Structured Query Language, better known as SQL, is a
powerful tool for manipulating data. It is used in virtually every relational
database management system on the market today, not just by DB2, but also by Oracle,
Sybase, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server.
SQL is a high-level language that provides a greater degree
of abstraction than do procedural languages. Most programming languages require
that the programmer navigate data structures. The navigation information is
encoded in the program and is difficult to change after it has been programmed.
SQL is different. It is designed so that the programmer can
specify what data is needed, and not how to retrieve it. A DB2 application
programmer will use SQL to define data selection criteria. DB2 analyzes SQL and
formulates data-navigational instructions “behind the scenes.” These
data-navigational instructions are called access
paths. By having the DBMS determine the optimal access path to the data, a
heavy burden is removed from the programmer. The database has a better
understanding of the state of the data it stores, and thereby can produce a
more efficient and dynamic access path to the data. The result is that SQL,
used properly, can provide for quicker application development.
Quick application development is a double-edged sword. While
it can mean reduced application development time and lowered costs, it can also
mean that testing and performance tuning are not thoroughly done. The task of
tuning the database as well as optimizing the SQL typically falls to the
database administrator (DBA).
The DB2 environment and its host system can be tuned to
achieve a certain level of performance improvement, but the greatest potential
for performance improvement comes from analyzing the SQL code itself and making
changes to improve speed and efficiency. The consensus among SQL performance
experts is that 80% or more of database performance problems are caused by
improperly written and un-tuned SQL.
SQL Query Tuning
SQL is not merely a query language. It can also define data
structures, control access to the data, and insert, modify, and delete data. Consolidating
these functions into a single language eases communication between different
types of users.
SQL is, by nature, quite flexible. It uses a free-form
structure that gives the user the ability to develop SQL statements in a way
best suited to the given user. Each SQL request is parsed by the DBMS before
execution to check for proper syntax and to optimize the request. Therefore,
SQL statements do not need to start in any given column and can be strung
together on one line or broken apart on several lines. Any SQL request could be
formulated in a number of different but functionally equivalent ways.
SQL’s flexibility makes it intrinsically simple, but
flexibility is not always a good thing when it comes to performance. Different
but equivalent SQL formulations can result in extremely variable performance. In
this section, we’ll talk about some of the tools within DB2 to help optimize
performance and we’ll get into some of the things to watch for in the code
Queries Built for Speed
When you are writing your SQL statements to access DB2 data,
keep in mind the three fundamental guidelines listed in this section. These are
simple, yet important rules to follow when writing your SQL statements. Of
course, SQL performance is a complex topic and to understand every nuance of
how SQL performs can take a lifetime. That said, adhering to the following
simple rules puts you on the right track to achieving high-performing DB2
- Always provide only the exact columns that you need to retrieve in the
SELECT-list of each SQL SELECT statement.
Another way of stating this is “do not use SELECT *”. The shorthand SELECT
* means retrieve all columns from the table(s) being accessed. This is
fine for quick and dirty queries but is bad practice for inclusion in
application programs because:
tables may need to be changed in the future to include additional
columns. SELECT * will retrieve those new columns, too, and your program
may not be capable of handling the additional data without requiring
will consume additional resources for every column that requested to be
returned. If the program does not need the data, it should not ask for
it. Even if the program needs every column, it is better to explicitly
ask for each column by name in the SQL statement for clarity and to avoid
the previous pitfall.
Of course, simply avoiding SELECT *
is not sufficient. You also have to avoid returning certain columns…
- Do not ask for what you already know.
This may sound simplistic, but most programmers violate this rule at one
time or another. For example, consider what is wrong with this simple
SELECT LASTNAME, FIRST_NAME, JOB_CODE,
WHERE JOB_CODE = 'A'
DEPTNO = 'D01';
Look at the SELECT-list. There are
four columns specified but only two of them are needed. We know that JOB_CODE
will be A and DEPTNO will be D01 because we told DB2 to only return those rows
using the WHERE clauses. Every column that DB2 has to access and return to our
program adds overhead. Yes, it is a small amount of overhead here, but this
statement may be run hundreds, or even thousands, of times a day. And that
small overhead adds up to significant overhead.
- Use the WHERE clause to filter data in
the SQL instead of bringing it all into your program to filter.
This too is a common rookie mistake. It is much better for DB2 to filter
the data before returning it to your program. This is so because DB2 uses
additional I/O and CPU resources to obtain each row of data. The fewer
rows passed to your program, the more efficient your SQL will be.
Look for IF-THEN-ELSE logic or CASE
statements immediately following the FETCH statements in your application
programs. If the conditional logic code is analyzing columns that you just
retrieved from DB2, try to remove them from the host language code instead building
the tests into WHERE clauses in your SQL statements. Doing so will improve
Follow good SQL coding practices (like these three
guidelines), and you’ll start seeing a performance improvement in your DB2
applications. To further tune the code, you’ll need to understand how to
leverage the optimizer, update statistics, and manage indexes.
Leveraging the Optimizer
The optimizer is the heart and soul of DB2. It analyzes SQL
statements and determines the most efficient access path available for
satisfying each statement. It accomplishes this by parsing the SQL statement to
determine which tables and columns must be accessed. It then queries system
information and statistics stored in the DB2 system catalog to determine the
best method of accomplishing the tasks necessary to satisfy the SQL request.
The optimizer is essentially an expert system for accessing
DB2 data. An expert system is a set of standard rules that when combined with
situational data can return an expert opinion. For example, a medical expert
system takes the set of rules determining which medication is useful for which
illness, combines it with data describing the symptoms of ailments, and applies
that knowledge base to a list of input symptoms. The DB2 optimizer renders
expert opinions on data retrieval methods based on the situational data housed
in DB2’s system catalog and a query input in SQL format.
The notion of optimizing data access in the DBMS is one of
the most powerful capabilities of DB2. Remember, access to DB2 data is achieved
by telling DB2 what to retrieve, not how to retrieve it. Regardless of how the
data is physically stored and manipulated, DB2 and SQL can still access that
data. This separation of access criteria from physical storage characteristics
is called physical data independence.
DB2’s optimizer is the component that accomplishes this physical data
If indexes are removed, DB2 can still access the data
(albeit less efficiently). If a column is added to the table being accessed,
the data can still be manipulated by DB2 without changing the program code.
This is all possible because the physical access paths to DB2 data are not
coded by programmers in application programs, but are generated by DB2.
Compare this with non-DBMS systems in which the programmer
must know the physical structure of the data. If there is an index, the
programmer must write appropriate code so that the index is used. If the index
is removed, the program will not work unless changes are made. Not so with DB2
and SQL. All this flexibility is attributable to DB2’s capability to optimize
data manipulation requests automatically.
The optimizer performs complex calculations based on a host
of information. To simplify the functionality of the optimizer, you can picture
it as performing a four-step process:
and verify the syntax of the SQL statement.
the environment and optimize the method of satisfying the SQL statement.
machine-readable instructions to execute the optimized SQL.
the instructions or store them for future execution.
The second step of this process is the most intriguing. How
does the optimizer decide how to execute the vast array of SQL statements that
can be sent its way?
The optimizer has many types of strategies for optimizing
SQL. How does it choose which of these strategies to use in the optimized
access paths? IBM does not publish the actual, in-depth details of how the
optimizer determines the best access path, but the optimizer is a cost-based
optimizer. This means that the optimizer will always attempt to formulate an
access path for each query that reduces overall cost. To accomplish this, the
DB2 optimizer applies query cost formulas that evaluate and weigh four factors
for each potential access path: the CPU cost, the I/O cost, statistical
information in the DB2 system catalog, and the actual SQL statement.
The Importance of Statistics
Without the statistics stored in DB2’s system catalog, the
optimizer will have a difficult time optimizing anything. These statistics
provide the optimizer with information about the state of the tables that will
be accessed by the SQL statement that is being optimized. The types of
statistical information stored in the system catalog include:
about tables including the total number of rows, information about compression,
and total number of pages.
about columns including number of discrete values for the column and the
distribution range of values stored in the column.
about table spaces including the number of active pages.
status of the index including whether an index exists or not, the
organization of the index (number of leaf pages and number of levels), the
number of discrete values for the index key, and whether the index is
about the table space and partitions.
Statistics are gathered and stored in DB2’s system catalog
when the RUNSTATS utility is executed. Be sure to work with your DBA to ensure
that statistics are accumulated at the appropriate time, especially in a
Index for Performance
Perhaps the single most important thing that can be done to
assure optimal DB2 application performance is creating correct indexes for your
tables based on the queries used by your applications. Of course, this is
easier said than done. But we can start with some basics. For example, consider
the following SQL statement:
WHERE EMPNO =
AND DEPTNO = 'D01';
What index or indexes would make sense for this simple
query? The short answer is “it depends.” Let’s discuss what it depends upon!
First, think about all of the possible indexes that could be created. Your
first short list probably looks something like this:
on EMPNO and DEPTNO
This is a good start and Index3 is probably the best of the lot. It allows
DB2 to use the index to immediately lookup the row or rows that satisfy the two
simple predicates in the WHERE clause. Of course, if you already have a lot of
indexes on the EMP table you might want to examine the impact of creating yet
another index on the table. Factors to consider include:
in the existing indexes
of a particular query
DB2 will automatically maintain every index that you create. This means
that every INSERT and every DELETE to this table will cause data to be inserted
and deleted not just from the table, but also from its indexes. And if you
UPDATE the value of a column that is in an index, the index will also be
updated. So, indexes speed the process of retrieval but slow down modification.
Columns in the Existing Indexes
If an index already exists on EMPNO or DEPTNO it might not
be wise to create another index on the combination. However, it might make
sense to change the other index to add the missing column. But not always
because the order of the columns in the index can make a big difference in
access path selection and performance, depending on the query. Furthermore, if indexes already exist for both
columns, DB2 potentially can use them both to satisfy this query so creating
another index may not be necessary.
Importance of this Particular Query
The more important the query the more you may want to tune
by index creation. For example, if you are coding a query that will be run
every day by the CIO, you will want to make sure that it performs optimally.
Who wants to risk a call from the CIO complaining about performance? So building
indexes for that particular query is very important. On the other hand, a query
for a low-level clerk may not necessarily be weighted as high, so that query
may have to make due with the indexes that already exist. Of course, the
decision will depend on the importance of the application to the business – not
just on the importance of the user of the application. An additional criterion
to factor into your decision is how often the query is run. The more frequently
the query needs to be executed during the day, the more beneficial it becomes
to create an index to optimize it.
There is much more to index design than we have covered so
far. For example, you might consider index overloading to achieve index only
access. If all of the data that a SQL query asks for is contained in the index,
DB2 may be able to satisfy the request using only the index. Consider our
previous SQL statement. We asked for LASTNAME and SALARY given information
about EMPNO and DEPTNO. And we also started by creating an index on the
EMPNO and DEPTNO columns. If we include LASTNAME and SALARY in the index as
well then we never need to access the EMP table because all of the data we need
exists in the index. This technique can significantly improve performance
because it cuts down on the number of I/O requests.
Keep in mind, though, that it is not prudent (or even
possible) to make every query an index only access. This technique should be
saved for particularly troublesome or important SQL statements. And you should
always examine the impact on other queries and programs when deciding whether
to add columns to any index.
Properly tuned SQL and a well-tuned DB2 environment
can yield noticeable performance improvements. These can mean faster response
time for DB2 applications, a better user experience, and faster throughput. The
key is a combination of programming practice, system optimization, and
effective use of software tools to automate simulation and code analysis.