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Rebuilding Indexes and the Clustering Factor Solution (Move On) September 25, 2011

Posted by Richard Foote in Clustering Factor, Index Rebuild, Indexing Myth, Oracle Indexes, Quiz, Reverse Key Indexes.

Excellent !! This quiz created quite a bit of debate and it was nice to sit back and read some interesting discussions.

The Clustering Factor is basically the measurement of how well aligned the data in the underlining table is in relation to the index and is the number of table related I/Os required to read the entire table via a full index scan. A value of the CF approaching the number of blocks in the table suggests the data is reasonably well sorted/clustered in relation to the index (although the CF could in theory be somewhat less than the blocks in the table of course). A value of the CF approaching the number of index entries suggests the data is not particularly well sorted/clustered in relation to the index and means we may need to re-visit the same table block numerous times to get the required data, thus decreasing the efficiency of using the index, increasing the costs associated with using the index and therefore decreasing the likelihood of the CBO using the index.

So for an index rebuild to actual have an impact on the CF on an index, means either the rows in the table needs to change or the order of the index entries needs to change.

However, when we typically rebuild an index, it has no impact at all on the table and so can’t possibly change the order of the rows there. Additionally, no matter how fragmented or inefficient the index structure might be, an index rebuild doesn’t change the order of the index entries either as they’re always sorted within the index in the order of the indexed columns.

Therefore an index rebuild typically has no impact at all on the CF of an index, no matter the current value of the CF.

However, there is an exception to this rule.

If we rebuild the index and change it from a NOREVERSE index to a REVERSE index, we now do change the order of the index. Significantly so, as the index entries are now in the order of the index column values when reversed. Therefore this can in turn significantly change the CF of an index.

Conversely, if we rebuild an index and change it from REVERSE to NOREVERSE, we likewise significantly change the order of the index entries and hence the value of the CF.

For a nice little demo, see David Aldridge’s comment or my previous discussion on Reverse Key Indexes.

Of course, it’s always nice to see new ideas and something I hadn’t considered was Gary Myer’s comment regarding changing the logic behind a Function-Based Index prior to a rebuild …

So the moral of this story is that no matter how poorly fragmented the index, how high or low the current CF of an index might be, rebuilding an index in order to improve the CF is a futile exercise and will change less than diddly-squat, except in the above mentioned special circumstances.

Now, back to another hearing of Pink Floyd’s masterpiece “The Dark Side of the Moon” in all its surround sound glory 🙂

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