Seeks Aren’t Always Better Than Scans

Published On: 2013-10-02By:

So I was doing a little performance tuning of a query for a company recently and we were getting hammered on the IO for the query. The query was in a stored procedure which wasn’t all that complex (ignore the crap code for now).

@p uniqueidentifier,
@as int,
@t datetime
[TimeStamp] = @t
(@p IS NULL OR p = @p)
(@as IS NULL OR [I_ID] IN (
select [I_ID] from [iq]
where [qt] in (select [tn] from [lqt] where [as] = @as)
and not exists (select * from [ia] where [Q_ID] = [iq].[Q_IQ])))

At first glance the plan looked fine. There was a scan on lqt, but that’s OK it’s a really small table. IQ was showing 77315 logical IO with a scan count of 15. So something is very wrong here. Looking at the plan a little deeper we see that while there is an index seek, we are seeking against that index over 6700 times each time the stored procedure is run. That sure isn’t a good thing. The index that we were seeking against was built on the I_ID column which while producing seeks with a ton of other columns included, was producing WAY to many seeks.

Our solution in this case was to build an index on the QT column and include Q_ID and I_ID columns. Once we built this new index the IO dropped from 77315 IO down to just 4368 which is basically the size of the table. The new index is being scanned, but it’s only being scanned once with SQL getting everything that it needs from that one scan.

So just because you are getting seeks in your execution plan that doesn’t mean that you are done tuning the query. You need to look at how many times each operator is being used, and fix any operators that are being executed to many times.

Getting the query a little better took a little code research in the application with the developer, but we were able to get things even better with just a slight code change. Apparently the “@as IS NULL OR ” section isn’t possible any more as the @as parameter will always have a value assigned so this fork of code is in there for no reason. Removing this from the query got the logical reads for that table down to just 30, reduced the worktable IO and lowered the IO on the ia table as well. All in all not bad for a few minutes of tuning and for putting an index scan in place.


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One response to “Seeks Aren’t Always Better Than Scans”

  1. Luke7622 says:

    Good advice. I’ve seen this several times over the past year and started focusing on how many times SQL Server had to perform that seek vs a scan. Estimate and Actual row counts were usually way off as well when having to do multiple seeks.


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