Optimization and Best Practices

This topic explains some best practices of working with SQream.

See also our Monitoring query performance guide for more information.

Table Design

This section describes best practices and guidelines for designing tables.

Using Date and Datetime Types for Columns

When creating tables with dates or timestamps, using the purpose-built DATE and DATETIME types over integer types or VARCHAR will bring performance and storage footprint improvements, and in many cases huge performance improvements (as well as data integrity benefits). SQream stores dates and datetimes very efficiently and can strongly optimize queries using these specific types.

Shortening VARCHAR Length

With the VARCHAR type, the length has a direct effect on query performance.

If the size of your column is predictable, by defining an appropriate column length (no longer than the maximum actual value) you will get the following benefits:

  • Data loading issues can be identified more quickly

  • SQream can reserve less memory for decompression operations

  • Third-party tools that expect a data size are less likely to over-allocate memory

Avoiding Flattening or Denormalizing Data

SQream executes JOIN operations very effectively. It is almost always better to JOIN tables at query-time rather than flatten/denormalize your tables.

This will also reduce storage size and reduce row-lengths.

We highly suggest using INT or BIGINT as join keys, rather than a text/string type.

Converting Foreign Tables to Native Tables

SQream’s native storage is heavily optimized for analytic workloads. It is always faster for querying than other formats, even columnar ones such as Parquet. It also enables the use of additional metadata to help speed up queries, in some cases by many orders of magnitude.

You can improve the performance of all operations by converting foreign tables into native tables by using the CREATE TABLE AS syntax.

For example,

CREATE TABLE native_table AS SELECT * FROM external_table

The one situation when this wouldn’t be as useful is when data will be only queried once.

Leverating Column Data Information

Knowing the data types and their ranges can help design a better table.

Identifying Relevance of Setting NULL or NOT NULL Values

For example, if a value cannot be omitted (or NULL), you must specify a NOT NULL constraint on the columns.

In addition to saving data storage, specifying NOT NULL informs the query compiler that a column cannot have a NULL value, which can improve query performance.

Shortening VARCHAR Length

Although long strings do not affect storage, they require a lot of memory while queries are being run. If a column’s string length is less than 50 characters, specify VARCHAR(50) rather than an arbitrarily large number.

Sorting Data

Sorting data is an important factor in minimizing storage size and improving query performance for the following reasons:

  • Minimizing storage saves on physical resources and increases performance by reducing overall disk I/O. Prioritize the sorting of low-cardinality columns. This reduces the number of chunks and extents that SQream reads during query execution.

  • Where possible, sort columns with the lowest cardinality first. Avoid sorting VARCHAR and TEXT columns with lengths exceeding 50 characters.

  • For longer-running queries that run on a regular basis, performance can be improved by sorting data based on the WHERE and GROUP BY parameters. Data can be sorted during insert by using Foreign Tables or by using CREATE TABLE AS.

Best Practices for Writing SQL Queries

This section describes best practices for writing SQL queries.

Reducing Data Sets Before Joining Tables

Reducing the input to a JOIN clause can increase performance. Some queries benefit from retreiving a reduced dataset as a subquery prior to a join, as shown in the following example:

SELECT store_name, SUM(amount)
FROM store_dim AS dim INNER JOIN store_fact AS fact ON dim.store_id=fact.store_id
WHERE p_date BETWEEN '2018-07-01' AND '2018-07-31'

This can be rewritten as follows:

SELECT store_name, sum_amount
FROM store_dim AS dim INNER JOIN
   (SELECT SUM(amount) AS sum_amount, store_id
   FROM store_fact
   WHERE p_date BETWEEN '2018-07-01' AND '2018-07-31'
   group by 2) AS fact
ON dim.store_id=fact.store_id;

Using an ANSI JOIN

SQream prefers the ANSI JOIN syntax. In some cases ANSI JOINs performs better than the non-ANSI variety, as shown in the following example:

ANSI JOIN will perform better
SELECT p.name, s.name, c.name
FROM  "Products" AS p
JOIN  "Sales" AS s
  ON  p.product_id = s.sale_id
JOIN  "Customers" as c
  ON  s.c_id = c.id AND c.id = 20301125;

SQream supports the following non-ANSI JOIN, but does not recommend using it:

Non-ANSI JOIN may not perform well
SELECT p.name, s.name, c.name
FROM "Products" AS p, "Sales" AS s, "Customers" as c
WHERE p.product_id = s.sale_id
  AND s.c_id = c.id
  AND c.id = 20301125;

Using a High Selectivity Hint

Selectivity is the ratio of cardinality to the number of records of a chunk. Selectivity is defined as :math:`\frac{\text{Distinct values}}{\text{Total number of records in a chunk}}`.

SQream employees a hint function called HIGH_SELECTIVITY, which is a function that can be used for wrapping a condition. The hint signals to SQream that the result of the condition is very sparse and to rechunk the results into fewer, fuller chunks.

SQream recommends using the high selectivity hint when you expect a predicate to filter out most values, such as when data is dispersed over many chunks, indicating that the data has not been optimally clustered.

The following example shows data that is not clustered optimally:

SELECT store_name, SUM(amount) FROM store_dim
WHERE HIGH_SELECTIVITY(p_date = '2018-07-01')

This hint tells the query compiler that the WHERE condition is expected to filter out more than 60% of values. While it does not affect query results, using it correctly can improve query performance.


The HIGH_SELECTIVITY() hint function can only be used as part of the WHERE clause and cannot be used in equijoin conditions, cases, or in the select list.

For more information about identifying scenarios for the high selectivity hint, see the Monitoring Query Performance Guide.

For more information about optimal data clustering, see not well-clustered).

Casting Smaller Types to Avoid Aggregate Overflow

When using an INT or smaller type, the SUM and COUNT operations return a value of the same type. To avoid overflow on large results, cast the column up to a larger type, as shown in the following example:

SELECT store_name, SUM(amount :: BIGINT) FROM store_dim

Preferring COUNT(*) and COUNT on Non-Nullable Columns

SQream optimizes COUNT(*) queries very strongly. This also applies to COUNT(column_name) on non-nullable columns. Using COUNT(column_name) on a nullable column operate quickly, but much slower than the previous variations.

Returning Only Required Columns

Returning only the columns you need to client programs can improve overall query performance. This also reduces the overall result set, which can improve performance in third-party tools.

SQream is able to optimize out unneeded columns very strongly due to its columnar storage.

Using Saved Queries to Reduce Recurring Compilation Duration

Saved Queries are compiled when they are created. The query plan is saved in SQream’s metadata for later re-use.

Because the query plan is saved, they can be used to reduce compilation overhead, especially with very complex queries, such as queries with lots of values in an IN predicate.

When executed, the saved query plan is recalled and executed on the up-to-date data stored on disk.

See how to use saved queries in the saved queries guide.

Pre-Filtering to Reduce JOIN Complexity

The following is the correct syntax for pre-filtering to reduce JOIN complexity by filtering and reducing table sizes before joining them:

SELECT store_name,
FROM dimention dim
  JOIN fact ON dim.store_id = fact.store_id
WHERE p_date BETWEEN '2019-07-01' AND '2019-07-31'
GROUP BY store_name;

The example above can be rewritten as follows:

SELECT store_name,
FROM dimention AS dim
  INNER JOIN (SELECT SUM(amount) AS sum_amount,
              FROM fact
              WHERE p_date BETWEEN '2019-07-01' AND '2019-07-31'
              GROUP BY store_id) AS fact ON dim.store_id = fact.store_id;

For more information about reducing JOIN complexity, see JOIN.

Data Loading Considerations

Enabling and Using Natural Data Sorting

Tabular data is often naturally ordered along a dimension, such as a timestamp or area. This natural order is a major factor for query performance during later stages, as data that is naturally sorted can be more easily compressed and analyzed with SQream’s metadata collection.

For example, when data is sorted by timestamp, filtering on this timestamp is more effective than filtering on an unordered column. Natural ordering can also be used for effective DELETE operations.

For more information about Delete operations, see delete operations.

Further Reading and Monitoring Query Performance

For more information about built-in monitoring utilities, see the Monitoring query performance guide. The Monitoring Query Performance Guide also gives concerete examples for improving query performance.