What is the role of a cluster?

What is the role of a cluster?

A cluster basically pre-joins two or more tables. These tables are joined on some key field(s). This is called the "cluster key". So for a cluster, a row from Table A is physically stored next to it's join partner from Table B. So conceptually, a cluster might look something like this:

  Table A      Table B
  Name   ID    City
  -----  ---   --------
  Bob      1   Denver
  Joe      2   Chicago
  Sue      3   Dallas

If they were not stored in a cluster, the two tables would look like:

  Table A                  Table B
  Name   ID                ID   City
  -----  ---               ---  --------
  Bob      1                 1  Denver
  Joe      2                 2  Chicago
  Sue      3                 3  Dallas

These are two separate tables here. You can clearly see the join key (ID column). Why store tables clustered together? For improved performance of queries that join two tables together. Hopefully, this is done on two tables that almost always get joined on the same column. This way, the join is predone for you. If the tables were separate, then they would have to be joined. Normally, clusters are on very big tables that get joined together often on the same key column. Why not use a cluster? What happens if you need just the contents of table A from the cluster? You have to read the contents of table B as well. This can cause a performance problem for those queries that query just one of the tables. So there is a trade off here.

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