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SQL Tuning Paperback – November 26, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1st edition (November 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596005733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596005733
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dan Tow is an independent consultant, operating under the banner SingingSQL ( His experience solving Oracle-related performance problems goes all the way back to his 1989 hire by Oracle Corporation. During most of his tenure at Oracle, Dan focused on the performance of Oracle Applications, managing the performance group for that division. In this role, he found a fertile testing ground for his SQL tuning method applied to the huge set of complex SQL included in those applications, including both online SQL and diverse batch processes. In 1998, Dan left Oracle to lead performance for TenFold Corporation, where he applied the same methods to tuning questions on DB2, and SQL Server, and Sybase, as well as on Oracle. In 2002, Dan started his own business, SingingSQL, through which he offers diverse database-related tuning services, including SQL tuning and systematically analyzing load to learn which SQL should be tuned. He has introduced his SQL tuning method to over 1,000 people in short lectures, and now offers in-depth courses in the material, using this book as textbook. Dan has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He lives in Palo Alto, California, and can be reached at

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Customer Reviews

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See all 19 customer reviews
Bravo O'Reilly and Dan Tow for this important and unique work.
Jack D. Herrington
The method is highly algorithmic - you follow a series of fairly simple steps to draw a graph and out pops a near-optimal query plan.
Douglas Squirrel
With complex queries, it is often uncertain what is the best query plan.
Dennis W. Willaims

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Charles D. Simmons on January 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Tell me something I don't already know", that's what crosses my mind every time I pick up a new performance, tuning book. If you're like me, 90% of the content in any DBA book in the store is 'old hat'.
This book is refreshing. It doesn't waste time going over all of the stuff you learned years ago.
Knowing how to read an execution plan or when to pick a hash join over a nested loop join is not what this book is about. There are plenty of books on the market that cover basic, vendor specific, query tuning. I personally have about 20 of these books on my bookshelf here at home. (Over the years I've worked on Sybase, SQL Server, Informix XPS, & Oracle.)
Here's the deal...
Anyone who has worked with really big systems will eventually run into an optimization problem that seems to be unsolvable. You can try histograms, compressed key indexes, partitioning, pre-joined indexes, and materialized views, but you still can't get the performance that's being requested. For a DBA, it can be a very frustrating dilemma. This is especially true when you know from the data volume that you should be able to get there.
The truth is, optimizers can't always get the right solution, even with correct statistics. There are some good technical reasons why this is true, but that's out of scope for my review. In any case, that's where this book comes to the rescue. I feel that it gives you some insight into the optimization problem and tells you how to correct the problems that your optimizer can't figure out.
This book is NOT for use on 95% of your queries. Most optimizers will pick the correct access plan if the DBA does his/her job correctly and collects the appropriate statistics.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Survance on July 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have withdrawn my earlier review because I did not properly understand the importance of this book until the second reading. That is a difficult admission to make since my business is database performance tuning.

This book is about tuning SQL queries in a systematic and scientific manner. It is above all about determining the optimum order in which the query engine should access the tables involved. My quibble was that join order is only a part of the whole tuning problem and most of the time the query optimizer got it right anyway. While this is true, I see now that it misses the point.

The fact that the optimizer gets it right so often allows us to take join order for granted. But how do we know the optimizer got it right unless we know what the optimum join order is? That is what this book teaches, a methodology and an elegant system of notation that allows us to determine the optimum join order of the most complex query. As the author points out, the number of possible join orders increases factorially with the number of tables involved. An 8 table join has 40,320 possible join orders. That rules out trial and error for all but the simplest queries.

It turns out that analyzing and diagramming according to Tow's method gives you a deep architectural understanding of the query and the problems that face you. It gives you a plan to which you can apply the tools of the trade, indexes, code optimization, etc.

This is a book that will be on the shelf of serious performance tuning professionals for as long as SQL is the language of data manipulation.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Brian H. Blades on February 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
For many years the process of SQL Tuning has been considered an "art". SQL tuning books written to date have presented guidelines and "things to try" but "SQL Tuning" by Dan Tow is different. This is the first book I have seen that presents a clear methodology to attack the problem in a scientific/mathematical way and includes a diagramming technique to visualize the components of a query that affect performance. Dan's book has gone a long way in helping to transform SQL tuning from an art to a science.
The first four chapters of the book cover some of the subjects that are found in other SQL tuning books, and focus on the important points without delving too deeply into database internals. The really "good stuff" is covered in chapters 5 through 10, which includes how to "draw" a query diagram, and the procedures to follow to derive an optimal join order. The problems/examples presented and resolved in these chapters help the reader get a start on understanding the methodology, which can then be applied to actual tuning problems as they are encountered.
So far I have applied this technique to about 20 tuning problems I have encountered on the job using the Oracle RDBMS. I still consider myself a relative novice in using the methodology, but for each of the 20 problems I have been able to significantly reduce elapsed time and resource consumption (gets/reads). Also, these results were achieved in a matter or hours, rather than days. The query diagram has even facilitated finding "missing joins" in some of the queries without having a knowledge of the particular application.
This book is a "must have" for DBA's and developers and I highly recommend it.
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