How to Use SQL Server Missing Indexes

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SQL Server provides an approach that can help you find useful indexes for your existing queries. This option, called the Missing Indexes feature, does not require the database administrator to decide when tuning is needed, to explicitly identify what workload represents the load to tune, or to run any tool. This lightweight feature — introduced with SQL Server 2005 — is always on. Let’s take a look at what it does.

During optimization, the query optimizer defines what the best indexes for a query are and, if these indexes don’t exist, it will make this index information available in the query XML plan (which is also available in a graphical plan in SQL Server Management Studio 2008 or later). Alternatively, it will aggregate this information for queries optimized since the instance was started, and make it all available on the sys.dm_db_missing_index DMVs. Note that just by displaying this information, the query optimizer is not only warning you that it might not be selecting an efficient plan; it is also showing you which indexes may help to improve the performance of your query.

So, with all that in mind, let’s take a quick look to see how this feature works. Create the dbo.SalesOrderDetail table on the AdventureWorks2012 database by running the following statement:

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Run this query and request a graphical or XML execution plan:

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This query could benefit from an index on the SalesOrderID and SalesOrderDetailID columns, but no missing indexes information is shown this time. One limitation of the Missing Indexes feature that this example has revealed is that it does not work with a trivial plan optimization. You can verify that this is a trivial plan by looking at the graphical plan properties, shown as Optimization Level TRIVIAL, or by looking at the XML plan, where the StatementOptmLevel is shown as TRIVIAL. You can avoid the trivial plan optimization in several ways. In our case, we’re just going to create a nonrelated index by running the following statement:

CREATE INDEX IX_ProductID ON dbo.SalesOrderDetail(ProductID)

What is significant about this is that, although the index created will not be used by our previous query, the query no longer qualifies for a trivial plan. Run the query again, and this time the XML plan will contain the following entry:

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