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Inconsistent Date Literal Parameterization Behaviour


I have mentioned query parameterization before and the process by which SQL extracts literal values from a query and re-writes the query in effect to use parameters to get a query plan cache hit, which negates the need to recompile the plan costing both time and CPU. There are a lot of good articles and book chapters that cover the topic.

What has confused me for a while is witnessing date literals within a query being parameterized on one query and not on another, even though both databases have parameterization set to ‘Simple’ mode. When a date literal is not parameterized the chances of getting a query plan cache hit is obviously very low which has performance impacts. The problem to date has been that I had been unable to ascertain the commonality and requirements that allowed the query to get parameterized and when it just kept the literal. I was paying too much attention to the query and as it turns out not enough to the table.

Well, after a number of hours getting to know the brick wall very well I finally tracked it down, and oddly it had nothing to do with the query I was submitting, but I could reproduce reliably by using an unrelated non-clustered index, which is confusing to say the least and I can not yet think of any reason why, is it a bug or just ‘Weird and Odd’.

The following steps reproduce the issue in both SQL Server 2005 and 2008.

Create a database, default settings, nothing specific, then the second step is to create our test table, a simple structure is suffice.

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[paramtest](  [id] [int] IDENTITY(1,1) NOT NULL, [somedate] [datetime] NOT NULL, [somefield] [varchar](50) COLLATE SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS NULL,
 CONSTRAINT [PK_paramtest] PRIMARY KEY CLUSTERED
(
 [id] ASC
)WITH (IGNORE_DUP_KEY = OFF) ON [PRIMARY]
) ON [PRIMARY]

We need some data to work against just to make sure we are selecting results, and we can insert these trivially as follows: 

insert into [paramtest] values (getdate(),'a')
go 10000

So we now have 10k rows within the table, and a clustered primary index on the identity column.

The test starts with freeing up the procedure cache, and then running the select statement, the datetime I used was roughly in the middle of the range of values I had inserted but is not a deciding factor in the query plan results.

dbcc freeproccache select * from paramtest where somedate > '2009-11-12 21:14:50.000'

Using a standard query plan cache extraction query the specific line of the xml plan we are interested in is the SQL Statement.

<StmtSimple StatementText="(@1 varchar(8000))SELECT * FROM [paramtest] WHERE [somedate]>@1" StatementId="1" StatementCompId="1" StatementType="SELECT" StatementSubTreeCost="0.0379857" StatementEstRows="3831.48" StatementOptmLevel="TRIVIAL">

From it you can see the literal varchar value was extracted as @1 with a type of varchar(8000) and the query altered to use this parameter – this is exactly the behaviour we would expect from parameter sniffing.

Next step is to create a non-clustered index on the varchar ‘somefield’ – completely unrelated to the date literal being used, and should have no impact on the query at all.

CREATE NONCLUSTERED INDEX [ix_test] ON [dbo].[paramtest] ([somefield] ASC
)WITH (SORT_IN_TEMPDB = OFF, DROP_EXISTING = OFF, IGNORE_DUP_KEY = OFF, ONLINE = OFF) ON [PRIMARY]

Free the procedure cache up again and rerun the query

dbcc freeproccache select * from paramtest where somedate > '2009-11-12 21:14:50.000'

Extract the query plan again from the cache, but this time it is noticable different, the parameterisation has not occurred. The literal has

<StmtSimple StatementText="select * from paramtest  where somedate > '2009-11-12 21:14:50.000'" StatementId="1" StatementCompId="1" StatementType="SELECT" />

 To revert to the old plan, drop the index and clear the cache again, then run the query once more.

DROP INDEX [ix_test] ON [dbo].[paramtest] WITH (ONLINE = OFF)

Then clear the cache again and run the query

select * from paramtest where somedate > '2009-11-12 21:14:50.000'

And we are back to being parameterized.

So the application of a single non-clustered index on a separate field to the one being queried is preventing the simple parameterization mode from parameter sniffing the date literal – this makes absolutely no sense, and you can play around with it a lot more knowing what it causing the effect on the query plan. Even placing the additional non-clustered index on the identity field, which already has a clustered index results in the parameterization failing. If this behaviour is be design, then it makes for an interesting design or limitation on the parameterization.

As soon as the database is in ‘Forced’ parameterization mode, the literal was converted each time, so this looks specific to simple mode, but is not explainable, just demonstratable.

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