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How to create fast database queries

NOT IN vs. NOT EXISTS vs. LEFT JOIN / IS NULL: Oracle

with 2 comments

Which method is best to select values present in one table but missing in another one?

This:

SELECT  l.*
FROM    t_left l
LEFT JOIN
        t_right r
ON      r.value = l.value
WHERE   r.value IS NULL

, this:

SELECT  l.*
FROM    t_left l
WHERE   l.value NOT IN
        (
        SELECT  value
        FROM    t_right r
        )

or this:

SELECT  l.*
FROM    t_left l
WHERE   NOT EXISTS
        (
        SELECT  NULL
        FROM    t_right r
        WHERE   r.value = l.value
        )

Today, we will see how Oracle copes with these queries.

And to do this, we, of course, should create sample tables:


Table creation script

Table t_left contains 100,000 rows with 10,000 distinct values.

Table t_right contains 1,000,000 rows with 10,000 distinct values.

There are 10 rows in t_left with values not present in t_right.

In both tables the field value is indexed.

LEFT JOIN / IS NULL

SELECT  l.value, l.id
FROM    t_left l
LEFT JOIN
        t_right r
ON      r.value = l.value
WHERE   r.value IS NULL

View query results and execution plan

This execution plan is quite interesting.

First, Oracle's optimizer, unlike SQL Server's one, is smart enough to see an opportunity to use ANTI JOIN for such a query.

Since all rows from t_left should be examined, Oracle decided to use a HASH ANTI JOIN to do this: a hash table is built over the values from t_right, eliminating duplicates, and every row from t_left is searched for in the hash table. Rows not found in the hash table are returned; those that are found are not.

Second, Oracle decided to optimize the query yet a little.

In the table we actually have three fields: id (a PRIMARY KEY), value we are searching for, and stuffing. The latter field is a VARCHAR(200) and filled with asterisks. This field emulates values in actual tables that makes the tables large in size.

Since the tables in Oracle are heap organized by default, no index contains values of both id and value.

However, there are two indexes that contain them separately: the index on value created explicitly, and the index on id created implicitly to police the PRIMARY KEY.

This indexes, even taken together, are still much smaller than the table itself. And that's why Oracle decided to retrieve the values not from the table but from the indexes joined on rowid.

Indeed, each of the index records corresponds to a record in the table. And index record contains a rowid: a pointer to the original record in the table. Having equal rowid's means belonging to the same row. And rowid is of course unique in each index, since one table record corresponds to exactly one index record.

Since we don't use other columns except id and value, these two indexes contain all information we need. And joining them, though takes some extra time, is still faster than scanning the whole table (which as we know is quite large and occupies a lot of data blocks).

The HASH JOIN we see in the plan does the things described above. Here are the steps it performs:

  1. First, it scans one of the two indexes with FAST FULL SCAN. This scan methods is faster since it does not follow the B-Tree links but instead just reads all index pages sequentially. This does not preserve the index order but we don't need it anyway.
  2. Then it builds a hash table from the index records read on step 1 (using ROWID's of the records as a hash condition)
  3. Finally, it reads the second index (again, with a FAST FULL SCAN) and probes it against the hash table

This results in the same rowset of (id, value) we would obtain had we scanned the table, only the HASH JOIN method is faster.

The query completes in 0.27 s.

NOT IN

SELECT  l.id, l.value
FROM    t_left l
WHERE   value NOT IN
        (
        SELECT  value
        FROM    t_right
        )

View query results and execution plan

NOT IN is exactly what ANTI JOIN is designed for, that's why it's no surprise to see that Oracle uses ANTI JOIN for NOT IN.

NOT IN is semantically different from the LEFT JOIN / IS NULL and NOT EXISTS since its logic is trivalent and filtering on it will never return anything if there are NULL values in the list.

This behaviour was explained in the first article of the series (that concerning SQL Server) and this is a reason why PostgreSQL is reluctant to use an Anti Join for NOT IN.

However, Oracle is able to take into account the fact that t_right.value is declared as NOT NULL, and, therefore, NOT IN is semantically equivalent to LEFT JOIN / IS NULL and NOT EXISTS. And Oracle uses exactly same plan for NOT IN, with an ANTI JOIN and a HASH JOIN to get (id, value) for t_left.

The query completes in 0.28 s, same as for LEFT JOIN / IS NULL.

NOT EXISTS

SELECT  l.id, l.value
FROM    t_left l
WHERE   NOT EXISTS
        (
        SELECT  value
        FROM    t_right r
        WHERE   r.value = l.value
        )

View query results and execution plan

Guess what?

Same execution plan, same results, same performance.

The query completes in 0.28 s.

Summary

Oracle's optimizer is able to see that NOT EXISTS, NOT IN and LEFT JOIN / IS NULL are semantically equivalent as long as the list values are declared as NOT NULL.

It uses same execution plan for all three methods, and they yield same results in same time.

In Oracle, it is safe to use any method of the three described above to select values from a table that are missing in another table.

However, if the values are not guaranteed to be NOT NULL, LEFT JOIN / IS NULL or NOT EXISTS should be used rather than NOT IN, since the latter will produce different results depending on whether or not there are NULL values in the subquery resultset.

Written by Quassnoi

September 17th, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Oracle

2 Responses to 'NOT IN vs. NOT EXISTS vs. LEFT JOIN / IS NULL: Oracle'

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  1. This is great stuff, thanks.

    KJ

    26 Jan 13 at 08:20

  2. Awesome! They are fully considered. Thanks for sharing.

    RS

    31 Jan 13 at 09:48

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