I was asked to look into performance of a query in SQL Server 2016 SP2, and I found something that I have not seen before:

<SpillToTempDb SpillLevel="0" SpilledThreadCount="1" />
<ExchangeSpillDetails WritesToTempDb="237" />

Does anyone have any information on "Spill level 0"?

Before everyone sends me off to lmgtfy.com - I've been there :-) and there is literally just a single result for this on Google; and on that page "Spill Level 0" is mentioned, but no other info.

I've looked in my SQL Server internals books, Bing.com, and so on. Nothing.

My guess is that it has something to do with control thread spilling over, or perhaps intra-query deadlock? The query itself is pretty basic; SELECT DISTINCT with 3 INNER JOINs, followed by 2 LEFT.

Any clue will be greatly appreciated.

And please note: The query performance has been fixed, but the mystery of that spill remains. I am not asking for help to improve this query - that's why it is not included here. I simply want to get an idea about spill 0.

Environment: SQL Server 2016 Ent. SP2 (no CUs) . MAXDOP = 4 set by RG., SSMS v18.5

I also include here a screenshot of these two operators in the plan.

Thank you!

Repartition Streams


An exchange spill (ExchangeSpillDetails) occurs only in response to an intra-query parallelism deadlock. SQL Server resolves the deadlock by forcing one or more of the exchanges (parallelism operators) to write its buffers to tempdb.

There is no concept of a spill "level" for an exchange spill (unlike sort or hash spills, which may require multiple passes or recursion). The unpopulated value is reported as zero.

You will generally want to avoid parallel deadlocks because they are resolved by the Resource Monitor, which by default only wakes up every five seconds. It will check for deadlocks more frequently than that if there has been a recent deadlock (of any kind) but it's never going to be great for performance.

One more general note: Parallel deadlocks occur due to dependencies between threads, almost always related to preserved ordering. Parallel merge join with order-preserving exchanges on both inputs are a good example of this.

For a cool visualization of an intra-query parallel deadlock, please see Grokking the Paul White Parallel Deadlock Demo by Forrest McDaniel.

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