8.2.1.10 Nested-Loop Join Algorithms

MySQL executes joins between tables using a nested-loop algorithm or variations on it.

Nested-Loop Join Algorithm

A simple nested-loop join (NLJ) algorithm reads rows from the first table in a loop one at a time, passing each row to a nested loop that processes the next table in the join. This process is repeated as many times as there remain tables to be joined.

Assume that a join between three tables t1, t2, and t3 is to be executed using the following join types:

Table   Join Type
t1      range
t2      ref
t3      ALL

If a simple NLJ algorithm is used, the join is processed like this:

for each row in t1 matching range {
  for each row in t2 matching reference key {
    for each row in t3 {
      if row satisfies join conditions,
      send to client
    }
  }
}

Because the NLJ algorithm passes rows one at a time from outer loops to inner loops, it typically reads tables processed in the inner loops many times.

Block Nested-Loop Join Algorithm

A Block Nested-Loop (BNL) join algorithm uses buffering of rows read in outer loops to reduce the number of times that tables in inner loops must be read. For example, if 10 rows are read into a buffer and the buffer is passed to the next inner loop, each row read in the inner loop can be compared against all 10 rows in the buffer. The reduces the number of times the inner table must be read by an order of magnitude.

MySQL uses join buffering under these conditions:

For the example join described previously for the NLJ algorithm (without buffering), the join is done as follow using join buffering:

for each row in t1 matching range {
  for each row in t2 matching reference key {
    store used columns from t1, t2 in join buffer
    if buffer is full {
      for each row in t3 {
        for each t1, t2 combination in join buffer {
          if row satisfies join conditions,
          send to client
        }
      }
      empty buffer
    }
  }
}

if buffer is not empty {
  for each row in t3 {
    for each t1, t2 combination in join buffer {
      if row satisfies join conditions,
      send to client
    }
  }
}

If S is the size of each stored t1, t2 combination is the join buffer and C is the number of combinations in the buffer, the number of times table t3 is scanned is:

(S * C)/join_buffer_size + 1

The number of t3 scans decreases as the value of join_buffer_size increases, up to the point when join_buffer_size is large enough to hold all previous row combinations. At that point, there is no speed to be gained by making it larger.