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.