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Optimal Column Order

글쓴이 : 모델광 날짜 : 2022-08-13 (토) 16:08 조회 : 161

The importance of the optimal column order described in this note was excerpted from a book "Troubleshooting Oracle Performance" by Christian Antognini.

One of the principles you have to keep in mind when you design a table is that you have to put those columns frequently selected in the first place.


In Oracle, a row stored in a database block has the following format:


Row Header + L1+D1+L2+D2+L3+D3+ ..... +Ln + Dn

Ln = length of column n

Dn = Data of column n


The essential thing to understand in this format is that the database engine does not know the offset (or staring point) of the columns in a row. For example, if it has to locate column 5, it has to start by locating column 1. Then, based on the length of column 1, it locates column 2. In the same way based on the length of column 4, it locates column 5. So whenever a row has more than a few columns, a column near the beginning of the row might be located much faster than a column near the end of the row. I did some googling to find the PostgreSQL row format, but I failed to find it.

Instead I have decided to do the test to check if the query referencing the first column performs faster than the query referencing the last column.


I have created a broad table with 150 columns. I am frequently confronted with a table with over 100 columns in a production system, which is not good modelling.


SELECT 'CREATE TABLE test ('
      ||string_agg('t_'||i
      ||' varchar(10) default ''k'' ',', ')
      ||' )'
  FROM generate_series(1,150) AS a(i);


When you execute the above query, you get the following script:


CREATE TABLE test (

c_1 varchar(10) default 'k'

, c_2 varchar(10) default 'k'

, c_3 varchar(10) default 'k'

......

, c_149 varchar(10) default 'k' ,
c_150 varchar(10) default 'k'  );


Let's load some data into the table.


INSERT INTO test
SELECT 'AB' FROM GENERATE_SERIES(1,1000000);
SELECT * FROM test LIMIT 10;
VACUUM test;
SELECT PG_RELATION_SIZE('test');


Note that the table has default values so we can be sure that all columns contain something. The table I have just created is about 341 MB in size.


Let's do a count(*) and see how long it takes:


SELECT COUNT(*) FROM test;            --60.93  ms


Let's compare this to a count on the first column.


SELECT COUNT(C_1) FROM test;        --95.78  ms


We can see a small difference in performance. It seems that count(*) has to check for the existence of the row while count(C_1) has to check if a NULL value is fed to the aggregate or not. In case of NULL the value has to be ignored.


Now Let's see what happens if we access the 100th column. The time to do that differ significantly:

SELECT COUNT(C_100) FROM test;     --400 ms


The elapsed time has basically quadrupled. The performance is even worse if we do a count on the last column:


SELECT COUNT(C_150) FROM test;     --600 ms


Actually I fell off my chair after seeing the test result because I had not expected big difference. It is important to note that the query referencing the first column peforms about 6 (600/95) times faster than the query referencing the 150th column. I guess the PostgreSQL engine optimizes every access and thus avoids locating and reading columns that are not necessary for the processing. For example, the query SELECT COUNT(C_100) FROM test stops walking the row when the 100th column is located. SELECT COUNT(*) FROM test performs best because it does not have to check if a NULL vlaue is fed to the aggregate. We can infer that when tables have many columns and SQL statements frequently reference very few of the columns located at the end of the row, the overhead related to the position of the columns is noticeable.


Conclusion

When you design a table, place intensively accessed columns first. Be careful about making your tables too wide because you may run into performance issues. From a performance point of view, you should be careful to access only the columns that are really needed.


Addendum

In a recent data modelling project I worked on one of the modeling principles the data architect set up was to remove one to one entity relationship, which I think was a preposterous principle. The DA insisted that the one to one relationship could indicate that two entities actually belonged in the same entity. It is true that a one to one relationship should be rare in any relational database design. Very few one to one relationships exist in real life. However, there are use cases where the one to one relatioinship is necessary for database performance. Let's consider the following entity relationship diagram:



Logically two sample entities in the above diagram can be merged into one. But if the two entities have too many attributes (Let's say over 100 attributes), it would be a good idea not to integrate them. If we integrate them and access those columns near the end of the row, we may run into performance degradation.



   

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