Avoiding columns with duplicate keys

Duplicate keys in indexes can cause performance problems. You can take steps to avoid these problems.

When duplicate keys are permitted in an index, entries that match a given key value are grouped in lists. The database server uses these lists to locate rows that match a requested key value. When the selectivity of the index column is high, these lists are generally short. But when only a few unique values occur, the lists become long and can cross multiple leaf pages.

Placing an index on a column that has low selectivity (that is, a small number of distinct values relative to the number of rows) can reduce performance. In such cases, the database server must not only search the entire set of rows that match the key value, but it must also lock all the affected data and index pages. This process can impede the performance of other update requests as well.

To correct this problem, replace the index on the low-selectivity column with a composite index that has a higher selectivity. Use the low-selectivity column as the leading column and a high-selectivity column as your second column in the index. The composite index limits the number of rows that the database server must search to locate and apply an update.

You can use any second column to disperse the key values as long as its value does not change, or changes at the same time as the real key. The shorter the second column the better, because its values are copied into the index and expand its size.


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