Example of a join with indexes

The presence of indexes and constraints in query plans provides the optimizer with options that can greatly improve query-execution time.

This topic shows the outline of a query plan that differs from query shown in Example of a join with column filters, because it is constructed using indexes.
Figure 1. Query plan with indexes
for each row in the customer table do:
   read the row into C
   look up C.customer_num in index on orders.customer_num
   for each matching row in the orders index do:
      read the table row for O
      if O.paid_date is null then
         look up O.order_num in index on items.order_num
         for each matching row in the items index do:
            read the row for I
            construct output row and return to user
         end for
      end if
   end for
end for
The keys in an index are sorted so that when the database server finds the first matching entry, it can read any other rows with identical keys without further searching, because they are located in physically adjacent positions. This query plan reads only the following rows:
  • All rows of the customer table once
  • All rows of the orders table once (because each order is associated with only one customer)
  • Only rows in the items table that match pdnull rows from the customer-orders pairs

This query plan achieves a great reduction in cost compared with plans that do not use indexes. An inverse plan, reading orders first and looking up rows in the customer table by its index, is also feasible by the same reasoning.

The physical order of rows in a table also affects the cost of index use. To the degree that a table is ordered relative to an index, the overhead of accessing multiple table rows in index order is reduced. For example, if the orders table rows are physically ordered according to the customer number, multiple retrievals of orders for a given customer would proceed more rapidly than if the table were ordered randomly.

In some cases, using an index might incur additional costs. For more information, see Index lookup costs.

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