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Memory-Optimized Table-Valued Parameters

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November brings me back to my regular weekly posting schedule.

I attended PASS Summit 2016 last week, and saw a lot of great sessions. Aside from the new stuff, what I also noticed is how people are making use of existing technology to solve performance problems.

I have a customer that is targeting their vendor app to run in Azure SQL Database. They’ve run the Advisor and have discovered a number of places where they make use of temp tables. While this is not in itself a problem, how they check for their existence is a problem.

Azure SQL Database does not allow you to refer to tempdb by name. Any T-SQL construct referring to a temp table using the form tempdb..#table is explicitly forbidden.

One of the workarounds I recommended to them was to replace their use of temp tables with TVPs (table-valued parameters). There is no performance benefit to doing so, but it works.

Then I remembered that Azure SQL Database Premium Tier now supports In-Memory OLTP.

If you recall in a previous post, I suggested that Standard Tier and Premium Tiers are functionally equivalent to Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition respectively. This is no exception. You can create Memory Optimized TVPs in the Premium Tier of Azure SQL Database.

(Edit: With SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1, you can now create Memory-Optimized objects in all editions of SQL Server.)

In other words, for these short-lived temp tables, there’s not only an added benefit of no longer worrying about referring to tempdb..#table, but you also get a massive performance improvement as well.

There are some legitimate concerns, though. Any Memory Optimized structures naturally require dedicated memory, so if you are already memory-bound on your Azure SQL Database (see the DTU post I wrote last month), this is going to hurt you. On the other hand, by not using tempdb at all, the performance improvement (as much as 100% in what I saw in the sessions last week) may offset that enough to warrant its use.

Next week, I will compare the performance characteristics of temp tables, standard TVPs, and Memory Optimised TVPs, both on-premises (using SQL Server 2016 Developer Edition, which is the same as Enterprise Edition) and Azure SQL Database (using a Premium Tier database).

If you have any other quick performance wins using new features of SQL Server 2016 or Azure SQL Database, find me on Twitter at @bornsql .