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Understanding Plan Guides

This topic describes plan guides and explains how they can be used to optimize the performance of queries when you cannot or do not want to change the text of the query directly. Plan guides can be useful when a small subset of queries in a database application deployed from a third-party vendor are not performing as expected. Plan guides influence optimization of queries by attaching query hints or a fixed query plan to them. In the plan guide, you specify the Transact-SQL statement that you want optimized and either an OPTION clause that contains the query hints you want to use or a specific query plan you want to use to optimize the query. When the query executes, SQL Server matches the Transact-SQL statement to the plan guide and attaches the OPTION clause to the query at run time or uses the specified query plan.

NoteNote

Plan guides can be used only on the SQL Server Standard, Developer, Evaluation, Web, and Enterprise editions; however, plan guides are visible in any edition. You can also attach a database that contains plan guides to any edition. Plan guides remain intact when you restore or attach a database to an upgraded version of SQL Server 2008.

Plan guides can be created to match queries that are executed in the following contexts:

  • An OBJECT plan guide matches queries that execute in the context of Transact-SQL stored procedures, scalar user-defined functions, multi-statement table-valued user-defined functions, and DML triggers.

  • An SQL plan guide matches queries that execute in the context of stand-alone Transact-SQL statements and batches that are not part of a database object. SQL-based plan guides can also be used to match queries that parameterize to a specified form.

  • A TEMPLATE plan guide matches stand-alone queries that parameterize to a specified form. These plan guides are used to override the current PARAMETERIZATION database SET option of a database for a class of queries. For more information, see Simple Parameterization and Forced Parameterization.

For more information, see How SQL Server Matches Plan Guides to Queries.

OBJECT Plan Guides

Suppose the following stored procedure, which takes the @Country_region parameter, exists in a database application that is deployed against the AdventureWorks2008R2 database:

CREATE PROCEDURE Sales.GetSalesOrderByCountry (@Country_region nvarchar(60))
AS
BEGIN
    SELECT *
    FROM Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS h, Sales.Customer AS c, 
        Sales.SalesTerritory AS t
    WHERE h.CustomerID = c.CustomerID
        AND c.TerritoryID = t.TerritoryID
        AND CountryRegionCode = @Country_region
END;

Assume that this stored procedure has been compiled and optimized for @Country_region = N'AU' (Australia). However, because there are relatively few sales orders that originate from Australia, performance suffers when the query executes using parameter values of countries with more sales orders. Because the most sales orders originate in the United States, a query plan that is generated for @Country_region = N'US' would likely perform better for all possible values of the @Country_region parameter.

You could address this problem by modifying the stored procedure to add the OPTIMIZE FOR query hint to the query. However, because the stored procedure is in a deployed application, you cannot directly modify the application code. Instead, you can create the following plan guide in the AdventureWorks2008R2 database.

sp_create_plan_guide 
@name = N'Guide1',
@stmt = N'SELECT *FROM Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS h,
        Sales.Customer AS c,
        Sales.SalesTerritory AS t
        WHERE h.CustomerID = c.CustomerID 
            AND c.TerritoryID = t.TerritoryID
            AND CountryRegionCode = @Country_region',
@type = N'OBJECT',
@module_or_batch = N'Sales.GetSalesOrderByCountry',
@params = NULL,
@hints = N'OPTION (OPTIMIZE FOR (@Country_region = N''US''))'

When the query specified in the sp_create_plan_guide statement executes, the query is modified before optimization to include the OPTIMIZE FOR (@Country = N''US'') clause.

SQL Plan Guides

SQL plan guides apply to stand-alone Transact-SQL statements and batches. Frequently, these statements are submitted by an application by using the sp_executesql system stored procedure. For example, consider the following stand-alone batch:

SELECT TOP 1 * FROM Sales.SalesOrderHeader ORDER BY OrderDate DESC;

To prevent a parallel execution plan from being generated on this query, create the following plan guide and set the MAXDOP query hint to 1 in the @hints parameter.

sp_create_plan_guide 
@name = N'Guide2', 
@stmt = N'SELECT TOP 1 * FROM Sales.SalesOrderHeader ORDER BY OrderDate DESC',
@type = N'SQL',
@module_or_batch = NULL, 
@params = NULL, 
@hints = N'OPTION (MAXDOP 1)';
NoteNote

The batch that contains the statement on which you want to create a plan guide cannot contain a USE database statement.

Important noteImportant

The values that are supplied for the @module_or_batch and @params arguments of the sp_create_plan guide statement must match the corresponding text submitted in the actual query. For more information, see sp_create_plan_guide (Transact-SQL) and Using SQL Server Profiler to Create and Test Plan Guides.

SQL plan guides can also be created on queries that parameterize to the same form when the PARAMETERIZATION database option is SET to FORCED, or when a TEMPLATE plan guide is created specifying that a parameterized class of queries. For more information, see Designing Plan Guides for Parameterized Queries.

TEMPLATE Plan Guides

TEMPLATE plan guides are used to override the parameterization behavior for specific query forms. You can create a TEMPLATE plan guide in either of the following situations:

  • The PARAMETERIZATION database option is SET to FORCED, but there are queries you want compiled according to the rules of simple parameterization.

  • The PARAMETERIZATION database option is SET to SIMPLE (the default setting), but you want forced parameterization to be attempted on a class of queries.

For more information, see Specifying Query Parameterization Behavior by Using Plan Guides.

The following example creates a plan guide that matches any query that parameterizes to a specified form, and directs SQL Server to force parameterization of the query. The following two queries are syntactically equivalent, but differ only in their constant literal values.

SELECT * FROM AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS h
INNER JOIN AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderDetail AS d 
    ON h.SalesOrderID = d.SalesOrderID
WHERE h.SalesOrderID = 45639;

SELECT * FROM AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS h
INNER JOIN AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderDetail AS d 
    ON h.SalesOrderID = d.SalesOrderID
WHERE h.SalesOrderID = 45640;

Here is the plan guide on the parameterized form of the query:

EXEC sp_create_plan_guide 
    @name = N'TemplateGuide1',
    @stmt = N'SELECT * FROM AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS h
              INNER JOIN AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderDetail AS d 
                  ON h.SalesOrderID = d.SalesOrderID
              WHERE h.SalesOrderID = @0',
    @type = N'TEMPLATE',
    @module_or_batch = NULL,
    @params = N'@0 int',
    @hints = N'OPTION(PARAMETERIZATION FORCED)';

In the previous example, the value for the @stmt parameter is the parameterized form of the query. The only reliable way to obtain this value for use in sp_create_plan_guide is to use the sp_get_query_template system stored procedure. The following script can be used both to obtain the parameterized query and then create a plan guide on it.

DECLARE @stmt nvarchar(max);
DECLARE @params nvarchar(max);
EXEC sp_get_query_template 
    N'SELECT * FROM AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS h
      INNER JOIN AdventureWorks2008R2.Sales.SalesOrderDetail AS d 
          ON h.SalesOrderID = d.SalesOrderID
      WHERE h.SalesOrderID = 45639;',
    @stmt OUTPUT, 
    @params OUTPUT
EXEC sp_create_plan_guide N'TemplateGuide1', 
    @stmt, 
    N'TEMPLATE', 
    NULL, 
    @params, 
    N'OPTION(PARAMETERIZATION FORCED)';
Important noteImportant

The value of the constant literals in the @stmt parameter passed to sp_get_query_template might affect the data type that is chosen for the parameter that replaces the literal. This will affect plan guide matching. You may have to create more than one plan guide to handle different parameter value ranges.

You can also use TEMPLATE plan guides together with SQL plan guides. For example, you can create a TEMPLATE plan guide to make sure that a class of queries is parameterized. You can then create an SQL plan guide on the parameterized form of that query.

You can apply a fixed query plan to a plan guide of type OBJECT or SQL. Plan guides that apply a fixed query plan are useful when you know about an existing execution plan that performs better than the one selected by the optimizer for a particular query.

The following example creates a plan guide for a simple ad hoc SQL statement. The desired query plan for this statement is provided in the plan guide by specifying the XML Showplan for the query directly in the @hints parameter. The example first executes the SQL statement to generate a plan in the plan cache. For the purposes of this example, it is assumed that the generated plan is the desired plan and no additional query tuning is required. The XML Showplan for the query is obtained by querying the sys.dm_exec_query_stats, sys.dm_exec_sql_text, and sys.dm_exec_text_query_plan dynamic management views and is assigned to the @xml_showplan variable. The @xml_showplan variable is then passed to the sp_create_plan_guide statement in the @hints parameter. Or, you can create a plan guide from a query plan in the plan cache by using the sp_create_plan_guide_from_handle stored procedure.

USE AdventureWorks2008R2;
GO
SELECT City, StateProvinceID, PostalCode FROM Person.Address ORDER BY PostalCode DESC;
GO
DECLARE @xml_showplan nvarchar(max);
SET @xml_showplan = (SELECT query_plan
    FROM sys.dm_exec_query_stats AS qs 
    CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(qs.sql_handle) AS st
    CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_text_query_plan(qs.plan_handle, DEFAULT, DEFAULT) AS qp
    WHERE st.text LIKE N'SELECT City, StateProvinceID, PostalCode FROM Person.Address ORDER BY PostalCode DESC;%');

EXEC sp_create_plan_guide 
    @name = N'Guide1_from_XML_showplan', 
    @stmt = N'SELECT City, StateProvinceID, PostalCode FROM Person.Address ORDER BY PostalCode DESC;', 
    @type = N'SQL',
    @module_or_batch = NULL, 
    @params = NULL, 
    @hints = @xml_showplan;
GO

We recommend re-evaluating and testing plan guide definitions when you upgrade your application to a new release of SQL Server. Performance tuning requirements and plan guide matching behavior may change. Although an invalid plan guide will not cause a query to fail, the plan is compiled without using the plan guide and may not be the best choice. After upgrading a database to SQL Server 2008, we recommend that you perform the following tasks:

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