Thursday, 27 October 2011

Proving the benefits of SARGABLE Clauses and converting DATEDIFF to BETWEEN in SQL

Increasing performance with date range searches in SQL

I often find myself wanting to retrieve data from a table for the current day only.

There are many ways to do this but one of the easiest and the one I often find people using is to use
a non SARGABLE WHERE clause that makes use of the DATEDIFF function to only return records for the current date e.g


The problem with this is related to performance and whilst you might see negligible effects on small datasets
when you are dealing with datasets containing millions of rows you want the best performance possible.

If you don't know what a SARABLE clause is here is the definition:

In relational databases, a condition (or predicate) in a query is said to be sargable if the DBMS engine can take advantage of an index to speed up the execution of the query (using index seeks, not covering indexes). The term is derived from a contraction of Search ARGument Able.

Therefore because we have wrapped the Stamp (Date) column in the DATEDIFF function the clause becomes NON SARGABLE and an INDEX SCAN will be carried out instead of the performance benefits
that an INDEX SEEK would provide.

Obviously if you don't have an index on the data column in question it won't make the slightest bit of difference but lets test this theory.

First we want some code that will give us the start and end date of the current day.

I am using code for SQL 2005 and below here as in SQL 2008 there are specific DATE datatypes
that don't contain time parts but running a simple:


-- returns
2011-10-27 15:01:39.000

As we want to replace the DATEDIFF with a BETWEEN @STARTDATE AND @ENDDATE we need to create the minimum date for the day and the maxiumum date for the day.

We can do this using some basic CAST conversions that first create the date for today at midnight e.g 2011-10-27 00:00:00:000 and then once we have that we can add the appropriate number of milliseconds to the date to give us the maximum end date e.g 2011-10-27 23:59:59.997.

To calculate the number of milliseconds we need to add is simple we multiple 60 seconds * 60 minutes * 24 hours * 1000 milliseconds and then deduct 3 (as 997 is the biggest value allowed in TSQL) e.g:

SELECT (60 * 60 * 24 * 1000)-3

The code to get the start and end date for the current day in TSQL is below.

-- quickly convert our current datetime into the current date at midnight e.g 2011-10-27 00:00:00.000
-- by casting the date as a varchar(12) cutting it off at the space to skip the time part then casting it back to a datetime
SELECT @StartDate = CAST(CAST(GETDATE() as varchar(11)) as datetime)

-- add 86399997 milliseconds to get a nice 23:59:59:997 datetime
SELECT @EndDate = DATEADD(MS,86399997,@StartDate)    

-- run to test
SELECT  @StartDate, @EndDate 

And you will get 2011-10-27 00:00:00.000 and 2011-10-27 23:59:59.997.

Now to prove that doing a search this way is better for performance we pick a large table, ensure there is an index on the date column we are using and write a test harness.

Remember to turn on the "Include Actual Execution Plan" option on, and make sure that we clean out all the cache buffers before running our test.

Using some simple datediff calculations to time each SELECT we can run the following code.




SELECT Racedatetime
WHERE DATEDIFF(DAY,Racedatetime,GETDATE())=0 -- only get data for current day


SELECT  'Query 1 with non SARGABLE DATEDIFF function took ' + CAST(@DUR as varchar) + ' milliseconds to run'


-- hardcoding values for an example but put our code from above to get the start and end of the current day here
SELECT Racedatetime
WHERE Racedatetime BETWEEN '2011-10-27 00:00:00:000' AND '2011-10-27 23:59:59:997'


SELECT  'Query 2 with SARGABLE WHERE Clause took ' + CAST(@DUR as varchar) + ' milliseconds to run'

Viewing the execution plan for the query you can see the difference in execution plans between the two queries.

The Non SARGABLE Query that used the DATEDIFF made use of an INDEX SCAN to obtain the result as it had to loop through the dataset running the DATEDIFF function on each Racedatetime column to see if the result was 0 (today).

The SARGABLE Query didn't have to do this and made use of the correct INDEX and no function needed to be applied to each column.

You can see the benefit in the query cost between the two SELECT statements in the following screenshot of the execution plan.

Excution Plan Cost of Query

Statement one that used a NON SARGABLE DATEDIFF clause took 673 milliseconds to run (on a table with 567,031 records) and had a cost of 96% and the statement that used a SARGABLE BETWEEN clause took 30 milliseconds to run and had a cost of 4%

Results of Query

Hopefully you can see from this example why it pays to make your queries as optimal as possible.

For more SQL Tips you can read an old Top SQL Performance Tips article I wrote some time back which still has lots of useful tips on performance tuning your queries.

And for analysing bottle necks and problematic queries you should view my SQL performance tuning script which will identify 14+ different areas which could be improved from query plan re-use, fragmented indexes, high CPU, and missing indexes plus lots more.

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