Chapter 2. Sanity Checks

And can you, by no drift of circumstance, Get from him why he puts on this confusion, Grating so harshly all his days of quiet With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?

—William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Hamlet, III, 1

BEFORE ENGAGING IN SERIOUS REFACTORING WORK, YOU SHOULD CHECK SEVERAL POINTS, PARTICULARLY if there are a significant number of big, costly queries. Sometimes gross mistakes that are easy to fix have slipped in because of time pressures, ignorance, or a simple misunderstanding about how a DBMS works. In this chapter, I will discuss a number of points that you should control and, if necessary, correct, before you take reference performance measurements for a refactoring campaign. With any luck (I am lazy), refactoring may seem less urgent afterward.

One of the most critical aspects of DBMS performance with regard to unitary queries is the efficiency of the query optimizer (unfortunately, the optimizer cannot do much for poor algorithms). The optimizer bases its search for the best execution plan on a number of clues: typically, what the data dictionary says about existing indexes. But it also derives its choice of plan from what it knows about the data—that is, statistics that are stored in the data dictionary, the collection of which is usually a routine part of database administration. Or should be.

There are two things to check before anything else when you encounter performance issues on particular queries: whether statistics are reasonably ...

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