How to index SQL with aggregate function SQL for Oracle?

Here the following is an example SQL shows you that select the maximum emp_address which is not indexed in the EMPLOYEE table with 3 million records, the emp_grade is an indexed column.

select max(emp_address) from employee a
where emp_grade<4000

As 80% of the EMPLOYEE table’s records will be retrieved to examine the maximum emp_address string. The query plan of this SQL shows a Table Access Full on EMPLOYEE table is reasonable.

How many ways to build an index to improve this SQL?
Although it is simple SQL, there are still 3 ways to build an index to improve this SQL, the following are the possible indexes that can be built for the SQL, the first one is a single column index and the 2 and 3 are the composite index with a different order.

Most people may use the EMP_ADDRESS as the first choice to improve this SQL, let’s see what the query plan is if we build a virtual index for the EMP_ADDRESS column in the following, you can see the estimated cost is reduced by almost half, but this query plan is finally not being used after the physical index is built for benchmarking due to actual statistics is collected.

The following query shows the EMP_ADDRESS index is not used and the query plan is the same as the original SQL without any new index built.

Let’s try the second composite index (EMP_GRADE, EMP_ADDRESS), the new query plan shows an Index Fast Full Scan of this index, it is a reasonable plan which no table’s data is needed to retrieve. So, the execution time is reduced from 16.83 seconds to 3.89 seconds.

Let’s test the last composite index (EMP_ADDRESS, EMP_GRADE) that EMP_ADDRESS is placed as the first column in the composite index, it creates a new query plan that shows an extra FIRST ROW operation for the INDEX FULL SCAN (MIN/MAX), it highly reduces the execution time from 16.83 seconds to 0.08 seconds.

So, indexing sometimes is an art that needs you to pay more attention to it, some potential solutions may perform excess your expectation.

The best index solution is now more than 200 times better than the original SQL without index, this kind of index recommendation can be achieved by Tosska SQL Tuning Expert for Oracle automatically.

How is the order of the columns in a composite index affecting a subquery performance for Oracle?

MySQL database and sql

We know the order of the columns in a composite index will determine the usage of the index or not against a table. A query will use a composite index only if the where clause of the query has at least the leading/left-most columns of the index in it. But, it is far more complicated in correlated subquery situations. Let’s have an example SQL to elaborate the details in the following.

FROM   department D
         FROM     employee E
         WHERE     E.emp_id < 1050000
                AND E.emp_dept = D.dpt_id
         GROUP BY  E.emp_dept
         HAVING    Count(*) > 124)

Here the following is the query plan of the SQL, it takes 10 seconds to finish. We can see that the SQL can utilize E.emp_id and E.emp_dept indexes individually.

Let’s see if a new composite index can help to improve the SQL’s performance or not, as a rule of thumb, a higher selectivity column E.emp_id will be set as the first column in a composite index (E.emp_id, E.emp_dept).

The following is the query plan of a new composite index (E.emp_id, E.emp_dept) and the result performance is not good, it takes 11.8 seconds and it is even worse than the original query plan.

If we change the order of the columns in the composite index to (E.emp_dept, E.emp_id), the following query plan is generated and the speed is improved to 0.31 seconds.

The above two query plans are similar, the only difference is the “2” operation. The first composite index with first column E.emp_id uses an INDEX RANGE SCAN of the new composite index, but the second query plan uses an INDEX SKIP SCAN for the first column of E.emp_dept composite index. You can see there is an extra filter operation for E.emp_dept in the Predicate Information of INDEX RANGE SCAN of the index (E.emp_id, E.emp_dept). But the (E.emp_dept, E.emp_id) composite index use INDEX SKIP SCAN without extra operation to filter the E.emp_dept again.

So, you have to test the order of composite index very carefully for correlated subqueries, sometimes it will give you improvements that exceed your expectation.

This kind of index recommendation can be achieved by Tosska SQL Tuning Expert for Oracle automatically.

How to use ORDERED Hint to Tune a SQL with subquery for Oracle?

Here the following is the description of the ORDERED hint.

The ORDERED hint causes Oracle to join tables in the order in which they appear in the FROM clause.

If you omit the ORDERED hint from a SQL statement performing a join, then the optimizer chooses the order in which to join the tables. You might want to use the ORDERED hint to specify a join order if you know something about the number of rows selected from each table that the optimizer does not. Such information lets you choose an inner and outer table better than the optimizer could.

We usually use an ORDERED hint to control the john order, but how this hint causes a SQL with a subquery. Let’s use the following SQL as an example to see how ORDERED hint works for a subquery.

where  dpt_id
     in (select emp_dept from employee
      where emp_id >3300000)

Here the following is the query plan of the SQL, it takes 68.84 seconds to finish. The query shows a “TABLE ACCESS FULL” of the DEPARTMENT table and “NESTED LOOPS SEMI” to an “INDEX RANGE SCAN” of EMPLOYEE.

If you think it is not an effective plan, you may want to try to reorder the join path and see if an ORDERED hint is working or not in a subquery case like this:

FROM  department
WHERE  dpt_id IN (SELECT  emp_dept
         FROM  employee
         WHERE  emp_id > 3300000)

Here is the query plan of the hinted SQL and the speed is 3.44 seconds which is 20 times better than the original SQL. The new query plan shows the new join order that EMPLOYEE is retrieve first and then hash join DEPARTMENT later. You can see the ORDERED hint will order the subquery’s table first. This new order clauses a new data retrieval method from the EMPLOYEE table, it makes the overall performance much better than the original query plan.

This kind of rewrite can be achieved by Tosska SQL Tuning Expert for Oracle automatically, there are other hints-injection SQL with better performance, but it is not suitable to discuss in this short article, maybe I can discuss later in my blog.

How to tune a SQL that cannot be tuned ?

oracle sql performance tuning

Some mission-critical SQL statements are already reached their maximum speed within the current indexes configuration.  It means that those SQL statements are not able to be improved by syntax rewrite or Hints injection. Most people may think that the only way to improve this kind of SQL may be by upgrading hardware.  For example, the following SQL statement has every column in WHERE clause is indexed and the best query plan is generated by Oracle already. There is no syntax rewrite or hints injection that can help Oracle to improve the SQL performance.

  AND SAL_SALARY <200000

Here the following is the query plan and execution statistics of the SQL, it takes 2.33 seconds to extract all 502 records. It is not acceptable for a mission-critical SQL that is executed thousands of times in an hour. Do we have another choice if we don’t want to buy extra hardware to improve this SQL?

Introduce new plans for Oracle’s SQL optimizer to consider
Although all columns in the WHERE clause are indexed, can we build some compound indexes to help Oracle’s SQL optimizer to generate new query plans which may perform better than the original plan? Let’s see if we adopt the common practice that the following EMPLOYEE’s columns in red color can be used to compose a concatenated index (EMP_ID, EMP_DEPT, EMP_GRADE).

  AND  SAL_SALARY <200000
  AND  GRD_ID<1200


The following is the query plan after the concatenated index is created. Unfortunately, the speed of the SQL is 2.40 seconds although a new query plan is introduced by Oracle’s SQL optimizer.

To be honest, it is difficult if we just rely on common practices or human knowledge to build indexes to improve this SQL. Let me imagine that if we got an AI engine that can help me to try the most effective compound indexes to explore Oracle’s SQL optimizer potential solutions for the SQL. The following concatenated indexes are the potential recommendation by the imagined AI engine.


The following is the query plan after these two concatenated indexes are created and the speed of the SQL is improved to 0.13 seconds. It is almost 18 times better than that of the original SQL without the new indexes.

The above indexes include some columns that appear on the SELECT list of the SQL and there is a correlated indexes relationship for Oracle’s SQL optimizer to generate the query plan, it means that missing any columns of the recommended indexes or reshuffling of the column position of the concatenated indexes may not be able to produce such query plan structure. So, it is difficult for a human expert to compose these two concatenated indexes manually. I am glad to tell you that this kind of AI engine is actually available in the following product.

Optimization of SQL Queries: Database Engine Tuning Advisor

optimization of SQL queries

If there is one complaint business users may have about their production database, it is slow performance. Database professionals, therefore, often try to focus strictly on finding out and resolving the source of the issue in the database.

The Database Engine Tuning Advisor (DTA) is one of the best tools in this regard. It helps DBAs analyze workloads and uncover areas that can be improved. In this blog, we will discuss the working of this tool along with a few additional details.

What is the Database Engine Tuning Advisor?

It is a tool that assists with the optimization of SQL queries and was introduced in SQL Server 2005. Before it, SQL Server had a feature known as the Index Tuning Wizard.

The DTA is designed to assess a workload and provide recommendations to boost query performance. Some of its suggestions include:

  • Making partitions
  • Incorporating indexes
  • Adding statistics (this helps resolve the issue of automatic statistics not getting created despite the auto_create_statistics option being ON)

Apart from locating every type of potential for enhancement, the Oracle Database Engine Tuning Advisor will build a T-SQL script for users to execute in order to carry out the recommendations made by it.

How to Launch the DTA for the Optimization of SQL Queries

You can commence its use through multiple methods:

  • Open the Start menu, scroll to the SQL Server application group and look for the Performance Tools folder.
  • If you’re using the SQL Server Management Studio application, you can select the tool from the Tools menu.
  • The SQL Server Profiler also has this tool in its Tools menu.
  • You can find it with the select analyze query in DTA on the SQL Server Management Studio Query menu. This also enables you to pass a T-SQL section to the tool for analysis.
  • Open the Command Prompt, type “DTA -?” for a glimpse at the available alternatives.

Normally, you can create a workload by collecting multiple statements in a file or with the help of the SQL Server Profiler. An important point to bear in mind is that the workload being sent to the Advisor for evaluation needs to be representative of the average workload.

What the Database Engine Tuning Advisor Does

The Database Engine Tuning Advisor makes recommendations on the basis of the workload you send for analysis. Therefore, a limited workload will result in inadequate recommendations. The best thing to do is to collect the workload through the Profiler, save the results in a text file, and send the trace to the Advisor.

The SQL Server Profiler plays an important role in the optimization of SQL queries. It can be launched from its location in the SQL Server application folder (in the Start menu) or among the list of tools in the SQL Server Management Studio.

In case you want to know the properties of the new trace, follow these steps –

  • Click on the dropdown list in the dropdown menu of the tool window (for the trace template) and select Tuning. The trace template gathers the events considered necessary by DTA.
  • Select the ‘Save to file’ and type in the file name you want before passing it to the Database Engine Tuning Advisor once the trace is complete.

Selecting a SQL Server Database Version for Your Company

SQL Server database and SQL

Choosing the right version of SQL Server is important for the performance you desire. If you’re installing an older one because your organization’s management prefers an older build or the vendor is unable to support newer versions, it is important to let them know which version your company needs, and why.

For this reason, we will discuss some popular versions of SQL Server from older to newer and mention their advantages in this blog.

Which SQL Server Version Works Best with SQL Performance Tuning?

Knowing the versions that support this task is extremely important because it will give you the ability to improve the SQL Server database and SQL performance.

To that effect, we will discuss the SQL Server 2016, 2017, and 2019 versions here.

SQL Server 2016

This version was chosen by a lot of independent software vendors or ISVs for one reason – 2016’s Service Pack 1 edition came with Enterprise features in Standard mode. These helped create a single application version that worked simultaneously for both Standard as well as Enterprise clients.

Advantages of Choosing this Version:

  • It is easy to find support material online as this version is quite popular and numerous database professionals are well-versed with this version’s tools.
  • Standard Edition users may find this version appealing since it supports 128GB RAM and additional space for internal functions such as query plans.
  • Support for this version ends after 2026 – longer than the older versions (2012/2014).
  • Newer applications that have additional compliance requirements will benefit from features in this version such as Always Encrypted, temporal tables, and Dynamic Data Masking. These will make it somewhat easier to protect and monitor sensitive information.
  • You can have both row store and column store indexes in this version, unlike the earlier ones that only had row store indexes.
  • If you need query plan monitoring to help with SQL performance tuning, you can use the Query Store’s features provided in SQL Server 2016 for this purpose.

SQL Server 2017

Being a newer release, it is one of the most regularly updated versions with patches coming in almost every other month. These patches are important because they resolve significant problems. It also comes with a minimum commit replica configuration to ensure commits are accepted by several replicas.

Advantages of Choosing this Version:

  • The upgrades are easier to get from this version onward due to a Distributed Availability Group that contains multiple SQL Server versions in it. Before this, we had AG version upgrades that were not as convenient, leading most users to construct a new cluster and migrate to it rather than opt for an upgrade.
  • This version contains batch mode execution plans, which gives those who require high-performance column store statements an advantage.
  • If you must run your SQL Server on Linux, you may consider SQL Server 2017 as several bugs have been resolved in the Cumulative Updates.
  • It’s a newer version so support will last longer than that of its predecessor.

SQL Server 2019

Released on November 4, 2019, this version is the latest in the SQL Server series. Naturally, it comes with the longest support lifespan, i.e. it will be supported until 2030. This version also receives regular patch updates to fix many significant issues in the form of Cumulative Updates.

Changes and Features in this Version:

  • Patch contents aren’t documented anymore. Moreover, you are likely to receive updates with undocumented new features – something to consider in case you require it for mission-critical production environments.
  • There is a bit of a learning curve thanks to some cutting-edge features in this version, so be prepared to perform some experimentation as you learn.
  • Some of the best performance features are included in the 2019 compatibility mode. However, you will have to keep a close eye on all SQL Server databases and SQL queries – even the ones running fast at present – as these will alter your current execution plans. In other words, you will have to test both slow and fast queries to make sure the slow ones speed up and the fast ones don’t fall behind in performance.
  • Table variables have gotten better in this version along with user-defined functions.
  • Additional features to watch out for including Big Data Clusters, Java support, and high container availability, so you may want to explore this version if you’re looking for perks like these in the SQL Server you want.

In Conclusion

At this point, SQL Server 2017 might seem like the best version to go with, thanks to a balance of features, stability, and support lifespan. Furthermore, you’ll receive plenty of help with SQL performance tuning – a lifesaver for overworked professionals who may not have the time or resources to upgrade every server every year.