZU1MZE, query duration for me is 4:37 min, 26612 rows returned.

I haven't seen this style of constant-scan being created from an existing table before - I'm unfamiliar with why there's a constant scan ran for every single row, when a constant scan is usually used for a single row inputted by the user for example SELECT GETDATE(). Why is it used here? I would really appreciate some guidance in reading this query plan.

If I split that OR out into a UNION, it produces a standard plan running in 12 seconds with the same 26612 rows returned.

SELECT Users.Id
FROM dbo.Users
    INNER JOIN dbo.Posts
       ON Users.Id = Posts.OwnerUserId
WHERE Users.Reputation = 5
UNION 
SELECT Users.Id
FROM dbo.Users
    INNER JOIN dbo.Posts
       ON  Users.Id = Posts.LastEditorUserId
WHERE Users.Reputation = 5

I interpret this plan as doing this:

  • Get all 41782500 rows from Posts (the actual number of rows matches the CI scan on Posts)
  • For each 41782500 rows in Posts:
    • Produce scalars:
    • Expr1005: OwnerUserId
    • Expr1006: OwnerUserId
    • Expr1004: The static value 62
    • Expr1008: LastEditorUserId
    • Expr1009: LastEditorUserId
    • Expr1007: The static value 62
  • In the concatenate:
    • Exp1010: If Expr1005 (OwnerUserId) is not null, use that else use Expr1008 (LastEditorUserID)
    • Expr1011: If Expr1006 (OwnerUserId) is not null, use that, else use Expr1009 (LastEditorUserId)
    • Expr1012: If Expr1004 (62) is null use that, else use Expr1007 (62)
  • In the Compute scalar: I don't know what an ampersand does.
    • Expr1013: 4 [and?] 62 (Expr1012) = 4 and OwnerUserId IS NULL (NULL = Expr1010)
    • Expr1014: 4 [and?] 62 (Expr1012)
    • Expr1015: 16 and 62 (Expr1012)
  • In the Order By sort by:
    • Expr1013 Desc
    • Expr1014 Asc
    • Expr1010 Asc
    • Expr1015 Desc
  • In the Merge Interval it removed Expr1013 and Expr1015 (these are inputs but not outputs)
  • In the Index seek below the nested loops join it is using Expr1010 and Expr1011 as seek predicates, but I don't understand how it has access to these when it hasn't done the nested loop join from IX_NC_REPUTATION to the subtree containing Expr1010 and Expr1011.
  • The Nested Loops join returns only the Users.IDs that have a match in the earlier subtree. Because of predicate pushdown, all rows returned from the index seek on IX_NC_REPUTATION are returned.
  • The last Nested Loops join: For each Posts record, output Users.Id where a match is found in the below dataset.
  • Did you try with an EXISTS subquery or subqueries? SELECT Users.Id FROM dbo.Users WHERE Users.Reputation = 5 AND ( EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM dbo.Posts WHERE Users.Id = Posts.OwnerUserId) OR EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM dbo.Posts WHERE Users.Id = Posts.LastEditorUserId) ) ; – ypercubeᵀᴹ Dec 27 '18 at 11:20
  • one subquery: SELECT Users.Id FROM dbo.Users WHERE Users.Reputation = 5 AND EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM dbo.Posts WHERE Users.Id IN (Posts.OwnerUserId, Posts.LastEditorUserId) ) ; – ypercubeᵀᴹ Dec 27 '18 at 11:22
10

The plan is similar to the one I go into in more detail here.

The Posts table is scanned.

For each row it extracts the OwnerUserId and LastEditorUserId. This is in a similar manner to the way UNPIVOT works. You see a single constant scan operator in the plan for the below creating the two output rows for each input row.

SELECT *
FROM dbo.Posts
UNPIVOT (X FOR U IN (OwnerUserId,LastEditorUserId)) Unpvt

In this case the plan is a bit more complex as the semantics for or are that if both column values are the same only one row should be emitted from the join on Users (not two)

These are then put through the merge interval so that in the event the values are the same the range is collapsed down and only one seek is executed against Users - otherwise two seeks are executed against it.

The value 62 is a flag meaning that the seek should be an equality seek.

Regarding

I don't understand how it has access to these when it hasn't done the nested loop join from IX_NC_REPUTATION to the subtree containing Expr1010 and Expr1011

These are defined in the yellow highlighted concatenation operator. This is on the outer side of the yellow highlighted nested loops. So this runs before the yellow highlighted seek on the inside of that nested loops.

enter image description here

A rewrite that gives a similar plan (though with the merge interval replaced by a merge union) is below in case this helps.

SELECT DISTINCT D2.UserId
FROM   dbo.Posts p
       CROSS APPLY (SELECT Users.Id AS UserId
                    FROM   (SELECT p.OwnerUserId
                            UNION /*collapse duplicate to single row*/
                            SELECT p.LastEditorUserId) D1(UserId)
                           JOIN Users
                             ON Users.Id = D1.UserId) D2
OPTION (FORCE ORDER) 

enter image description here

Dependant on what indexes are available on the Posts table a variant of this query may be more efficient than your proposed UNION ALL solution. (the copy of the database I have has no useful index for this and the proposed solution does two full scans of Posts. The below does it in one scan)

WITH Unpivoted AS
(
SELECT UserId
FROM dbo.Posts
UNPIVOT (UserId FOR U IN (OwnerUserId,LastEditorUserId)) Unpivoted
)
SELECT DISTINCT Users.Id
FROM dbo.Users INNER HASH JOIN Unpivoted
       ON  Users.Id = Unpivoted.UserId
WHERE Users.Reputation = 5

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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