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MySQL 5.7 Reference Manual
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9.2.2.2 Optimizing Subqueries with Materialization

The optimizer uses materialization to enable more efficient subquery processing. Materialization speeds up query execution by generating a subquery result as a temporary table, normally in memory. The first time MySQL needs the subquery result, it materializes that result into a temporary table. Any subsequent time the result is needed, MySQL refers again to the temporary table. The optimizer may index the table with a hash index to make lookups fast and inexpensive. The index is unique, which eliminates duplicates and makes the table smaller.

Subquery materialization uses an in-memory temporary table when possible, falling back to on-disk storage if the table becomes too large. See Section 9.4.4, “Internal Temporary Table Use in MySQL”.

If materialization is not used, the optimizer sometimes rewrites a noncorrelated subquery as a correlated subquery. For example, the following IN subquery is noncorrelated (where_condition involves only columns from t2 and not t1):

SELECT * FROM t1
WHERE t1.a IN (SELECT t2.b FROM t2 WHERE where_condition);

The optimizer might rewrite this as an EXISTS correlated subquery:

SELECT * FROM t1
WHERE EXISTS (SELECT t2.b FROM t2 WHERE where_condition AND t1.a=t2.b);

Subquery materialization using a temporary table avoids such rewrites and makes it possible to execute the subquery only once rather than once per row of the outer query.

For subquery materialization to be used in MySQL, the optimizer_switch system variable materialization flag must be enabled. (See Section 9.9.2, “Switchable Optimizations”.) With the materialization flag enabled, materialization applies to subquery predicates that appear anywhere (in the select list, WHERE, ON, GROUP BY, HAVING, or ORDER BY), for predicates that fall into any of these use cases:

  • The predicate has this form, when no outer expression oe_i or inner expression ie_i is nullable. N is 1 or larger.

    (oe_1, oe_2, ..., oe_N) [NOT] IN (SELECT ie_1, i_2, ..., ie_N ...)
    
  • The predicate has this form, when there is a single outer expression oe and inner expression ie. The expressions can be nullable.

    oe [NOT] IN (SELECT ie ...)
    
  • The predicate is IN or NOT IN and a result of UNKNOWN (NULL) has the same meaning as a result of FALSE.

The following examples illustrate how the requirement for equivalence of UNKNOWN and FALSE predicate evaluation affects whether subquery materialization can be used. Assume that where_condition involves columns only from t2 and not t1 so that the subquery is noncorrelated.

This query is subject to materialization:

SELECT * FROM t1
WHERE t1.a IN (SELECT t2.b FROM t2 WHERE where_condition);

Here, it does not matter whether the IN predicate returns UNKNOWN or FALSE. Either way, the row from t1 is not included in the query result.

An example where subquery materialization is not used is the following query, where t2.b is a nullable column:

SELECT * FROM t1
WHERE (t1.a,t1.b) NOT IN (SELECT t2.a,t2.b FROM t2
                          WHERE where_condition);

The following restrictions apply to the use of subquery materialization:

  • The types of the inner and outer expressions must match. For example, the optimizer might be able to use materialization if both expressions are integer or both are decimal, but cannot if one expression is integer and the other is decimal.

  • The inner expression cannot be a BLOB.

Use of EXPLAIN with a query provides some indication of whether the optimizer uses subquery materialization. Compared to query execution that does not use materialization, select_type may change from DEPENDENT SUBQUERY to SUBQUERY. This indicates that, for a subquery that would be executed once per outer row, materialization enables the subquery to be executed just once. In addition, for extended EXPLAIN output, the text displayed by a following SHOW WARNINGS includes materialize and materialized-subquery.


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