Daily Archives: October 20, 2010

Composite Indexes

Last time we defined when single column index can be used for the index SEEKs. Now let’s talk about composite indexes.

Obviously, the first, and most important question – when composite index can be used for the SEEK operations. Let’s take a look at the example. Let’s create the table with 250,000 rows and create composite index on such table.

Now let’s run a few tests:

As you can see, SQL Server uses index seek each time when predicate on the Column1 (leftmost column) is SARG. The last select where we don’t have the predicate on this column produces the clustered index scan.

So it’s that simple – composite index can be used for the index SEEK as long as predicates on the index leftmost columns are SARG. Well, in real life it’s a little bit more complicated – you should not forget about really small threshold for non-clustered index usage. If SQL Server expects that iterator returns more than a few % of total table rows, index would not be used.

This leads us to quite interesting conclusion. If you have an index on (Column1, Column3), you don’t need to have the separate index on (Column1). Granted, seeks on the second single-column index would be faster because of the smaller row size, but performance benefits you gain in most part of the cases do not worth the price of the index maintenance.

Code can be downloaded from here