Optimizer gets the wrong number of estimated rows even with updated stats

Sqljnr81 2016-03-07 18:26:47

I have a procedure running in SQL Server 2008 that contains a query similar to the one below;

/* various columns from table 1 and table 2 */
FROM dbo.tbl_1 AS a
INNER JOIN dbo.tbl_2 AS b ON a.AccountNumber = b.AccountNumber
WHERE a.RecordActive = 1 AND b.RecordActive = 1;

tbl_1 and tbl_2 are both partitioned views that equally contain 3 yearly base tables (2014-2016), partitioned by month and unioned in the view. The tables are large and 2016's data contains approximately 34,000,000 records for the first 3 months alone.

The query normally takes 10 minutes to run, when the right plan is chosen. However, recently it has been taken well over an hour.

When I check the estimated plan, it uses an index seek using a filtered index WHERE RecordActive = 1 for the table containing 2016's data. The estimated rows is 18,000, but when the query executes the actual number of rows is closer to 2,000,000 – a clustered index scan probably being a better choice.

This is the case despite updating the statistics for the filtered index with a full scan. As the predicate on the tables for column RecordActive is a BIT datatype yielding either 1 or 0, the histogram for the filtered statistic only contains one entry for the value 1, which shows the number of rows equaling that value is 2,000,0000.

I have turned on OPTION(RECOMPILE, QUERYTRACEON 3604, QUERYTRACEON 9204) and I can see that the filtered stats have been considered. So why then does it get the estimate so badly wrong?

Please help, as I am running out of ideas and would like to know what is really happening under the hood!

Aaron Bertrand 2016-03-10 01:27:16
I would consider using dynamic SQL to avoid the view when you know you're only after a specific year's table. The view should only be useful when you're trying to abstract away the fact that the underlying data is actually in different tables, and when the query needs to access data from more than one of them.
Sqljnr81 2016-03-17 12:57:25
Hi Aaron. Thanks for your respond, very much appreciated.

Please can you help me by explaining your point about using dynamic SQL a little further? I understand the use of dynamic SQL, but I just need a little clarity to its purpose in this context. As with the query in this post, we wouldn't know which year's data to access until we know if the isCurrentPosition predicate = 1 is true for a certain customer/account for example.

I totally agree with your second point and this is exactly why we use it.

1) Our users don't see the yearly tables, only the view.
2) When we get new data that updates certain columns, it needs to know which year to access as opposed to being told, when we won't actually know until the data comes in, e.g. customer account information to update a balance that was last active 2 years ago. By accessing the partitioned view with its date constraints, it will know to and look in 2014.

Thanks again Aaron!

SQLkiwi 2016-03-10 06:27:41
You probably want to take a look at the statistics associated with the index that is actually used for segment 2 and 2016:

alt text

Notice this is not the filtered index referred to in the question. This index has the same leading key as the desired filtered index.

Given a choice, the optimizer tends to choose a non-filtered index over a filtered one, where there is overlap in the required keys. There is no particular reason for this that I am aware of. As far as I know, it is simply a limitation of the index-matching logic. There is no workaround, aside from ensuring that filtered and non-filtered indexes do not share the same keys.

That said, this may not even be the "problem". For all I know, the statistics on this index also indicate that 2 million or so rows would match IsCurrentPosition = 1 (not RecordActive as stated in the question). The underlying issue may be that the index is also partitioned, and cardinality estimation makes an unsafe 'educated' guess as to the effect of this partitioning. The plan indicates that partitions 1-13 were accessed for this index, which sounds like it might be all partitions. Without a definition for the partition function, it's hard to know.

Tracing the details of a particular cardinality estimate back to the underlying statistics can be challenging in simple cases. Where there is so much complexity, and so many potentially valid ways (in theory) to make an estimate, it becomes essentially impossible. It is even more difficult without all the underlying tables, partitioning functions and schemes, and statistics objects.

It's quite hard to imagine a physical database arrangement that would be less friendly for cardinality estimation: huge partitioned tables embedded in a partitioned view, with very many partitioned, and occasionally filtered, indexes with overlapping keys. Judging from the mismatch between the query objects and the local partitioned view names, there may also be another view layer or synonyms involved. The CE is doing reasonably well here to get within a factor of 100.

The segment 1 & 2016 case does use a filtered index, but it is on the inner side of a nested loops join with AccountNumber and IsCurrentPosition correlated parameters. It estimates one row per iteration, but the driving side of the loops join is already wrong courtesy of the segment 1 view:

alt text

Sqljnr81 2016-03-17 12:37:15
Hi Paul. Thanks for your comments. I didn't know that the optimizer tends to choose non-filtered indexes over filtered ones with overlapping keys.

Apologies for not posting everything, I should have included the partition function, which is on a DATE datatype for 12 months for each partitioned table.

Historically, segment 1 was one huge table and it was decided for ease of maintenance and performance reasons to split this into yearly tables. These yearly tables would be partitioned by month on the FileDate column.

As data is inserted every day, there is other logic which needs to update certain columns – but it can only do that based on knowing/accessing ALL of the data. Hence the decision was taken to insert the data via a partitioned view, which would have all these yearly tables combined via UNION ALL.

As there are users who had reports that referenced the original segment 1 table names in their queries and views, we did in fact create a synonym object that would point to the newly created partitioned view. I didn't consider that having a synonym could cause the optimizer problems with row estimates.

The associated indexes on the segment 1 table are also partitioned. I believed that would be a good thing that they are aligned, but your comments suggest that they may be better off not partitioned.

A lot of learning for me to take away. However, I also feel slightly at lost as I didn't think I was the only person with tables in excess of billions of records, using the combination of partitioned views/tables (championed quite a bit by the likes of Kimberly Tripp) being such a major problem.

Thank you very much again Paul.