Rule Based Optimizer (RBO)

What is Rule-Based Optimizer (RBO)?

A Rule-Based Optimizer (RBO) is a component in a database management system (DBMS) that determines the most efficient way to execute a database query by following a set of predefined rules. These rules are based on the logical structure and syntax of the query rather than the data it processes. Unlike a Cost-Based Optimizer (CBO) that evaluates the cost of different query execution plans based on statistical information, the RBO relies solely on heuristic or fixed rules to make these decisions.


How Rule-Based Optimizer (RBO) Functions

At its heart, the RBO operates on a set of predefined heuristic rules. Understanding how it functions involves delving into its rule-based nature and the process it follows to enhance query performance.

Process of Rule Application

  • Pattern Matching: When a query is submitted to the database, the RBO scans its rule set and identifies which rules are applicable. This is determined by the pattern each rule is designed to recognize in the query's structure.
  • Rule Selection and Execution: Once relevant rules are identified, the RBO applies them to the query. These rules might suggest the use of specific indexes, dictate the order of joins, or recommend the reorganization of query elements for more efficient execution.
  • Sequential or Hierarchical Rule Application: The rules in an RBO are applied in a specific order, which can be either sequential or hierarchical, depending on the design of the optimizer. This ordered application ensures that the most crucial optimizations are performed first.

Types of Transformations

RBOs utilize transformations to modify and optimize query plans. These transformations can be broad, affecting large parts of the query plan, or localized, targeting specific segments. For example, a transformation might reorder joins for efficiency or optimize subqueries for faster execution.

Decision Framework in RBO

The decision-making process within an RBO is governed by a set of algorithms that dictate when and how each rule is applied. As the number of rules and potential transformations grows, this decision framework becomes crucial in managing complexity and ensuring efficient query optimization.

Modularization in RBO

One of the key strengths of RBOs is their modular nature. Each rule acts as an independent module within the optimizer. This design allows for easier maintenance and updates of the optimizer, as rules can be modified, added, or removed without impacting the entire system.


Benefits of Rule-Based Optimizer (RBO)

  • Predictability: RBOs are straightforward in their approach. The fixed nature of their rules makes the behavior of the optimizer predictable, which can be beneficial in environments where the database schema and data distribution are stable and well-understood.
  • No Need for Data Statistics: RBOs do not rely on statistical information about the data. This can be advantageous in environments where collecting and maintaining accurate data statistics is challenging or impossible.
  • Low Maintenance: Since RBOs do not depend on the statistical analysis of data, they require less upkeep in terms of data statistics maintenance.
  • Ease of Implementation: For smaller or less complex databases, RBOs can be easier to implement and manage compared to CBOs.


Limitations of Rule-Based Optimizer (RBO)

  • Inflexibility in Complex Scenarios: Due to its reliance on a fixed rule set, the RBO might not always provide the best optimization for complex or dynamically changing data environments.
  • Potential for Suboptimal Performance: RBOs might not identify the most efficient execution plan, which can lead to suboptimal performance for certain types of queries where a deeper understanding of data distribution is necessary.
  • Complexity in Certain Areas: Specific aspects of query optimization, such as join planning, can become more complex under an RBO due to the isolated nature of its rules.
  • Challenges in Dynamic Data Environments: As data environments become more dynamic and complex, the static nature of RBOs can be less adaptive to changes in the database schema or data distribution compared to CBOs.


Use Cases for RBO

RBOs are especially effective in environments such as:
  • Small-scale Databases: In databases where complexity and size are manageable, RBOs can effectively optimize queries without the need for intensive data analysis.
  • Stable Data Patterns: In scenarios where data patterns and distributions are stable and predictable, RBOs provide efficient optimization without the overhead of constantly updating data statistics.
  • Legacy Systems: Older database systems, which were originally designed with specific operational rules in mind, can benefit from the simplicity and predictability of RBOs.


Real-World Examples and Implementations

  • ClickHouse: ClickHouse employs an RBO for its query optimization. It uses a set of predefined rules to process and optimize queries, ensuring efficient data retrieval in its specific high-performance environment.
  • Presto: Implements a distributed SQL query engine that leverages heuristic rules for efficient query transformation and optimization.
  • CockroachDB: Utilizes a unique approach with a Cascades-style RBO, employing a custom domain-specific language (DSL) for defining transformation rules, demonstrating the adaptability of RBOs in modern database systems.

RBO vs. CBO: A Comparison


  • Data Dependency: The most significant difference lies in their approach to data. CBOs use statistical data to estimate the cost of different query execution plans, making them more adaptable to varying data conditions. RBOs, on the other hand, do not consider data statistics, leading to a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Complexity and Performance: CBOs generally outperform RBOs in complex queries and large databases. They can analyze different execution paths and choose the most efficient one based on the data's current state.
  • Maintenance and Stability: RBOs are simpler in design and require less maintenance since they don’t depend on data statistics. This can make them more stable in certain controlled environments.
  • Predictability: The deterministic nature of RBOs can be an advantage in environments where predictability is more important than optimal performance.


The Rule-Based Optimizer is a critical tool in database management, offering a predictable and structured approach to query optimization. It excels in environments where data patterns are stable and queries are less complex. However, its fixed-rule approach can pose challenges in more dynamic or complex data scenarios. Understanding the workings of an RBO is essential for database administrators and developers to effectively harness its capabilities and mitigate its limitations.