This section explains the basics of how SQL queries work on clustered Virtuoso.

Query optimization for cluster is similar to query optimization for a single process. The main issues of optimization have too do with join order, index choice and join type.

Still, the performance characteristics of a distributed memory cluster are radically different from a single process database. Namely, the cost of a network round trip between nodes, even if these were only different processes on a shared memory multiprocessor, is between 5 and 50 single row lookups from a big table, supposing the row being sought for is in memory. The 5x factor applies when within the same machine, the 50 times factor applies over 1Gbit ethernet.

From this follows that a single network message must process several hundred rows and several messages must be concurrently dispatched to multiple nodes for clustering to yield any benefit in terms of a single query's processing time.

Of course, a cluster can have essentially unlimited RAM, which is not the case of a single machine and a network round trip remains faster than a disk random access. For serial throughput, the disk controller is several times faster than the network, though. Of course, with large numbers of concurrent users, the latencies get absorbed and a high aggregate throughput can be attained.

Still, the first question of any distributed memory system is the aggregation of messages. This can be done in two complementary ways: By Sending a large number of simple operations in a single message, preferably asynchronously to multiple recipients and on the other hand by putting more complex operations into a message.

Also, a random access pattern can be transformed to a serial access pattern by using hash join, i.e. making a temporary copy of an index or part thereof. In this way, the query does not have to go to the data more than once even if it is used inside a tight loop in the query plan.

We will use the TPC H tables to illustrate some points below:

When performing a loop join, Virtuoso will run as many iterations as possible in parallel. Consider a join like:

select o_date
  from nation, customer, order
 where o_custkey = c.custkey
   and c_nationkey = n_nationkey
   and n_name = 'FRANCE';

We presume the indices:

create index c_nk on customer (c_nationkey) partition (c_nationkey int)
create index o_ck on orders (o_custkey) partition (c_custkey int);

This gets the order dates for order by customers in France. This is typically a loop join since this is expected to access a fraction of orders at random. First we get the n_nationkey for France. Then we get the c_custkey for French customers. This is a sequential read of an index and produces a set of c_custkey values. Given these, we join to orders using the o_ck index. This index produces a set of o_orderkey values for each o_custkey. These are then used for getting the o_date's from the actual order row.

If the batches are large enough, the query will execute in 3 network round trips: One to get the set of c_curstkey's for France, one to get the o_orderkey's from the o_custkey's and one for getting the o_date for the o_orderkey's. The nation table for getting the n_nationkey for the country name is small and can be replicated on all nodes so this does not count as a round trip.

The first round trip goes to one partition. The resulting c_custkey's will be likely spread over all partitions, so each applicable node gets a message with multiple lookups of the o_ck inde, each with a different o_custkey value. The replies are collated and this time partitioned by o_orderkey and sent as parallel batches to the nodes that hold the actual order rows.

The batch size is settable but is anyway over 1000 operations. The total CPU time for running the query is slightly longer than running the query serially in a single process but the real time is likely shorter because the load is concurrently carried by multiple processes.

Now, if we just wanted the date of the most recent order from France, we could write:

select max (o_date)
  from nation, customer, order
 where o_custkey = c.custkey
   and c_nationkey = n_nationkey
   and n_name = 'FRANCE';

This would evaluate as explained above but would not return the dates but rather just remember the latest one on each node. At the end, just the latest dates from each cluster node accessed in the query would be returned to the node running the query. Further, SQL specifies that running the same query on the same data is expected to return the same order of results on consecutive runs, even if no order by is present. This means that indices must be traversed in order, i.e. the data received from multiple partitions in indefinite order must be deterministically assembled to provide a predictable order. This is important if slicing the result set for example. When returning an aggregate this condition is relaxed and data can be processed in whatever order received, thus increasing parallelism.

Another optimization is taking advantage of co-located indices.

select sum (l_extendedprice)
  from lineitem, orders, customer
 where l_orderkey = o_orderkey
   and o_custkey = c_custkey
   and c_comment like '%fluffily%';

This time we scan customers linearly, lookinf for 'fluffily' in the comment field. Finding one, we look for the orders. But we are already in the partition of the c_custkey and the o_ck index of orders is partitioned on this same value, thus we know that the o_orderkey is in fact in the same partition, so no round trip is needed. Then we just send the o_orderkey to the appropriate partition for l_orderkey to get the sum of the extended prices of lines for this customer. At the end of the query, all nodes hosting lineitems will have their local sum and these are just added up and returned.

As long as queries are written as joins, they will run with good parallelism. If they are written as procedure loops and single row lookups from partitioned tables, performance will be an order of magnitude worse.

The join type and join order switches work identically with cluster and single process databases.