Oracle Scratchpad

February 26, 2014

Predicate Order

Filed under: Bugs,CBO,Execution plans,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 8:14 am BST Feb 26,2014

Common internet question: does the order of predicates in the where clause make a difference.
General answer: It shouldn’t, but sometimes it will thanks to defects in the optimizer.

There’s a nicely presented example on the OTN database forum where predicate order does matter (between 10.1.x.x and Note particularly – there’s a script to recreate the issue; note, also, the significance of the predicate section of the execution plan.
It’s bug 6782665, fixed in

February 25, 2014

FBI Skip Scan

Filed under: Bugs,Function based indexes,Indexing,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:45 pm BST Feb 25,2014

A recent posting on the OTN database forum highlighted a bug (or defect, or limitation) in the way that the optimizer handles index skip scans with “function-based” indexes – it doesn’t do them. The defect has probably been around for a long time and demonstrates a common problem with testing Oracle – it’s very easy for errors in the slightly unusual cases to be missed; it also demonstrates a general principle that it can take some time for a (small) new feature to be applied consistently across the board.

The index definitions in the original posting included expressions like substr(nls_lower(colX), 1, 25), and it’s possible for all sorts of unexpected effects to appear when your code starts running into NLS  settings, so I’ve created a much simpler example. Here’s my table definition, with three index definitions:


February 21, 2014

Indexing LOBs

Filed under: Function based indexes,Indexing,Infrastructure,LOBs,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:42 pm BST Feb 21,2014

Many years ago, possibly when most sites were still using Oracle 8i, a possible solution to a particular customer problem was to create a function-based index on a CLOB column using the dbms_lob.getlength() function call. I can’t find the notes explaining why this was necessary (I usually have some sort of clue – such as the client name – in the script, but in this case all I had was a comment that “the manuals say you can’t do this, but it works provided you wrap the dbms_lob call inside a deterministic function”).

I never worked out why the dbms_lob.getlength() function wasn’t declared as deterministic – especially since it came complete with a most restrictive restricts_references pragma – so I had just assumed there was probably some good reason based on strange side effects when national language charactersets came into play. But here’s a little detail I noticed recently about the dbms_lob.getlength() function: it became deterministic in 11g, so if the client decided to implement my suggestion (which included the usual sorts of warnings) it’s now legal !

Footnote – the length() function has been deterministic and usable with LOBs for a long time, certainly since late 9i, but in 8i length(lob_col) will produce Oracle error “ORA-00932: inconsistent datatypes”

Index Compression – aargh

Filed under: Bugs,compression,Indexing,Infrastructure,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 7:57 am BST Feb 21,2014

The problem with telling people that some feature of Oracle is a “good thing” is that some of those people will go ahead and use it; and if enough people use it some of them will discover a hitherto undiscovered defect. Almost inevitably the bug will turn out to be one of those “combinations” bugs that leaves you thinking: “Why the {insert preferred expression of disbelief here} should {feature X} have anything to do with {feature Y}”.

Here – based on index compression, as you may have guessed from the title – is one such bug. I got it first on, but it’s still there on and


February 16, 2014

Recursive subquery factoring

Filed under: Hints,Ignoring Hints,Oracle,Subquery Factoring,Tuning — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:11 pm BST Feb 16,2014

This is possibly my longest title to date – I try to keep them short enough to fit the right hand column of the blog without wrapping – but I couldn’t think of a good way to shorten it (Personally I prefer to use the expression CTE – common table expression – over “factored subquery” or “subquery factoring” or “with subquery”, and that would have achieved my goal, but might not have meant anything to most people.)

If you haven’t come across them before, recursive CTEs appeared in 11.2, are in the ANSI standard, and are (probably) viewed by Oracle as the strategic replacement for “connect by” queries. Here, to get things started, is a simple (and silly) example:


February 14, 2014

12c Subquery Factoring

Filed under: 12c,Oracle,Subquery Factoring,Tuning — Jonathan Lewis @ 11:44 am BST Feb 14,2014

From time to time I’ve posted a reminder that subquery factoring (“with subquery”) can give you changes in execution plans even if the subquery that you’ve taken out of line is written back inline by Oracle rather than being materialized. This can still happen in 12c – here’s a sample query in the two forms with the result sets and execution plans.  First, the “factored” version:


February 12, 2014

Caution – hints

Filed under: Hints,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:57 pm BST Feb 12,2014

Here’s a little example of why you should be very cautious about implementing undocumented discoveries. If you take a look at the view v$sql_hints in you’ll discover a hint (no_)cluster_by_rowid; and if you look in v$parameter you’ll discover two new parameters _optimizer_cluster_by_rowid and _optimizer_cluster_by_rowid_control.

It doesn’t take much imagination to guess that the parameters and hint have something to do with the costs of accessing compressed data by rowid on an Exadata system (see, for example, this posting) and it’s very easy to check what the hint does:

(more…) Upgrade

Filed under: Oracle,Upgrades — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:01 pm BST Feb 12,2014

A warning on Oracle-L from Chris Dunscombe: If you’ve got a large stats history – with lots of histogram data – then the upgrade could take an unexpectedly long time. Presumably the same is true if you upgrade from (or earlier) to 12c.


February 10, 2014

Row Migration

Filed under: Infrastructure,Oracle,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:55 pm BST Feb 10,2014

At one of the presentations I attended at RMOUG this year the presenter claimed that if a row kept increasing in size and had to migrate from block to block as a consequence then each migration of that row would leave a pointer in the previous block so that an indexed access to the row would start at the original table block and have to follow an ever growing chain of pointers to reach the data.

This is not correct, and it’s worth making a little fuss about the error since it’s the sort of thing that can easily become an urban legend that results in people rebuilding tables “for performance” when they don’t need to.

Oracle behaves quite intelligently with migrated rows. First, the migrated row has a pointer back to the original location and if the row has to migrate a second time the first place that Oracle checks for space is the original block, so the row might “de-migrate” itself; however, even if it can’t migrate back to the original block, it will still revisit the original block to change the pointer in that block to refer to the block it has moved on to – so the row is never more than one step away from its original location. As a quick demonstration, here’s some code to generate and manipulate some data:


RAC Plans

Filed under: Execution plans,Hints,Oracle,RAC,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 1:12 pm BST Feb 10,2014

Recently appeared on Mos – “Bug 18219084 : DIFFERENT EXECUTION PLAN ACROSS RAC INSTANCES”

Now, I’m not going to claim that the following applies to this particular case – but it’s perfectly reasonable to expect to see different plans for the same query on RAC, and it’s perfectly possible for the two different plans to have amazingly different performance characteristics; and in this particular case I can see an obvious reason why the two nodes could have different plans.

Here’s the query reported in the bug:


February 6, 2014

12c fixed subquery

Filed under: 12c,Execution plans,Oracle,subqueries — Jonathan Lewis @ 2:25 pm BST Feb 6,2014

Here’s a simple little demonstration of an enhancement to the optimizer in 12c that may result in some interesting changes in execution plans as cardinality estimates change from “guesses” to accurate estimates.


February 5, 2014


Filed under: Execution plans,Oracle,Troubleshooting,Tuning — Jonathan Lewis @ 5:42 pm BST Feb 5,2014

Here’s a little script to demonstrate an observation about a missed opportunity for avoiding work that appeared in my email this morning (that’s morning Denver time):


February 4, 2014


Filed under: Indexing,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 1:33 am BST Feb 4,2014

To create an index on a table (with no existing indexes) Oracle has to start by doing a tablescan.

What’s the difference between the tablescan it uses for a B-tree index and the tablescan it uses for a bitmap index ? Why ?


I was going to give a hint that if you answered the “why” first that might lead you to the right idea and a test for the “what”, but we already have an answer, with a sample of proof.

February 2, 2014


Filed under: clusters,Infrastructure,Oracle,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 10:27 pm BST Feb 2,2014

It doesn’t matter which bit of Oracle technology you want to use, eventually someone, somewhere, runs into the special case where something nasty happens. Here’s an edge case for people using (index) clusters – Oracle Bug  17866999 ora-1499 for cluster following rman convert

It comes from a conversation on Oracle-L where Jack van Zanen reported a problem of inconsistent results after migrating data between platforms using rman to converts some tablespaces containing index clusters. This is the starting post where he shows a query that is clearly getting the wrong answer (select where channel_number = 503 obviously shouldn’t return data with channel_number 501).


February 1, 2014

Modify PK

Filed under: Indexing,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 11:00 am BST Feb 1,2014

Sitting in the lounge waiting to be called for my flight I was musing on the 12c feature of having multiple indexes defined on the same ordered column set  when a thought crossed my mind and I decided to run a little test that looked like this:

create table t1 as select * from all_objects where rownum <= 10000;

create unique index t1_pk on t1(object_id);

alter table t1 add constraint t1_pk primary key(object_id);

create index t1_i1 on t1(object_id, object_name);

drop index t1_pk;

    expect ORA-02429: cannot drop index used for enforcement of unique/primary key

alter table t1 modify primary key using index t1_i1;

drop index t1_pk;

For years I’ve been assuming that you really have to mess around with the PK (and any related FKs) if you want to change the index supporting the primary key – but this code demonstrates that you can add a new index to a table and “move” the primary key to it before dropping the original index.

The worrying thing about this (for me, at any rate) is that it isn’t a new feature – after testing it on I started working backwards, and it works down to (the earlist 9i I have access to). It doesn’t work on, and the version behaves slightly differently from later versions because the original PK index disappears as the constraint is moved.

As I’ve often said about trust – keep an eye on the date and version of any article you read, it may no longer be true.

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