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Home > Differences, Indexes, Optimization Performance > Clustered Indexes, Non Clustered Indexes & why?

Clustered Indexes, Non Clustered Indexes & why?


Creating Indexes on tables reduces the query retrieval time and increase the efficiency of SQL queries or statements fired against a database in SQL Server. Indexes are just like a Table of Contents in front side of the book or Index section at the back side of the book.

There are mainly 2 types of Indexes, CLUSTERED & NON-CLUSTERED index which can be created on a table.
– Clustered indexes are similar to a telephone directory where you search a person’s name alphabetically and get his phone number there only.
– Non Clustered indexes are similar to the Index of a book where you get the page number of the item you were searching for. Then turn to that page and read what you were looking for.

According to MS BOL one can create only one Clustered index & as many 249 Non Clustered indexes on a single table.

But why there is a need to create these indexes, what causes the fast retrival of data from the tables.
Let’s check this by creating a large table and creating these Indexes one by one and checking as we go one:

USE [AdventureWorks]
GO

select * from Sales.SalesOrderDetail -- Total 121317 records
select * from Production.Product -- Total 504 records

SELECT s.SalesOrderDetailID, s.SalesOrderID, s.ProductID, p.Name as ProductName, s.ModifiedDate
INTO IndexTestTable
FROM Sales.SalesOrderDetail s
JOIN Production.Product p
on p.ProductID = s.ProductID
GO

-- Test the table without any Indexes which is also a HEAP
SELECT TOP 10 * FROM IndexTestTable

--////////////////////////////////////////////////
--// Scenario 1 : When there is no Clustered Index
--////////////////////////////////////////////////
SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON
SET STATISTICS TIME ON
SELECT SalesOrderDetailID FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderDetailID = 60000
SET STATISTICS TIME OFF
SET STATISTICS PROFILE OFF
GO
CPU time = 15 ms,  elapsed time = 17 ms.
SELECT [SalesOrderDetailID] FROM [IndexTestTable] WHERE [SalesOrderDetailID]=@1
  |--Table Scan(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable]),
WHERE:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderDetailID]=[@1]))

It does a Table SCAN and takes 15ms of CPU time and elapsed time of 17ms. As the table is a HEAP so it will always SCAN the for matching rows in the entire table. To do a SEEK there must be an ordering of rows which can be done by putting a Primary key column which automatically creates a CLUSTERED INDEX OR creating a CLUSTERED INDEX explicitly shown below would do the ordering.

--// Create Clustered Index on SalesOrderDetailID column
CREATE UNIQUE CLUSTERED INDEX IDX_UCI_SalesOrderDetailID
	ON IndexTestTable (SalesOrderDetailID)
GO

--// Check with Clustered Index
SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON
SET STATISTICS TIME ON
SELECT SalesOrderDetailID FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderDetailID = 60000
SET STATISTICS TIME OFF
SET STATISTICS PROFILE OFF
GO
CPU time = 0 ms,  elapsed time = 1 ms.
SELECT [SalesOrderDetailID] FROM [IndexTestTable] WHERE [SalesOrderDetailID]=@1
  |--Clustered Index Seek(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[IDX_UCI_SalesOrderDetailID]),
SEEK:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderDetailID]=[@1]) ORDERED FORWARD)

Now as shown above this does a Clustered Index SEEK after the creation of CLUSTERED Index. After creating an Index the CPU time is reduced to 0ms from 15ms and Elapsed time to 1ms from 17ms. The following queries will also do the SEEK operation:

SELECT SalesOrderDetailID FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderDetailID > 60000
SELECT SalesOrderDetailID FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderDetailID > 60000 AND SalesOrderDetailID < 70000
SELECT SalesOrderDetailID FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderDetailID BETWEEN 60000 AND 70000

--////////////////////////////////////////////////////
--// Scenario 2 : When there is no Non-Clustered Index
--////////////////////////////////////////////////////
SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON
SET STATISTICS TIME ON
SELECT SalesOrderDetailID FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderID = 65000 AND ProductID = 711
SET STATISTICS TIME OFF
SET STATISTICS PROFILE OFF
GO
CPU time = 16 ms,  elapsed time = 15 ms.
SELECT [SalesOrderDetailID] FROM [IndexTestTable] WHERE [SalesOrderID]=@1 AND [ProductID]>@2
  |--Clustered Index Scan(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[IDX_UCI_SalesOrderDetailID]),
WHERE:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderID]=[@1]
AND [AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[ProductID]>CONVERT_IMPLICIT(int,[@2],0)))

Now, for every situation or query the query optimizer will not do SEEK. In first query the INDEX was created on SalesOrderDetailID column, so it will not do a SEEK if query is applied on other columns. You would need to create a another INDEX for those columns. But you can create only one CLUSTERED INDEX. But yes you can also create as many as 249 NONCLUSTERED INDEXES on a table, as shown below.

--// Create Non-Clustered Index on SalesOrderID & ProductID columns
CREATE NONCLUSTERED INDEX IDX_NCI_SalesOrderID_ProductID
	ON IndexTestTable (SalesOrderID, ProductID)
GO

--// Check with Non Clustered Index
SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON
SET STATISTICS TIME ON
SELECT SalesOrderDetailID FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderID = 65000 AND ProductID = 711
SET STATISTICS TIME OFF
SET STATISTICS PROFILE OFF
GO
CPU time = 0 ms,  elapsed time = 1 ms.
SELECT [SalesOrderDetailID] FROM [IndexTestTable] WHERE [SalesOrderID]=@1 AND [ProductID]>@2
  |--Index Seek(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[IDX_NCI_SalesOrderID_ProductID]),
SEEK:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderID]=[@1]
AND [AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[ProductID] >
CONVERT_IMPLICIT(int,[@2],0)) ORDERED FORWARD)

It does an Index SEEK, not Clustered Index SEEK. So this time it uses the NONCLUSTERED Index to SEEK the matching rows.

--//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
--// Scenario 3 : When there is no Non-Clustered Index with Included Columns
--//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON
SET STATISTICS TIME ON
SELECT ProductName FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderID = 65000 AND ProductID = 711
SET STATISTICS TIME OFF
SET STATISTICS PROFILE OFF
GO
CPU time = 0 ms,  elapsed time = 1 ms.
SELECT [ProductName] FROM [IndexTestTable] WHERE [SalesOrderID]=@1 AND [ProductID]=@2
  |--Nested Loops(Inner Join, OUTER REFERENCES:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderDetailID]))
       |--Index Seek(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[IDX_NCI_SalesOrderID_ProductID]),
SEEK:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderID]=(65000)
AND [AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[ProductID]=(711)) ORDERED FORWARD)
       |--Clustered Index Seek(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[IDX_UCI_SalesOrderDetailID]),
SEEK:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderDetailID]=
[AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderDetailID]) LOOKUP ORDERED FORWARD)

It still does an Index SEEK, no problem. Please note that it uses both the Indexes CLUSTERED & NONCLUSTERED.
But when you change the WHERE clause and increase the range of selected items then it does a Index SCAN.

SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON
SET STATISTICS TIME ON
SELECT ProductName FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderID > 57916 AND ProductID > 900
SET STATISTICS TIME OFF
SET STATISTICS PROFILE OFF
GO
CPU time = 32 ms,  elapsed time = 709 ms.
SELECT [ProductName] FROM [IndexTestTable] WHERE [SalesOrderID]>@1 AND [ProductID]>@2
  |--Clustered Index Scan(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[IDX_UCI_SalesOrderDetailID]),
WHERE:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderID]>(57916)
AND [AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[ProductID]>(900)))
--// Create NONCLUSTERED Covering Index on SalesOrderID, ProductID with Included Columns on SalesOrderDetailID
CREATE NONCLUSTERED INDEX IDX_NCCI_IndexTestTable_SalesOrderID_ProductID
	ON IndexTestTable (SalesOrderID, ProductID) INCLUDE (ProductName)
GO

SET STATISTICS PROFILE ON
SET STATISTICS TIME ON
SELECT ProductName FROM IndexTestTable WHERE SalesOrderID > 57916 AND ProductID > 900
SET STATISTICS TIME OFF
SET STATISTICS PROFILE OFF
GO
CPU time = 0 ms,  elapsed time = 654 ms.
SELECT [ProductName] FROM [IndexTestTable] WHERE [SalesOrderID]>@1
AND [ProductID]>@2
  |--Index Seek(OBJECT:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[IDX_NCCI_IndexTestTable_SalesOrderID_ProductID]),
SEEK:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[SalesOrderID] > (57916)),
WHERE:([AdventureWorks].[dbo].[IndexTestTable].[ProductID]>(900)) ORDERED FORWARD)

Now, again the query optimizer uses Index SEEK, but it uses the new NONCLUSTERED INDEX with INCLUDED column.

-- Final Cleanup
DROP TABLE IndexTestTable

Related MS BOL links: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa933131%28v=sql.80%29.aspx

BOL links for CLUSTERED Index vs NONCLUSTERED Index:-
http://www.devtoolshed.com/content/clustered-index-vs-non-clustered-index-sql-server
http://www.mssqlcity.com/FAQ/General/clustered_vs_nonclustered_indexes.htm
http://forums.devx.com/showthread.php?t=19018

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