Optimizing LINQ to SQL Skip/Take

Written by Bill Boga
This post is days old.

Picture a scenario where you want to page a large dataset and your LINQ statement has several Include-calls. The first few pages load fairly quickly, but the deeper you get into the results, the slower each page loads. You refactor the query, but still have longer wait-times the further down you go in the results. As a last-ditch effort, you decide to increase resources to your DB-server and call it a day. Things may have improved a bit, but as the dataset grows, so do your wait times. And, the cycle continues…

Understanding how SQL executes the statement

Given a LINQ statement like:

  .OrderBy(x => x.Id)

This roughly gets translated into:

select * from [Cars] order by [Cars].[Id] asc offset 50000 rows fetch next 1000 rows only;

Because offset and fetch are extensions of order by, they are not executed until after the select-portion runs (google). This means an expensive select with lots of join-statements are executed on the whole dataset ([Cars]) prior to getting the fetched-results.

How to optimize the statement

All that is needed is taking the OrderBy, Skip, and Take statements and putting them into a Where-clause:

  .Where(x => context.Cars.OrderBy(y => y.Id).Select(y => y.Id).Skip(50000).Take(1000).Contains(x.Id))

This roughly gets translated into:

exec sp_executesql N'
select * from [Cars]
where exists
  (select 1 from
    (select [Cars].[Id] from [Cars] order by [Cars].[Id] asc offset @p__linq__0 rows fetch next @p__linq__1 rows only
    ) as [Limit1]
    where [Limit1].[Id] = [Cars].[Id]
order by [Cars].[Id] asc',N'@p__linq__0 int,@p__linq__1 int',@p__linq__0=50000,@p__linq__1=1000

So now, the outer select-statement only executes on the filtered dataset based on the where exists-clause!

Again, your mileage may vary on how much query time is saved by making the change. General rule of thumb is the more complex your select-statement and the deeper into the dataset you want to go, the more this optimization will help.

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