31 May 2016

Top N- queries: using the 12c syntax.

One of the new features with Oracle database 12c is the new syntax for Top N queries and pagination. Did we really need this? Should you choose for the new syntax over the way we used to do it, with an inline view? I think so, it simply adds syntactic clarity to the query, and in this blogpost I will show the difference between the "old" and the "new".

For the examples I will use my all time favourite demo data: the EMP table.

SQL> select ename
  2        ,sal
  3    from emp
  4   order by sal desc
  5  /

ENAME             SAL
---------- ----------
KING             5000
FORD             3000
SCOTT            3000
JONES            2975
BLAKE            2850
CLARK            2450
ALLEN            1600
TURNER           1500
MILLER           1300
WARD             1250
Widlake          1250
ADAMS            1100
JAMES             950
SMITH             800

14 rows selected.
As you can tell from the output above, KING has the highest salary and FORD and SCOTT have the same salary which is the second highest.

If you wanted to write a Top N query before Oracle database 12c, let's say the Top 2 of most earning EMP, you would probably have written something with an inline view.

SQL> select ename
  2        ,sal
  3    from (select ename
  4                ,sal
  5            from emp
  6           order by sal desc
  7         )
  8   where rownum <= 2
  9  /

ENAME             SAL
---------- ----------
KING             5000
SCOTT            3000
This query might do the job most of the time, but the results might not be what you were looking for. In this case the requirement is "the Top 2 of most earning EMP", SCOTT and FORD should have both been in the results as they have the same salary.
To resolve this, you would have to rewrite your query using an Analytic Ranking Function in the inline view:
SQL> select ename
  2        ,sal
  3    from (select ename
  4                ,sal
  5                ,rank() over (order by sal desc) rn
  6            from emp
  7         )
  8   where rn <= 2
  9  /

ENAME             SAL
---------- ----------
KING             5000
SCOTT            3000
FORD             3000

Using the new Top N syntax in Oracle database 12c, the query is a lot easier to understand.

SQL> select ename
  2        ,sal
  3    from emp
  4   order by sal desc
  5   fetch first 2 rows with ties
  6  /

ENAME             SAL
---------- ----------
KING             5000
SCOTT            3000
FORD             3000
On line 4 the results are sorted based on the salary (highest on top) and line 5 instructs to get the first two rows. Because of the addition "with ties" both SCOTT and FORD are shown in the results.
To see what happens under the covers, an explain plan is created for this query.
SQL> explain plan for
  2  select ename
  3        ,sal
  4    from emp
  5   order by sal desc
  6   fetch first 2 rows with ties
  7  /

Explained.

SQL> select *
  2    from table (dbms_xplan.display())
  3  /

PLAN_TABLE_OUTPUT
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Plan hash value: 3291446077

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Id  | Operation                | Name | Rows  | Bytes | Cost (%CPU)| Time     |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT         |      |    14 |   644 |     4  (25)| 00:00:01 |
|*  1 |  VIEW                    |      |    14 |   644 |     4  (25)| 00:00:01 |
|*  2 |   WINDOW SORT PUSHED RANK|      |    14 |   154 |     4  (25)| 00:00:01 |
|   3 |    TABLE ACCESS FULL     | EMP  |    14 |   154 |     3   (0)| 00:00:01 |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Predicate Information (identified by operation id):
---------------------------------------------------

   1 - filter("from$_subquery$_002"."rowlimit_$$_rank"<=2)
   2 - filter(RANK() OVER ( ORDER BY INTERNAL_FUNCTION("SAL") DESC )<=2)

16 rows selected.
The output above shows that the Analytic Function RANK is used.

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