Indexes

Indexes improve your database's performance by helping SQL locate data without having to look through every row of a table.

How do indexes work?

When you create an index, CockroachDB "indexes" the columns you specify, which creates a copy of the columns and then sorts their values (without sorting the values in the table itself).

After a column is indexed, SQL can easily filter its values using the index instead of scanning each row one-by-one. On large tables, this greatly reduces the number of rows SQL has to use, executing queries exponentially faster.

For example, if you index an INT column and then filter it WHERE <indexed column> = 10, SQL can use the index to find values starting at 10 but less than 11. In contrast, without an index, SQL would have to evaluate every row in the table for values equaling 10. This is also known as a "full table scan", and it can be very bad for query performance.

You can also create an index on a subset of rows. This type of index is called a partial index. For more information, see Partial Indexes.

To index spatial data, CockroachDB uses spatial indexes. For more information, see Spatial Indexes.

In multi-region deployments, most users should use REGIONAL BY ROW tables instead of explicit index partitioning. When you add an index to a REGIONAL BY ROW table, it is automatically partitioned on the crdb_region column. Explicit index partitioning is not required.

While CockroachDB process an ADD REGION or DROP REGION statement on a particular database, creating or modifying an index will throw an error. Similarly, all ADD REGION and DROP REGION statements will be blocked while an index is being modified on a REGIONAL BY ROW table within the same database.

Creation

Each table automatically has a primary index called {tbl}_pkey, which indexes either its primary key or—if there is no primary key—a unique value for each row known as rowid. We recommend always defining a primary key because the index it creates provides much better performance than letting CockroachDB use rowid.

To require an explicitly defined primary key for all tables created in your cluster, set the sql.defaults.require_explicit_primary_keys.enabled cluster setting to true.

The primary index helps filter a table's primary key but doesn't help SQL find values in any other columns. However, you can use secondary indexes to improve the performance of queries using columns not in a table's primary key. You can create them:

  • At the same time as the table with the INDEX clause of CREATE TABLE. In addition to explicitly defined indexes, CockroachDB automatically creates secondary indexes for columns with the UNIQUE constraint.
  • For existing tables with CREATE INDEX.
  • By applying the UNIQUE constraint to columns with ALTER TABLE, which automatically creates an index of the constrained columns.

To review guidelines for creating the most useful secondary indexes, see Secondary Indexes: Best practices.

Selection

In most cases CockroachDB selects the index it calculates will scan the fewest rows (i.e., the fastest). Cases where CockroachDB will use multiple indexes include certain queries that use disjunctions (i.e., predicates with OR), as well as zigzag joins for some other queries. To learn how to use the EXPLAIN statement for your query to see which index is being used, see Index Selection in CockroachDB.

To override CockroachDB index selection, you can also force queries to use a specific index (also known as "index hinting"). Index hinting is supported for SELECT, DELETE, and UPDATE statements.

Storage

CockroachDB stores indexes directly in its key-value store. You can find more information in our blog post Mapping Table Data to Key-Value Storage.

Locking

Tables are not locked during index creation due to CockroachDB support for online schema changes.

Performance

Indexes create a trade-off: they greatly improve the speed of queries, but may slightly slow down writes to an affected column (because new values have to be written for both the table and the index).

To maximize your indexes' performance, Cockroach Labs recommends following the secondary index best practices.

Tip:

For more information about how to tune CockroachDB performance, see SQL Performance Best Practices.

Storing columns

The STORING clause specifies columns which are not part of the index key but should be stored in the index. This optimizes queries that retrieve those columns without filtering on them, because it prevents the need to read the primary index.

An index that stores all the columns needed by a query is also known as a covering index for that query. When a query has a covering index, CockroachDB can use that index directly instead of doing an "index join" with the primary index, which is likely to be slower.

The synonym COVERING is also supported.

Example

Suppose you have a table with three columns, two of which are indexed:

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> CREATE TABLE tbl (col1 INT, col2 INT, col3 INT, INDEX (col1, col2));

If you filter on the indexed columns but retrieve the unindexed column, this requires reading col3 from the primary index via an "index join."

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> EXPLAIN SELECT col3 FROM tbl WHERE col1 = 10 AND col2 > 1;
  distribution: local
  vectorized: true

  • index join
  │ table: tbl@tbl_pkey
  │
  └── • scan
        missing stats
        table: tbl@tbl_col1_col2_idx
        spans: [/10/2 - /10]

  index recommendations: 1
  1. type: index replacement
     SQL commands: CREATE INDEX ON tbl (col1, col2) STORING (col3); DROP INDEX tbl@tbl_col1_col2_idx;
(14 rows)

However, if you store col3 in the index as shown in the index recommendation, the index join is no longer necessary. This means your query only needs to read from the secondary index, so it will be more efficient.

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> CREATE TABLE tbl (col1 INT, col2 INT, col3 INT, INDEX (col1, col2) STORING (col3));
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> EXPLAIN SELECT col3 FROM tbl WHERE col1 = 10 AND col2 > 1;
               info
----------------------------------
  distribution: local
  vectorized: true

  • scan
    missing stats
    table: tbl@tbl_col1_col2_idx
    spans: [/10/2 - /10]
(7 rows)

Best practices

For best practices, see Secondary Indexes: Best practices.

Indexes on REGIONAL BY ROW tables in multi-region databases

In multi-region deployments, most users should use REGIONAL BY ROW tables instead of explicit index partitioning. When you add an index to a REGIONAL BY ROW table, it is automatically partitioned on the crdb_region column. Explicit index partitioning is not required.

While CockroachDB process an ADD REGION or DROP REGION statement on a particular database, creating or modifying an index will throw an error. Similarly, all ADD REGION and DROP REGION statements will be blocked while an index is being modified on a REGIONAL BY ROW table within the same database.

This behavior also applies to GIN indexes.

For an example that uses unique indexes but applies to all indexes on REGIONAL BY ROW tables, see Add a unique index to a REGIONAL BY ROW table.

See also


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