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- Use The Index, Luke
This section is about a popular obfuscation that affects concatenated indexes.
The first example is again about date and time types but the other way around. The following MySQL query combines a data and a time column to apply a range filter on both of them.
SELECT ... FROM ... WHERE ADDTIME(date_column, time_column) > DATE_ADD(now(), INTERVAL -1 DAY)
It selects all records from the last 24 hours. The query cannot use a concatenated index on (
TIME_COLUMN) properly because the search is not done on the indexed columns but on derived data.
You can avoid this problem by using a data type that has both a date and time component (e.g., MySQL
DATETIME). You can then use this column without a function call:
SELECT ... FROM ... WHERE datetime_column > DATE_ADD(now(), INTERVAL -1 DAY)
Unfortunately it is often not possible to change the table when facing this problem.
It is still possible to write the query so that the database can use a concatenated index on
TIME_COLUMN with an access predicate—at least partially. For that, we add an extra condition on the
WHERE ADDTIME(date_column, time_column) > DATE_ADD(now(), INTERVAL -1 DAY) AND date_column >= DATE(DATE_ADD(now(), INTERVAL -1 DAY))
The new condition is absolutely redundant but it is a straight filter on
DATE_COLUMN that can be used as access predicate. Even though this technique is not perfect, it is usually a good enough approximation.
You can also use this technique when storing date and time in text columns, but you have to use date and time formats that yields a chronological order when sorted lexically—e.g., as suggested by ISO 8601 (
YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS). The following example uses the Oracle database’s
TO_CHAR function for that purpose:
SELECT ... FROM ... WHERE date_string || time_string > TO_CHAR(sysdate - 1, 'YYYY-MM-DD HH24:MI:SS') AND date_string >= TO_CHAR(sysdate - 1, 'YYYY-MM-DD')
We will face the problem of applying a range condition over multiple columns again in the section entitled “Paging Through Results”. We’ll also use the same approximation method to mitigate it.
Sometimes we have the reverse case and might want to obfuscate a condition intentionally so it cannot be used anymore as access predicate. We already looked at that problem when discussing the effects of bind parameters on
LIKE conditions. Consider the following example:
SELECT last_name, first_name, employee_id FROM employees WHERE subsidiary_id = ? AND last_name LIKE ?
Assuming there is an index on
SUBSIDIARY_ID and another one on
LAST_NAME, which one is better for this query?
Without knowing the wildcard’s position in the search term, it is impossible to give a qualified answer. The optimizer has no other choice than to “guess”. If you know that there is always a leading wildcard, you can obfuscate the
LIKE condition intentionally so that the optimizer can no longer consider the index on
SELECT last_name, first_name, employee_id FROM employees WHERE subsidiary_id = ? AND last_name || '' LIKE ?
It is enough to append an empty string to the
LAST_NAME column. This is, however, an option of last resort. Only do it when absolutely necessary.