Interval Scan

When a query includes a condition on the designated timestamp, QuestDB performs an Interval Scan.

For a breakdown of interval syntax in time-based queries, see the WHERE clause reference.

How Interval Scan works‚Äč

This process involves:

  1. Analyzing the condition: QuestDB examines the query to identify the conditions applied to the designated timestamp.
  2. Extracting a list of timestamp intervals: Based on the condition, QuestDB determines the specific intervals of time that need to be scanned.
  3. Performing a binary search for each interval's scan boundaries in the designated timestamp column: For each identified interval, QuestDB uses a binary search to quickly find the start and end points of the interval in the timestamp column. A binary search is a fast search algorithm that finds the position of a target value within a sorted array, which in this case is a sorted timestamp column.
  4. Scanning table data only within the found boundaries: QuestDB then scans only the rows of the table that fall within these boundaries, significantly reducing the amount of data that needs to be processed.

The Interval Scan is possible because tables with a designated timestamp store data in timestamp order. This allows QuestDB to efficiently skip over data that falls outside the relevant intervals. However, it's important to note that Interval Scan does not apply to the results of sub-queries, as the data returned from a sub-query is not guaranteed to be in timestamp order.

Interval scan.

EXPLAIN Interval Scan‚Äč

You can determine whether an Interval Scan is used to execute a query using the EXPLAIN command.

For example, consider the trades table with a timestamp designated timestamp. The following query:

EXPLAIN
SELECT * FROM trades
WHERE timestamp IN '2023-01-20';

Produces this query plan:

QUERY PLAN
DataFrame
    Row forward scan
    Interval forward scan on: trades
      intervals: [("2023-01-20T00:00:00.000000Z","2023-01-20T23:59:59.999999Z")]

The query optimizer reduces scanning to a single interval related to the 2023-01-20 day.

Examples‚Äč

The following three queries all produce the same Interval Scan plan because they all specify the same time range for the timestamp column, just in different ways:

EXPLAIN
SELECT * FROM trades
WHERE timestamp IN '2023-01-20';

EXPLAIN
SELECT * FROM trades
WHERE timestamp between '2023-01-20T00:00:00.000000Z' and '2023-01-20T23:59:59.999999Z';

EXPLAIN
SELECT * FROM trades
WHERE timestamp >= '2023-01-20T00:00:00.000000Z' and timestamp <= '2023-01-20T23:59:59.999999Z';

The Interval Scan plan looks like this:

QUERY PLAN
DataFrame
    Row forward scan
    Interval forward scan on: trades
      intervals: [("2023-01-20T00:00:00.000000Z","2023-01-20T23:59:59.999999Z")]

If need to scan more than one interval, you can use the timestamp IN operator:

EXPLAIN
SELECT * FROM trades
WHERE timestamp IN '2023-01-01;1d;1y;2';

This query results in an Interval Scan plan that includes two intervals:

QUERY PLAN
DataFrame
    Row forward scan
    Interval forward scan on: trades
      intervals: [(2023-01-01T00:00:00.000000Z,2023-01-02T23:59:59.999999Z), (2024-01-01T00:00:00.000000Z,2024-01-02T23:59:59.999999Z)]

The table scan is limited to these two intervals:

  • <2023-01-01T00:00:00.000000Z,2023-01-02T23:59:59.999999Z>
  • <2024-01-01T00:00:00.000000Z,2024-01-02T23:59:59.999999Z>

If a table doesn't have a designated timestamp, you can declare one using the timestamp(columnName) function.

For example, the following query results in a full scan with an Async Filter, which is a process that scans the entire table without taking advantage of the designated timestamp:

EXPLAIN
SELECT * FROM trades_nodts
WHERE timestamp IN '2023-01-20'

However, if you declare a designated timestamp:

EXPLAIN
SELECT * FROM trades_nodts timestamp(timestamp)
WHERE timestamp IN '2023-01-20'

It results in an Interval Forward Scan.

Note that declaring a designated timestamp only works if the data is truly ordered. For example, if data are sorted in ascending order by the timestamp. Otherwise the result is undefined, meaning that the query may not return the expected results.