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SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition Performance Advantages

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SQL Server 2016 Enterprise EditionOn November 16, 2016, Microsoft announced some very significant changes for SQL Server 2016 Standard Edition, which were implemented in SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1 (Build 13.0.4001.0). Many very useful programmability-related features that were previously only available in Enterprise Edition will now be available in Standard Edition (and also in Web Edition and even Express Edition).

Once you have a database application using SQL Server 2016 Standard Edition Service Pack 1 (or even a lower edition), you can just perform an edition upgrade to Enterprise Edition to get even more scalability and performance, taking advantage of the higher license limits for sockets, cores, and memory in Enterprise Edition, as detailed here.

You will also get the many other intrinsic performance benefits that are present in Enterprise Edition, along with multiple manageability improvements that make your life so much easier as a DBA.

Columnstore Indexes

If you are using Columnstore indexes, you get the following performance benefits automatically, when you use Enterprise Edition:

  • Aggregate Pushdown: This performance feature often gives a 2X-4X query performance gain by pushing qualifying aggregates to the SCAN node, which reduces the number of rows coming out of that iterator.
  • Index Build/Rebuild: Enterprise Edition can build/rebuild columnstore indexes with multiple processor cores, while Standard Edition only uses one processor core. This has a pretty significant effect on elapsed times for these operations, depending on your hardware.
  • Local Aggregates: Enterprise Edition can use local aggregations to filter the number of rows passing out of a SCAN node, reducing the amount of work that needs to be done by subsequent query nodes. You can confirm this by looking for the “ActualLocallyAggregatedRows” attribute in the XML of the execution plan for the query.
  • Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) Optimizations: This feature uses a set of hardware instructions which are capable of processing an array of data in a single instruction, dramatically speeding up aggregate operations. These hardware instructions are present on all modern processors (that have AVX support), but they are only used by Enterprise Edition.
  • String Predicate Pushdown: This performance feature can improve performance of queries using predicate(s) on string columns by pushing these predicates to the SCAN node. This can greatly reduce the amount of work that needs to be done by subsequent nodes.
  • Degree of Parallelism: Batch mode queries are limited to MAXDOP = 2 on Standard Edition. Enterprise Edition can use all of the cores that are present for the instance. This can be very significant on larger queries on typical, modern server hardware.
  • Memory limits: The Columnstore object pool is limited to 32GB per instance on Standard Edition. Enterprise Edition does not have any memory limitation for the Columnstore object pool.

In order to test these performance assertions, I ran some fairly simple tests on the Microsoft ContosoRetailDW database on my Intel Core i7-6700K workstation. I have two named instances of SQL Server 2016 SP1 installed, one using Standard Edition, and the other using Developer Edition (which is equivalent to Enterprise Edition).

All instance-level and database-level configurations and properties are identical between the two instances, and the user and tempdb database file locations are in separate directories on the same, separate flash storage device for each instance. The database compatibility level was changed to 130 in both cases, and the underlying Windows configuration and hardware is the same for both instances. The only difference here is the Edition of each instance.

The first test is a simple query (adapted from Niko Neugebauer) that allows SQL Server 2016 to use aggregate pushdown on the FactOnlineSales table. The results are shown in Table 1.

Edition Elapsed Time (ms)
Standard Edition 30
Developer Edition 1
Time Difference 29
% Improvement 96.7%

Table 1: Aggregate Pushdown Comparison

The next test is timing how long it takes to build a clustered columnstore index on the 12.6 million row FactOnlineSales table. The results are shown in Table 2.

Edition Elapsed Time (ms)
Standard Edition 42,197
Developer Edition 14,384
Time Difference 27,813
% Improvement 65.9%

Table 2: Building Clustered Columnstore Index Comparison

The next test is timing how long it takes to rebuild a clustered columnstore index on the same FactOnlineSales table. The results are shown in Table 3.

Edition Elapsed Time (ms)
Standard Edition 33,105
Developer Edition 11,460
Time Difference 21,645
% Improvement 65.4%

Table 3: Rebuilding Clustered Columnstore Index Comparison

The next test is another simple query that allows SQL Server 2016 to use local aggregation on the FactOnlineSales table. The results are shown in Table 4.

Edition Elapsed Time (ms)
Standard Edition 122
Developer Edition 83
Time Difference 39
% Improvement 32.0%

Table 4: Local Aggregation Comparison

The next test is another simple query that allows SQL Server 2016 to use string predicate pushdown on the FactOnlineSales and DimPromotion tables. The results are shown in Table 5.

Edition Elapsed Time (ms)
Standard Edition 2,683
Developer Edition 1,221
Time Difference 1,466
% Improvement 54.6%

Table 5: String Predicate Pushdown Comparison

These are just some simple examples of the built-in performance advantages for Columnstore indexes in SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition compared to SQL Server 2016 Standard Edition on the same hardware. If you want to really dive into Columnstore indexes (which can be a very effective feature for some workloads), you should bookmark and read Niko Neugebauer’s long series of posts at columnstore.net.

DBCC CHECKDB Performance

Another manageability performance improvement that is present on SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition is DBCC CHECKDB performance. On Standard Edition, DBCC CHECKDB only uses one processor core, while it can use all available cores on Enterprise Edition. This behavior is unchanged from previous versions of SQL Server. SQL Server 2016 does allow you to restrict the number of cores that DBCC CHECKDB can use with a new WITH (MAXDOP = x) option.

Running DBCC CHECKDB with the WITH PHYSICAL_ONLY option on a somewhat larger database (about 38GB) that I have, yielded the results shown in Table 6.

Edition Elapsed Time (ms)
Standard Edition 58,492
Developer Edition 24,897
Time Difference 33,595
% Improvement 57.4%

Table 6: DBCC CHECKDB WITH PHYSICAL_ONLY Comparison

Running a standard DBCC CHECKDB on the same database yielded the results shown in Table 7.

Edition Elapsed Time (ms)
Standard Edition 435,039
Developer Edition 119,767
Time Difference 315,272
% Improvement 72.5%

Table 7: DBCC CHECKDB Comparison

A very important factor in DBCC CHECKDB performance is the sequential read performance from all of the LUNs where your database data file(s) are located. You can easily check this by running a BACKUP DATABASE command to a NUL device (making sure to use the COPY_ONLY and NO_COMPRESSION options). This will show you your effective sequential read performance, as shown in this example from my workstation:

BACKUP DATABASE successfully processed 5048514 pages in 16.115 seconds (2447.502 MB/sec).

Keep in mind that all of this testing was done on a single, quad-core desktop processor. A multi-socket server with many more total processor cores will show even more of a performance improvement in many of these tests.

The point of all of this is to show a few tangible examples of the performance improvements you can see, simply by upgrading from SQL Server 2016 Standard Edition SP1 to SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition SP1, on the same hardware, making no database or application changes. This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are many other benefits as well.