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Implicit indexes

Ever noticed the DBAL creating indexes you did not remember asking for, with names such as IDX_885DBAFAA76ED395? In this document, we will distinguish three types of indexes:

user-defined indexes
indexes you did ask for
DBAL-defined indexes
indexes you did not ask for, created on your behalf by the DBAL
RDBMS-defined indexes
indexes you did not ask for, created on your behalf by the RDBMS

RDBMS-defined indexes can be created by some database platforms when you create a foreign key: they will create an index on the referencing table, using the referencing columns.

The rationale behind this is that these indexes improve performance, for instance for checking that a delete operation can be performed on a referenced table without violating the constraint in the referencing table.

Here are some database platforms that are known to create indexes when creating a foreign key:

These platforms can drop an existing implicit index once it is fulfilled by a newly created user-defined index.

Some other will not do so, on grounds that such indexes are not always needed, and can be created in many different ways. They instead leave that responsibility to the user:

Regardless of the behavior of the platform, the DBAL will create an index for you and will automatically pick an index name that obeys string length constraints of the platform you are using. That way, differences between platforms are reduced because you always end up with an index.

This is a detail, but these indexes will be prefixed with IDX_, and typically look like this:

1CREATE INDEX IDX_885DBAFAA76ED395 ON posts (user_id)

In the case of MariaDB and MySQL, the creation of that DBAL-defined index will result in the RDBMS-defined index being dropped.

You can still explicitly create such indexes yourself, and the DBAL will notice when your index fulfills the indexing and constraint needs of the implicit index it would create, and will refrain from doing so, much like some platforms drop indexes that are redundant as explained above.