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Best Practices for Indexing

This document introduces some best practices for creating and using indexes in TiDB.

Before you begin

This section takes the books table in the bookshop database as an example.

CREATE TABLE `books` (
  `id` bigint(20) AUTO_RANDOM NOT NULL,
  `title` varchar(100) NOT NULL,
  `type` enum('Magazine', 'Novel', 'Life', 'Arts', 'Comics', 'Education & Reference', 'Humanities & Social Sciences', 'Science & Technology', 'Kids', 'Sports') NOT NULL,
  `published_at` datetime NOT NULL,
  `stock` int(11) DEFAULT '0',
  `price` decimal(15,2) DEFAULT '0.0',
) DEFAULT CHARSET=utf8mb4 COLLATE=utf8mb4_bin;

Best practices for creating indexes

  • Creating a combined index with multiple columns, which is an optimization called covering index optimization. Covering index optimization allows TiDB to query data directly on indexes, which helps improve performance.

  • Avoid creating a secondary index on columns that you do not query often. A useful secondary index can speed up queries, but be aware that it also has side effects. Each time you add an index, an additional Key-Value is added when you insert a row. The more indexes you have, the slower you write, and the more space it consumes. In addition, too many indexes affect optimizer runtime, and inappropriate indexes can mislead the optimizer. So, more indexes do not always mean better performance.

  • Create an appropriate index based on your application. In principle, create indexes only on the columns to be used in queries to improve performance. The following cases are suitable for creating an index:

    • Columns with a high distinction degree can significantly reduce the number of filtered rows. For example, it is recommended to create an index on the personal ID number, but not on the gender.
    • Use combined indexes when querying with multiple conditions. Note that columns with equivalent conditions need to be placed in the front of the combined index. Here is an example: if the select* from t where c1 = 10 and c2 = 100 and c3 > 10 query is frequently used, consider creating a combined index Index cidx (c1, c2, c3), so that a index prefix can be constructed to scan by query conditions.
  • Name your secondary index meaningfully, and it is recommended to follow the table naming conventions of your company or organization. If such naming conventions do not exist, follow the rules in Index Naming Specification.

Best practices for using indexes

  • Indexes are to speed up queries, so make sure that the existing indexes are actually used by some queries. If an index is not used by any query, the index is meaningless, and you need to drop it.

  • When using a combined index, follow the left-prefix rule.

    Suppose that you create a new combined index on the title and published_at columns:

    CREATE INDEX title_published_at_idx ON books (title, published_at);

    The following query can still use the combined index:

    SELECT * FROM books WHERE title = 'database';

    However, the following query cannot use the combined index because the condition for the leftmost first column in the index is not specified:

    SELECT * FROM books WHERE published_at = '2018-08-18 21:42:08';
  • When using an index column as a condition in a query, do not use calculation, function, or type conversion on it, which will prevent the TiDB optimizer from using the index.

    Suppose that you create a new index on the time type column published_at:

    CREATE INDEX published_at_idx ON books (published_at);

    However, the following query cannot use the index on published_at:

    SELECT * FROM books WHERE YEAR(published_at)=2022;

    To use the index on published_at, you can rewrite the query as follows, which avoids using any function on the index column:

    SELECT * FROM books WHERE published_at >= '2022-01-01' AND published_at < '2023-01-01';

    You can also use an expression index to create an expression index for YEAR(Published at) in the query condition:

    CREATE INDEX published_year_idx ON books ((YEAR(published_at)));

    Now, if you execute the SELECT * FROM books WHERE YEAR(published_at)=2022; query, the query can use the published_year_idx index to speed up the execution.

  • Try to use a covering index, in which the columns in the index contain the columns to be queried, and avoid querying all columns with SELECT * statements.

    The following query only needs to scan the index title_published_at_idx to get the data:

    SELECT title, published_at FROM books WHERE title = 'database';

    Although the following query statement can use the combined index (title, published_at), it causes an extra cost to query the non-indexed column, which requires TiDB to query row data according to the reference stored in the index data (usually the primary key information).

    SELECT * FROM books WHERE title = 'database';
  • A query cannot use indexes when the query condition contains != or NOT IN. For example, the following query cannot use any indexes:

    SELECT * FROM books WHERE title != 'database';
  • A query cannot use indexes if the LIKE condition starts with wildcard % in the query. For example, the following query cannot use any indexes:

    SELECT * FROM books WHERE title LIKE '%database';
  • When the query condition has multiple indexes available, and you know which index is the best in practice, it is recommended to use Optimizer Hint to force the TiDB optimizer to use this index. This can prevent the TiDB optimizer from selecting the wrong index due to inaccurate statistics or other problems.

    In the following query, assuming that indexes id_idx and title_idx are available on the column id and title respectively, if you know that id_idx is better, you can use USE INDEX hint in SQL to force the TiDB optimizer to use the id_idx index.

    SELECT * FROM t USE INDEX(id_idx) WHERE id = 1 and title = 'database';
  • When using the IN expression in a query condition, it is recommended that the number of value matched after it does not exceed 300, otherwise the execution efficiency will be poor.

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