Precedence Goes to Query Store or Plan Guide?

While presenting at SQLDay in Wroclaw, Poland, on the Query Store, I was asked a pretty simple question, which takes precedence, the Query Store or a Plan Guide?

One of my favorite answers to questions is “I don’t know” because it gives me the opportunity to learn. Let’s figure this one out together.

I’ll post the code to recreate this experiment within AdventureWorks at the end of the article. I’m doing this because the code for forcing execution plans using Plan Guides can be pretty doggone long (you may need to generate your own XML from a plan on your own system, fair warning).

I have a stored procedure that I use frequently to demonstrate parameter sniffing and bad parameter sniffing, AddressByCity (listed below). This query when passed the value ‘London’ will generate a plan with a Merge Join. When passed the value ‘Mentor’ it will generate a plan with a Loops Join. These different plans are caused by the statistics for the different values. 434 rows for ‘London’ and 1 row for ‘Mentor’. To start the test, I’ll generate a plan for each value, dropping the plan from cache between executions, so that I have both plans in the Query Store. Now, we’re ready for phase 1.

Phase 1

I’m going to remove the current plan from cache. I will then use sp_query_store_force_plan to select the plan with the Loops join. I’ll run the query using ‘London’ to validate that the plan generated is NOT the plan for ‘London’ but rather the plan for ‘Mentor’. Done, and I can see the Use Plan results in the Properties of the Select operator:


I’ve highlighted a couple of interesting points. First, even though we are using a plan that is compiled for the value of ‘Mentor’, because this plan was compiled using the value ‘London’, that’s what gets stored, despite the plan used. You can then see down at the bottom, that the ‘Use plan’ property is set to true. Now, let’s force the plan using a plan guide (in my script below). To be very sure what happens, I’ll again clear the plan from cache.

If the Query Store wins, I should see a plan with a Loops Join. If the Plan Guide wins, I should see a plan with a Merge Join. The moment of truth:


Query Store wins! Let’s see how it shows in the Properties:


You’ll see that the Parameter Compile & Runtime values are the same and that the ‘Use plan’ property is the same. Note however, the PlanGuideName property is in play. In fact, the indication is that the optimizer thinks that a Plan Guide has been successfully applied. In fact, if I watch the Extended Events for the plan_guide_successful event, the best way to check how Plan Guides are being used, apart from looking at the execution plans, it shows success for the Plan Guide we created.

Phase 2

Precedence could matter. First, I remove the Plan Guide using sp_control_plan_guide. Then, I remove the Query Store force using sp_query_store_unforce_plan. I’ll also clear the plan out of cache again, just to be sure. Next, I create the Plan Guide. I’ll run the procedure using the value ‘Mentor’ to ensure that I see the Merge/’London’ plan, the PlanGuideName property in that plan, and a successful application of a Plan Guide from the plan_guide_successful ExEvent. All good.

Now, I once again force the plan from Query Store. Rerun the plan…

The winner is Query Store.

Phase 3

OK, so, if we try to force plans using Plan Guide, Query Store wins. What about if I’m just trying to apply a hint? Let’s clear everything up again and then create an OPTIMIZE FOR query hint in a Plan Guide. Simple right?

Query Store wins again… Except things get a little odd. Take a look at the Properties now:


Normally, with a Plan Guide that includes an OPTIMIZE FOR hint, I’d see the Compiled Value as the defined value within the hint (in this case ‘London’). However, this time I’m seeing just the value of ‘Mentor’.


I don’t know what’s occurring in the internals. I just know the evidence I have in front of me. First, Query Store vs. Plan Guides? Query Store wins. However, internally, something is still going on. The Plan Guide is still successfully applied, at least according to what I can see. The processes that determine if a Plan Guide should be applied or not are not interfered with by the Query Store plan forcing. The fact that I’m seeing a Query Store plan and evidence of a successful Plan Guide though, that’s a problem that could cause issues when troubleshooting. Now you know, and knowing, as they say, is half the battle.

Let’s get together and talk about execution plans. In August, I’ll be doing an all day pre-con at SQLServer Geeks Annual Summit in Bangalore India.

I’m extremely exited to be in Oslo Norway for a pre-con before SQL Saturday Oslo in September.

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