A nonclustered index is a special type of index in which the logical order of the index does not match the physical stored order of the rows on disk. The leaf nodes of a nonclustered index does not consist of the data pages. Instead, the leaf nodes contain index rows.
Consider using a clustered index for:
- Columns that contain a large number of distinct values.
- Queries that return a range of values using operators such as BETWEEN, >, >=, <, and <=.
- Columns that are accessed sequentially.
- Queries that return large result sets.
Non-clustered indexes have the same B-tree structure as clustered indexes, with two significant differences:
- The data rows are not sorted and stored in order based on their non-clustered keys.
- The leaf layer of a non-clustered index does not consist of the data pages. Instead, the leaf nodes contain index rows. Each index row contains the non-clustered key value and one or more row locators that point to the data row (or rows if the index is not unique) having the key value.