Resumable Online Index Rebuild

I have been fascinated with another new feature of the upcoming SQL Server release and so I decided to blog about it.

The new version of SQL Server (2017) introduces a very exciting feature for the DBA’s – the Resumable Online Index Rebuild.
This feature is targeting the installations that are doing regular maintenance but which maintenance windows are very limited, and sometimes there is an importance of suspending the indexes rebuild operation. Not canceling it, but suspending or pausing. Sometimes, when the system resources are suddenly needed for a more important business activity.
There have always been a need to have a different option of “everything or nothing” when doing a maintenance for the internal structures of the database, unlike for the data operations where we typically desire for every data manipulation to be successfully executed or to be rolled back entirely.
This new type of the index operation is what Microsoft is bringing in the SQL Server 2017. The Resumable Online Index Rebuild will provide you with an option of executing, suspending, resuming or aborting an online index operation.

In it’s first iteration the Resumable Online Index Rebuild is supporting Rowstore Indexes only. Boo! – I can hear thousands of voices screaming!
Since SQL Server 2014 there are very few reasons (exceptions) to store biggest tables with any other technologies besides the Columnstore.
The thing is – currently, there is only one online index rebuild operation available for the Columnstore Indexes, and I totally understand why Microsoft decided to focus on the Rowstore Indexes in this iteration.

The syntax for executing the Resumable Online Index Rebuild is described below:

there are
ONLINE (for using ROIR (Resumable Online Index Rebuild), you will have to specify this option, otherwise there is no Online operation :))
RESUMABLE (this is how you will specify that the rebuild process should be executed, with the possible values OFF (default) – when we do execute online rebuild in a good old way, and ON – where we use the new resumable build )

The tests

Let’s do some test to find out how this feature behaves and for that I will use my own generated copy of the TPCH database (10GB version), that I have done with the help of the HammerDB (free software).

This time I will be using ORDERS table for the online rebuild operation tests. This table contains 2 indexes: [o_orderdate_ind] & [orders_pk]. To make operation runs faster, I will be focusing on the clustered index [o_orderdate_ind] index, containing the column [o_orderdate] (Date).
To measure the index fragmentation, I will be using the following query:

Now let’s do some serious updates this 15.000.000 rows table, by simply increasing the date of the orders by 1 for the 1 million rows:

Checking on the provoked fragmentation level, gives us the following information:
Your milage will vary and in my case I have already executed a couple of tests before seeing very different numbers, but I will follow the trail with the current ones and I do recommend not to worry about them, but mostly to focus on the execution process at the moment. Should your system not allow you to have reasonable (~1 minute) execution times, then simply increase the number of rows you are updating or decrease them if it takes too long to see operations executed.

Now, let’s start the ROIR to fix the fragmentation:

This operation will instantly fail because I did not specify the ONLINE = ON option, delivering the following error message:

That was what I expected, so let’s correct and run the Resumable Online Index Rebuild with the ONLINE = ON option, as we should:

Immediately after starting the operation I will open a new window in SSMS and fire the following command /* new in SQL Server 2017 */ suspending the rebuild operation:

The original window where I have started rebuild Resumable Online Index Rebuild process will be immediately terminated and disconnected, delivering the following error messages of the levels 16-21:

Do not get worried when seeing this – this is totally expected. If you carefully read the messages – you will understand that your process was simply canceled and the connection was terminated, so that other commands would not proceed executing.
Let’s fire up a query against the sys.index_resumable_operations DMV, that will provide us information and the details on the operations:

From the picture above you can see that we have canceled our online resumable index rebuild process, right after 3.5% of the work completion. Some of the most important columns in this DMV are total_execution_time, percent_complete, page_count & state, where state & state_desc will provide with the status of the executed process, and in our case the process has been Paused, meaning that we can simply restart and complete it.
Let’s do this by invoking the original command once again:

We shall immediately get a warning message:

Giving us information that the previous Resumable Online Index Rebuild operation was found as paused and will be resumed.

Naturally I was monitoring the current progress of the operation with the help of the sys.index_resumable_operations DMV help, and below you will find a screenshot:

This is very cool, we can really work with our maintenance by controlling the process and without loosing the progress.
But what if I say I have just 1 minute of time that I can do maintenance, can I program the process to pause right after 1 minute (after my tests it takes a little bit over 1 minutes typically)?
Absolutely, as I have already mentioned above, there is a new parameter for the ALTER INDEX REBUILD for that.
But first, let’s update 2 million rows in order to introduce some fragmentation:

Now, we can execute the resumable .. that will be running for 1 minute only, by specifying MAX_DURATION parameter with the value of 1 minute:

The operation ran it’s course and was terminated around 1 minute after it’s start, leaving the following messages behind:

Checking on the status of the ROIR operation, I have received the following results:

This status shows that the operation has been paused with 86% of the progress automatically – this is exactly what we needed!
Because Resumable Online Index Rebuild will consume additional space resources even when it is paused, you might want to add the next step of canceling (option ABORT) the resumable processes, if you wish so, and with the sys.index_resumable_operations DMV it will be very easy to identify those ones.

We can resume the operation to let it finish

How fast it runs

To measure how fast ROIR operations are, I decided to rebuild a couple of tables from the TPCH database a couple of times and compare the ONLINE rebuild with Resumable Online Index Rebuild and without.
First candidate for that was the index I have been experimenting before, the clustered index o_orderdate_ind on the dbo.orders table.
For that purpose, I have executed the following script:

After multiple executions, the first process (Resumable Online Index Rebuild) on the average took 65.8 seconds, while the second one (a simple online) took only 60.8 seconds, representing 8% of the improvement of the overall performance. I can’t say if it looks acceptable to you or not, but for me this is something I will be definitely considering to be as an advantage for the cases where the resumable process is needed.

I decided to run a test on much bigger table, the lineitem which for 10GB TPCH database contains 60 Million Rows. My expectation here was to see if the percentage would stay the same or will jump to a whole new level (please make sure that you do execute the following script at least a couple of times, to get the real results and not the results of your disk-drive prefetching :)):

Well, here I have seen a very nice surprise – the ROIR operation took 232 seconds (3 Minutes and 52 seconds) while the default online rebuild took 230 seconds (3 Minutes and 50 seconds) with a difference of just 2 seconds, representing an incredibly small difference of just 1%. This price would be more than acceptable, in my personal opinion.

Naturally running an online operation without the concurrent workload is a kind of a fake test, and I am considering to post another blog post after the RTM release of the SQL Server 2017 to measure the performance as close to the real situations as possible.

How it works

To my understanding, internally the process will create small transactions, splitting the overall workload between some certain number and in the case when operation is stopped/paused/aborted, the internal rollback mechanism will cancel the data for the current small piece and will rollback to the last known committed transaction. In this way the loss of the information is very limited and to the final user/dba it looks like the process is canceled almost instantly.

Having a long pause for an index operation may impact the DML performance on a specific table as well as the database disk capacity since both indexes the original one and the newly created one require disk space and need to be updated during DML operations. If MAX_DURATION option is omitted, the index operation will continue until its completion or until a failure occurs.

A couple of words on Monitoring

You might say – wait a second, but what about the good old sys.dm_exec_requests DMV, I have all my monitoring queries and tools using it since like the last 10 years! How can I find out if a currently running query is a resumable operation or not ? Currently (23.04.2017) there is nothing in the documentation that mentions Resumable Online Index Rebuild!

Here is a little tip – when working with CTP or RC version, try checking out the real code of the DMVs, DMFs and other objects, to find out if there is something that can help you:

If you look carefully at the results and scroll to the bottom of the list, you will find a number of new columns, such DOP – the Degree of Parallelism, external_script_request_id, and most relevant to this blog post – is_resumable!
This means that you can easily identify the resumable operations (hopefully there will be much more than just a rowstore index rebuild in the nearest future).

Right now for SQL Server 2017, you can identify Resumable Online Index Rebuild operations easily by issuing the following query with a predicate:

So now you can go and update your scripts to include this clause, if needed 🙂

Trying out less clear waters

Well, there are some limitations to the current V1 implementation (and keep in mind, that this is still CTP 2.0, not the RTM – meaning there will be improvements).
One of most screaming one is the lack of the SORT_IN_TEMPDB option. On the SQL Servers where the TEMPDB is saving the operations by having a fast drive, you won’t be able to count on the Resumable Online Index Rebuild:

Running the above script will give you the following error message:

I truly want this one to be fixed as soon as possible. In the perfect world I would love to see it being fixed before RTM.
And I have a bad feeling that this feature will wait for at least one release… 🙁

There is a lot of software (and even own from Microsoft, such as Dynamics Navision that is using TIMESTAMP data type very heavily, let’s try out rebuilding an index that contains the timestamp as the leading column:

Insert a sad face here.: (

Computed Columns:
Oh those computed columns, they can be so helpful, but they are so much unsupported (especially in the Columnstore Indexes :():

This script delivers the error message, no matter if try a persisted or non-persisted computed columns:

Disabled Indexes
In the real life, we do disable and enable indexes, especially in the DWH space where before the data loading process speed is almost always of the highest importance.
In the script below I am disabling the ix_ROIR_Test3 index before trying to execute Resumable Online Index Rebuild:

This attempt will bring another error message saying that the disabled indexes are not supported:

Rebuild ALL

In the real production environment a lot of times one can find the attempts to rebuild all indexes with a single command – ALTER INDEX ALL or ALTER TABLE .. REBUILD
Let’s see if we can get Resumable Online Index Rebuild to function correctly with both of them:


The result is quite sad:

I wonder why this option is not supported.
Multiple indexes tracking is a difficult problem ?
We can’t rebuild them in parallel guaranteeing the same progress, is it ?
I am absolutely fine with indexes being rebuilt in a different order with different progress.
I would be fine if such invocation would start rebuilds for all indexes, instantly pausing them and then carrying on with the first of them.
The pause process is what might have prevented this operation from being implemented so far, since by default as I have shown you above, the connection is shut down for the running SPID and this is something that the developers of this feature are still trying to solve…
But this item is truly important, since no one will want to run through dozens of indexes manually!

Hmmm … Ok … a kind of… :S
Let’s hope that Microsoft will focus on ALTER INDEX ALL first and then will implement the table operation.


If you are rebuilding your tables within transactions, you will find that Resumable Online Index Rebuild does not support this option:

The error message is quite clear:

and I really do not worry about this part right at this moment. I imagine that getting rollbacks right in a complex environment might not be the easiest task and Microsoft wants to evaluate if there are enough people excited about the direction of the Resumable Online Index Rebuild.
I know I am 🙂

Final Thoughts

Looks like a well thought enhancement for the SQL Server Storage Engine! I am truly excited to start using SQL Server 2017 and Azure SQL Database to take advantage of this functionality.

I am really looking forward to see future iterations and support for the Columnstore Indexes, as well as the missing elements, such as computed columns or TIMESTAMPs (come on, there are enough Microsoft Dynamics family products are heavily depending on that data type!).
The REBUILD ALL options is something that I believe should be fixed before RTM of SQL Server 2017, this might give a functionality a bad name.

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