I have a fairly complicated query and running it on two databases with same schemas, but with different data produces different result. On database D1 the elapsed time is around 1 second, and the number of returned rows is 4936. On database D2 the elapsed time is around 10 seconds, adn the number of returned rows is 135. The returned data is correct and expected in both cases, but the execution time is what confuses me.

Both databases have the same indexes. All statistics have been updated and indexes reorganized or rebuilt where neccessary. However, the actual execution plans on both databases differ slightly in their layout and costs.

On database D2 29% of time is wasted on Index Scan of a non-clustered index that executes 409 times (expected executes = 1) and returns 2195 rows, even though it expected only 146. With a Clustered Index Seek (only 2% cost) on another table that executes 2195 times (estimated executions = 146) and that returns 2195 rows (estimated rows = 146, both based on upper Index Scan) it enters into a Nested Loops Inner Join (9% cost).

The same Index Scan on D1 takes only 4.1% of time and executes only once and returns 4451 rows, even though it expected 4491. After it goes Compute Scalar, and then the arrow joins with output from Compute Scalar from Clustered Index Scan (instead of Clustered Index Seek in D2) into Hash Match Inner Join.

Can anyone tell me why this might be happening?

Also, in the plan on D2 I have another Index Scan of the same problematic index that also has 29% cost, but returns 0 rows, even though it expects 27 rows. In D1 this returns 7 rows, expects 8, and has 4% cost.

I'm completely lost. Any help will be appreciated.

  • 6
    Instead of verbal descriptions of the plans can you post the actual execution plan XML? Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 13:41
  • I cannot post the XML plan due to security risks.
    – Vatroslav
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 8:10

1 Answer 1


Schema and indexes are only one aspect of query plan and performance. Your statement "but with different data" is likely the source of the difference. The number of rows and the distribution of data is essential to the query optimizer. If you have significantly more rows in D2, or if the data is of entirely different characteristics (wider or narrower range of values), then you should expect to see different performance and execution plans.

For each set of statistics, SQL Server keeps a maximum of 200 samples. As the rows in the tables grow and the more irregular the distribution of values the more likely it is that SQL Server will not have enough information to generate optimal execution plans. That's where the use of filtered indexes and statistics comes into play.

If this is a parameterized query you may also be running into a parameter sniffing problem. Note that if you're using local variables the calculation changes also.

  • 2
    Could be. Data skew could be the problem (filtered stats being a solution). Could be the sampling rate on stats updates. Could be a scalar function. We'd need to see the plan.
    – swasheck
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 15:32
  • Thank you for the answer. I did not expect the impact could be so great. A colleague added two indexes and increased the performance while I was away, but I'll take a closer look into filtered indexes and statistics.
    – Vatroslav
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 8:16

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