The query optimiser generates an execution plan, which in this case is a trivial plan that just contains the table scan and select operators. The query execution engine executes that execution plan, requesting every single row in the table from the storage engine, then returning that to the client.
Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server, MVP, M.Sc (Comp Sci)SQL In The Wild
: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability
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