Welcome to Part 2 in my on-going blog series on The Most Misunderstood Features of DB2. In Part 1 of the series we tackled the topic of locking, which IMHO is easily the most misunderstood feature of DB2 (probably of most DBMSes).
Today's topic is a brief one, but one that I've found folks to be confused about. Namely, the difference between the OPTIMIZE FOR and FETCH x ROWS ONLY clauses.
The OPTIMIZE FOR n ROWS and FETCH FIRST n ROWS ONLY are similar when it comes to influencing the optimizer. Both will provide help to the optimizer about the scale of the query (that is, the number of rows to expect when optimizing the access path to the data).
But, the two clauses have different purposes. If all you want to do is influence the optimizer then you should use OPTIMIZE FOR n ROWS as its usage does not limit the number of rows that can be fetched when the statement is executed. For example, you might specify OPTIMIZE FOR 1 ROW on a SELECT statement. But if 500 rows qualify then you can FETCH all 500 rows at run time.
(Note: the specific numbers used in the previous paragraph are not important; it is important only that you know the number of rows specified in the OPTIMIZE clause does not inhibit the number of rows that can later be accessed by the query/program.)
The FETCH FIRST n ROWS ONLY clause is different. It actually limits the number of rows that can be fetched when the query is run. If you specify the clause FETCH FIRST 5 ROWS ONLY, then only 5 rows can be fetched - even if 100 or 1000 or more actually qualify. And yes, the number of rows you specify for FETCH FIRST will be provided to the optimizer for access path formulation, but it also will change the way the query behaves when it runs.
So, when you write a SELECT statement that qualifies a large number of rows, but you only need a few rows at run time, it is a good idea to use FETCH FIRST n ROWS ONLY. On the other hand, if you are simply trying to tweak query performance by getting the optimizer to consider a different number of qualifying rows, then you should consider using OPTIMIZER FOR n ROWS.
The two statements are quite different and it is important that developers not confuse the two!