Things SQL Server vNext Should Address: Optional Parameters


This issue is one that could be linked to other times when the optimizer defers certain portions of optimization to later stages. It’s also something that could lead to complications, because the end result is multiple execution plans for the same query.

But it goes back to a couple basic approaches to query writing that I think people need to keep in mind: write single purpose queries, and things that make your job easier make the optimizer’s job harder.

A good example of a multi-purpose query is a merge statement. It’s like throwing SQL Server a knuckleball.


Another example of a knuckleball is this knucklehead pattern:

FROM dbo.Posts AS p
WHERE (p.OwnerUserId   = @OwnerUserId OR @OwnerUserId IS NULL)
AND   (p.CreationDate >= @CreationDate OR @CreationDate IS NULL);

FROM dbo.Posts AS p
WHERE (p.OwnerUserId   = ISNULL(@OwnerUserId, p.OwnerUserId))
AND   (p.CreationDate >= ISNULL(@CreationDate, p.CreationDate));

FROM dbo.Posts AS p
WHERE (p.OwnerUserId   = COALESCE(@OwnerUserId, p.OwnerUserId))
AND   (p.CreationDate >= COALESCE(@CreationDate, p.CreationDate))

I hate seeing this, because I know how many bad things can happen as a result of this.

One example I love is creating these two indexes and running the first query up there.

CREATE INDEX onesie ON dbo.Posts(OwnerUserId, Score, CreationDate);
CREATE INDEX threesie ON dbo.Posts(ParentId, OwnerUserId);

The optimizer chooses the wrong index — the one that starts with ParentId — even though the query is clearly looking for a potential equality predicate on OwnerUserId.

SQL Server Query Plan


It would be nice if the optimizer did more to sniff out NULL values here to come up with more stable plans for the non-NULL values, essentially doing the job that dynamic SQL does by only adding predicates to the where clause when they’re not NULL.

It doesn’t have to look further at actual values on compilation, because that’s essentially a RECOMPILE hint on every query.

Thanks for reading!

Going Further

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