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Improve the performance of a query that uses ” like ‘%String%’ ” changing only the collation

Hi Folks,

In this blog post, I will give you a very useful tip to improve the performance of a query that uses ” like ‘%String%’ “.

How often do you have to use a query like this?

Reading the great book SQL Server 2012 Internals, on page 230, we have:

“Another case where the collation can make a huge difference is when SQL Server has to look at almost all characters in the strings. For instance, look at the following:

SELECT COUNT(*) FROM tbl WHERE longcol like ‘%abc%’

This might execute 10 time faster or more with a binary collation than a nonbinary Windows colation. Also, with varchar data, this executes up to seven or eight times faster with a SQL collation than with a Windows collation. If you have a varchar column, you can speed this up by forcing the collation as follows:

SELECT COUNT(*) from tbl
WHERE longcol COLLATE SQL_Latin1_Genneral_CP_CI_AS LIKE ‘%abc%’ “

That’s a very important information. Let’s do some tests and see what’s happen.

I will create a table with a varchar column and populate it with a lot of data.

Now, I will insert two rows with my name to search later:

Then I will create a index to try do help my query, just like everyone do:

The size of the table is:

Now I will enable this option to compare the results

I also enable the Actual Execution Plan to see what’s SQL doing: CTRL+M

My instance has this Windows Collation: Latin1_General_CI_AI

My Database and Column also has the same Collation: Latin1_General_CI_AI

Test 1: Using my default Windows Collation: Latin1_General_CI_AI
The results é two rows and this query took 45 secods to finish. It’s not cache problems because I’ve executed it three times.

Reads
Table ‘Test_Collation_SQL’. Scan count 9, logical reads 373572

CPU Time
SQL Server Execution Times:
CPU time = 348922 ms,  elapsed time = 45679 ms.

Teste 2: Forcing a SQL Server collation and searching the same thing
The results is two rows and this query took only 5 secods!!! Amazing!!! Unbelievable!!! It’s like magic!!

Reads
Table ‘Test_Collation_SQL’. Scan count 9, logical reads 374622

CPU Time
SQL Server Execution Times:
CPU time = 37265 ms,  elapsed time = 5300 ms.

The logical reads is almost the same, but we have a huge difference in the CPU Time.

The two queries have the same execution Plan doing a Scan on the index SK01_Test_Collation_SQL and working on parallel.

Results

Windows Collation: 45 seconds and 348922 ms of CPU time

SQL Collation: 5 seconds and  37265 ms of CPU time

Unbelievable!!!

Why does it happen?

This article help us to understand:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/322112/comparing-sql-collations-to-windows-collations

If you are storing and handling your data by using non-Unicode data types (char, varchar, text), and you are using a SQL collation, string comparisons will be performed with a non-Unicode SQL sort order.

If you are storing and handling your data by using non-Unicode data types (char, varchar, text), and you are using a Windows collation, string comparisons will be performed with the Unicode sorting rules. This may cause certain operations that are unusually dependent on string sorting performance to take longer and to use more CPU than a similar operation that is performed with a SQL collation.

I did another test with more data and the results are:

Windows Collation: 1 minute and 48 seconds

SQL Collation: 12 seconds

It’s like a magic! A huge difference!!

Enjoy and share with your friends…

Thanks to my friend Edvaldo (Blog) for the revision of the text.

Fabrício França Lima

MCITP – Database Administrator

2 thoughts on “Improve the performance of a query that uses ” like ‘%String%’ ” changing only the collation

  1. The article in English is a great job! But when I saw the call I thought I’d see an equal video had in Portuguese! rsrsrs Congratulations!

    Next steps videos in english. \o/

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