Secondary indexes

Explore secondary indexes in YugabyteDB using YSQL

Using indexes enhances database performance by enabling the database server to find rows faster. You can create, drop, and list indexes, as well as use indexes on expressions.

Create indexes

You can create indexes in YSQL using the CREATE INDEX statement using the following syntax:

CREATE INDEX index_name ON table_name(column_list);

column_list represents a column or a comma-separated list of several columns to be stored in the index. An index created for more than one column is called a composite index (multi-column index).

For more information, see CREATE INDEX.

Multi-column indexes can be beneficial in situations where queries are searching in more than a single column.

You can also create a functional index in YSQL, in which case you would replace any element of column_list with an expression. For more information, see Expression indexes.

YSQL currently supports index access methods lsm (log-structured merge-tree) and ybgin. These indexes are based on YugabyteDB's DocDB storage and are similar in functionality to PostgreSQL's btree and gin indexes, respectively. The index access method can be specified with USING <access_method_name> after table_name. By default, lsm is chosen.

For more information on ybgin, see Generalized inverted index.

You can apply sort order on the indexed columns as HASH (default option for the first column), ASC (default option for the second and subsequent columns), as well as DESC.

For examples, see Unique index with HASH column ordering and ASC ordered index.

List indexes and verify the query plan

YSQL inherits all the functionality of the PostgreSQL pg_indexes view that allows you to retrieve a list of all indexes in the database as well as detailed information about every index.

SELECT indexname, indexdef FROM pg_indexes WHERE tablename = 'your_table_name';

For details, see pg_indexes in the PostgreSQL documentation.

You can also use the EXPLAIN statement to check if a query uses an index and determine the query plan before execution.

For more information, see EXPLAIN.

Remove indexes

You can remove one or more existing indexes using the DROP INDEX statement in YSQL using the following syntax:

DROP INDEX index_name1, index_name2, index_name3, ... ;

For more information, see DROP INDEX.


Before you start

The examples will run on any YugabyteDB universe.
To create a universe, see Set up YugabyteDB universe.

Suppose you work with a database that includes the following table populated with data:

CREATE TABLE employees (
  employee_no integer,
  name text,
  department text
(1221, 'John Smith', 'Marketing'),
(1222, 'Bette Davis', 'Sales'),
(1223, 'Lucille Ball', 'Operations');

The following example shows a query that finds employees working in Operations department:

SELECT * FROM employees WHERE department = 'Operations';

To process the preceding query, the whole employees table needs to be scanned. For large organizations, this might take a significant amount of time.

To speed up the process, you create an index for the department column, as follows:

CREATE INDEX index_employees_department
  ON employees(department);

The following example executes the query after the index has been applied to department and uses the EXPLAIN statement to prove that the index participated in the processing of the query:

EXPLAIN SELECT * FROM employees WHERE department = 'Operations';

Following is the output produced by the preceding example:

Index Scan using index_employees_department on employees (cost=0.00..5.22 rows=10 width=68)
Index Cond: (department = 'Operations'::text)

To remove the index index_employees_department, use the following command:

DROP INDEX index_employees_department;

Multi-column index

To add a multi-column index during table creation, you can use the following syntax:

CREATE TABLE table_name (
    col1 data_type PRIMARY KEY,
    col2 data_type,
    col3 data_type,
    col3 data_type,
    INDEX index_name (col2,col3,col4)

To add a multi-column index to an existing table, you can use the following syntax:

CREATE INDEX index_name ON table_name(col2,col3,col4);

The column order is very important when you create a multi-column index in YSQL because of the structure in which the index is stored. As such, these indexes have a hierarchical order from left to right. So, for the preceding syntaxes, you can perform search using the following column combinations:


A column combination like (col2,col4) cannot be used to search or query a table.

Multi-column example

Before you start

The examples will run on any YugabyteDB universe.
To create a universe, see Set up YugabyteDB universe.

This example uses the employees table from the Northwind sample database.

View the contents of the employees table:

SELECT * FROM employees LIMIT 2;
employee_id  | last_name | first_name |        title         | title_of_courtesy | birth_date | hire_date  |           address           |  city   | region | postal_code | country |   home_phone   | extension | photo |                                                                                                           notes                                                                                                            | reports_to |              photo_path
           4 | Peacock   | Margaret   | Sales Representative | Mrs.              | 1937-09-19 | 1993-05-03 | 4110 Old Redmond Rd.        | Redmond | WA     | 98052       | USA     | (206) 555-8122 | 5176      | \x    | Margaret holds a BA in English literature from Concordia College (1958) and an MA from the American Institute of Culinary Arts (1966).  She was assigned to the London office temporarily from July through November 1992. |          2 | http://accweb/emmployees/peacock.bmp
           1 | Davolio   | Nancy      | Sales Representative | Ms.               | 1948-12-08 | 1992-05-01 | 507 - 20th Ave. E.\nApt. 2A | Seattle | WA     | 98122       | USA     | (206) 555-9857 | 5467      | \x    | Education includes a BA in psychology from Colorado State University in 1970.  She also completed The Art of the Cold Call.  Nancy is a member of Toastmasters International.                                              |          2 | http://accweb/emmployees/davolio.bmp
(2 rows)

Suppose you want to query the subset of employees by their first and last names. The query plan using the EXPLAIN statement would look like the following:

EXPLAIN SELECT * FROM employees WHERE last_name='Davolio' AND first_name='Nancy';
                                            QUERY PLAN
 Seq Scan on employees  (cost=0.00..105.00 rows=1000 width=1240)
   Remote Filter: (((last_name)::text = 'Davolio'::text) AND ((first_name)::text = 'Nancy'::text))
(2 rows)

Without creating a multi-column index, querying the employees table with the WHERE clause scans all the 1000 rows sequentially. Creating an index limits the number of rows to be scanned for the same query.

Create a multi-column index on the columns last_name and first_name from the employees table as follows:

CREATE INDEX index_names ON employees(last_name, first_name);

Verify with the EXPLAIN statement that the number of rows is significantly less compared to the original query plan.

EXPLAIN SELECT * FROM employees WHERE last_name='Davolio' AND first_name='Nancy';
                                           QUERY PLAN
 Index Scan using index_names on employees  (cost=0.00..5.25 rows=10 width=1240)
   Index Cond: (((last_name)::text = 'Davolio'::text) AND ((first_name)::text = 'Nancy'::text))
(2 rows)

With the index index_names, you can also search for employees by their last names as follows:

EXPLAIN SELECT * FROM employees WHERE last_name='Davolio';
                                    QUERY PLAN
 Index Scan using index_names on employees  (cost=0.00..16.25 rows=100 width=1240)
   Index Cond: ((last_name)::text = 'Davolio'::text)
(2 rows)

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