In SQL Server 2005, the functionality of non-clustered indexes is extended by adding non-key columns to the leaf level of the non-clustered index. Non-key columns, can help to create cover indexes.By including non-key columns, you can create non-clustered indexes that cover more queries. The Database Engine does not consider non-key columns when calculating the number of index key columns or index key size. Non-key columns can be included in non-clustered index to avoid exceeding the current index size limitations of a maximum of 16 key columns and a maximum index key size of 900 bytes. Another advantage is that using non-key column in index we can have index data types not allowed as index key columns generally.
In following example column FileName is varchar(400), which will increase the size of the index key bigger than it is allowed. If we still want to include in our cover index to gain performance we can do it by using the Keyword INCLUDE.
CREATE INDEX IX_Document_Title
ON Production.Document (Title, Revision)
Non-key columns can be included only in non-clustered indexes. Columns can’t be defined in both the key column and the INCLUDE list. Column names can’t be repeated in the INCLUDE list. Non-key columns can be dropped from a table only after the non-key index is dropped first. For Included Column Index to exist there must be at least one key column defined with a maximum of 16 key columns and 1023 included columns.
Avoid adding unnecessary columns. Adding too many index columns, key or non-key as they will affect negatively on performance. Fewer index rows will fit on a page. This could create I/O increases and reduced cache efficiency. More disk space will be required to store the index. Index maintenance may increase the time that it takes to perform modifications, inserts, updates, or deletes, to the underlying table or indexed view.Another example to test:
Create following Index on Database AdventureWorks in SQL SERVER 2005
CREATE NONCLUSTERED INDEX IX_Address_PostalCode
ON Person.Address (PostalCode)
INCLUDE (AddressLine1, AddressLine2, City, StateProvinceID)
Test the performance of following query before and after creating Index. The performance improvement is significant.
SELECT AddressLine1, AddressLine2, City, StateProvinceID, PostalCode
WHERE PostalCode BETWEEN '98000'