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10 more do's and don'ts for faster SQL queries

Sean McCown | Sept. 18, 2014
Everyone wants faster database queries, and both SQL developers and DBAs can turn to many time-tested methods to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, no single method is foolproof or ironclad. But even if there is no right answer to tuning every query, there are plenty of proven do's and don'ts to help light the way. While some are RDBMS-specific, most of these tips apply to any relational database.

OK, I kept it as short as I could. Those are the high-level points. I know many .Net coders think that business logic doesn't belong in the database, but what can I say other than you're outright wrong. By putting the business logic on the front end of the application, you have to bring all of the data across the wire merely to compare it. That's not good performance. I had a client earlier this year that kept all of the logic out of the database and did everything on the front end. The company was shipping hundreds of thousands of rows of data to the front end, so it could apply the business logic and present the data it needed. It took 40 minutes to do that. I put a stored procedure on the back end and had it call from the front end; the page loaded in three seconds.

Of course, the truth is that sometimes the logic belongs on the front end and sometimes it belongs in the database. But ORMs always get me ranting.

6. Don't do large ops on many tables in the same batch

This one seems obvious, but apparently it's not. I'll use another live example because it will drive home the point much better. I had a system that suffered tons of blocking. Dozens of operations were at a standstill. As it turned out, a delete routine that ran several times a day was deleting data out of 14 tables in an explicit transaction. Handling all 14 tables in one transaction meant that the locks were held on every single table until all of the deletes were finished. The solution was to break up each table's deletes into separate transactions so that each delete transaction held locks on only one table. This freed up the other tables and reduced the blocking and allowed other operations to continue working. You always want to split up large transactions like this into separate smaller ones to prevent blocking.

7. Don't use triggers

This one is largely the same as the previous one, but it bears mentioning. Don't use triggers unless it's unavoidable — and it's almost always avoidable.

The problem with triggers: Whatever it is you want them to do will be done in the same transaction as the original operation. If you write a trigger to insert data into another table when you update a row in the Orders table, the lock will be held on both tables until the trigger is done. If you need to insert data into another table after the update, then put the update and the insert into a stored procedure and do them in separate transactions. If you need to roll back, you can do so easily without having to hold locks on both tables. As always, keep transactions as short as possible and don't hold locks on more than one resource at a time if you can help it.


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