In my blog post on my new sp_helpindex proc (sp_helpindex2), I mentioned that the indexes in my sample were not necessarily a recommended set of indexes – just a test set of indexes. So… in this post, I thought I'd start a series on indexes, limitations and best practices/uses… Especially, why/how to best choose when to use INCLUDE v. having columns in your key. To start, I thought I'd give some background, as well as limitations that exist in various releases from 2005 to 2008 CTP6 (Feb CTP), plus what's expected in the SQL Server 2008 RTM (ah… I did say "expected" so don't come back and yell at me if/when I'm wrong ;-))

First, let's go through a few rules and limitations and background:

SQL Server 2005

  • 250 total indexes per table: 1 clustered index and up to 249 nonclustered indexes (no, this is not a goal!)
  • The index key can be up to 16 columns OR 900 bytes – whichever comes first…
  • The leaf level is limited just as a table is limited to 1024 columns (and, all column types are acceptable in the leaf level of an index – even LOB columns)
  • Statistics are kept for every index (so, up to 250 index-related stats) and there can also be statistics on columns or sets of columns in addition to the index-related stats. In earlier releases, statistics used index ids and as a result, the number of statistics were limited to 250 total minus the statistics used by indexes… in SQL Server 2005, they changed to having statistics kept/managed separately (use sys.stats to see them). As a result of using sys.stats, you can now have 2000 statistics on a table, in addition to the 250 (total) indexes and their statistics. If you want to test this out (and check it on various versions of SQL Server), use this script to setup a test database, a test table and then use dynamic string execution to loop through (until it errors) with creating nonclustered indexes and statistics: IndexMax.sql (853.00 bytes).

SQL Server 2008 CTP6

  • So far, it seems as though most of the maximums have not yet been lifted…
  • 250 total indexes per table: 1 clustered index and up to 249 nonclustered indexes (and this number  – for CTP6 – includes filtered indexes AND spatial indexes too!)
  • The index key limit hasn't changed (it can be up to 16 columns OR 900 bytes – whichever comes first)
  • The leaf level is still limited just as a table is limited to 1024 columns (and, all column types are still acceptable in the leaf level of an index)
  • Statistics in CTP6 seem to be limited to only 2000 stats per table…

SQL Server 2008 RTM (expected/target… no guarantees on this one :)

  • 30,000 columns per table (mostly to allow sparse columns)
  • 1,000 total indexes per table: 1 clustered index and up to 999 nonclustered indexes. This is also not a goal BUT, it makes sense because of both sparse columns and filtered indexes. Both Paul and I will try to post some entries about sparse columns and filtered indexes in the coming days…
  • The index key limit won't change
  • The leaf level is will be limited just as a table is limited to 30,000 columns (and, all column types are still acceptable in the leaf level of an index)
  • Statistics are also said to be increasing and likely to 30,000… And, for having extra statistics just sitting around and possibly not being used – well, outside of a minimal amount of disk space taken by the stat blob (which does start to get interesting at 1,000s I suppose), even stats that don't get used don't really create much of a problem. So, I'm OK with this one increasing – even significantly – but I have to admit I'm somewhat nervous about the significan't increase in indexes………

So… you can have A LOT more indexes in SQL Server 2008 but just because you can – DOES it mean that you should?!

And on that – I'll leave you hanging for my next post where I start to talk about WHY they're increasing this (hint: sparse columns and filtered indexes = more columns/more indexes)….

Have fun,
kt