Oracle Scratchpad

March 7, 2017


Filed under: Infrastructure,Oracle,Performance,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 7:57 pm BST Mar 7,2017

A recent posting on the OTN database forum described a problem with an insert (as select) statement that sometimes ran extremely slowly: nothing interesting yet, there could be plenty of boring reasons for that to happen. The same SQL statement (by SQL_ID) might take 6 hours to insert 300K rows one night while taking just a few minutes to insert 900K another night (still nothing terribly interesting).

An analysis of the ASH data about the statement showed that the problem was on the “LOAD TABLE CONVENTIONAL” operation – which starts to get interesting if you also assume that someone who was competent to look at ASH would probably have noticed whether or not the time spent was on (the first obvious guess) some variant of “TX enqueue” waits or “log file” waits or something amazingly different. It’s also a little more interesting if you’ve noticed that the title of the posting is about “consuming a lot of CPU time” – so where could that be going if we see most of the excess time going on the insert rather than on the select.

Here’s an enormous clue that this might be a “non-standard” problem – the SQL statement starts like this:

INSERT  /*+ ignore_row_on_dupkey_index(tgt OTC_DAT_TV_PROC_STATUS_UK) */
    {list of columns}
SELECT  /*+ parallel(8) */

See the hint which says “ignore rows if they raise duplicate key errors against index otc_dat_tv_proc_status_uk” ? Think what it might take to implement code that obeys the hint – Oracle can’t know that a row is duplicating a value until it has inserted the row (to get a rowid) then tried to maintain the index and discovered the pre-existing value, at which point it raises an exception, then handles it by undoing the single row insert (I wonder what that does to array inserts, and the logic of triggers), then carries on with the next row. (I suppose the code could check every relevant index before doing the insert – but that would mean a very big, and possibly very resource-intensive, change to all existing “insert a row” code.)

Surely we’re going to see some dramatic effects if a large fraction of our rows result in duplicate values.

Warning – the guess might not be right but it’s much more interesting than all the other guesses you might make at this point and a good excuse for doing a bit of experimentation and learning. So here’s a simple model to test the “excess work” hypothesis – running against

rem     Script:         ignore_dupkey.sql
rem     Author:         Jonathan Lewis
rem     Dated:          Mar 2017

drop table t2;
drop table t1;

create table t1
select  *
from    all_objects
where   rownum <= 50000 ; -- > comment to protect WordPress formatting

create table t2
select  *
from    all_objects
where   rownum <= 50000 ; -- > comment to protect WordPress formatting

update t1 set object_id = object_id + (select max(object_id) from t1)


create unique index t1_i1 on t1(object_id);

                ownname          => user,
                tabname          =>'T1',
                method_opt       => 'for all columns size 1'

                ownname          => user,
                tabname          =>'T2',
                method_opt       => 'for all columns size 1'

All I’ve done is create two copies of the same data – with an update in place that changes one set of data so that the object_id doesn’t overlap with the object_id in the other set. The update statement is something that I’m going to include in one test but exclude from the second. Now for the statement that tests for the effects of the hint:

execute snap_events.start_snap
execute snap_my_stats.start_snap

        /*+ ignore_row_on_dupkey_index(t1 (object_id)) */
        into t1
select  *
from    t2

execute snap_my_stats.end_snap
execute snap_events.end_snap

There are several different things I could do once I’ve got this basic test set up if I want to refine what I’m testing and isolate certain aspects of the mechanism, but all I’ll do for this note is a simple report of some figures from the two tests – one where the object_id values don’t overlap and one where t1 and t2 are exact copies of each other. The two procedures wrapping the statement are just my standard routines for capturing changes in v$mystat and v$session_event for my session.

For the insert where I’ve done the update to avoid any duplicates appearing the insert completed in about 0.3 seconds, generating 10MB of redo and 2MB of undo.

When I removed the update statement the (continuously failing) insert took 35.5 seconds to complete, of which almost all the time was CPU time. The redo jumped to 478MB with 14MB of undo. The extreme level of redo surprised me slightly especially since the scale of the change was so much greater than that of the undo – I think it may be due to a problem with Oracle needing to unwind one row from an (internal) array insert before retrying. Here, taken from the session stats of the problem run, is a little indication of why the time (and especially the CPU time) increased so much:

Name                                                                     Value
----                                                                     -----
rollback changes - undo records applied                                 95,014
active txn count during cleanout                                        24,627
cleanout - number of ktugct calls                                       24,627
HSC Heap Segment Block Changes                                          97,509
Heap Segment Array Inserts                                              97,509
recursive calls                                                        682,574
recursive cpu usage                                                      2,193
session logical reads                                                1,341,077

Obviously there’s a lot of work done rolling back changes that should not have been made (though why it’s reported as 95,000 rather than 100,000 I don’t know and I’d rather not do a trace of buffer activity to find out) with an associated extra load of data block activity. Most visible, though, is the huge number of recursive calls with, perhaps associated, a very large number of session logical reads. Clearly it’s worth enabling extended tracing to see what’s going on – if you haven’t already guessed what some of those calls are about. Here’s an extract from the top of an appropriate tkprof output:

tkprof test_ora_32298.trc ignore_dupkey sort=execnt

select /*+ rule */,
 con$ c, cdef$ cd, user$ u  where c.con# = cd.con# and cd.enabled = :1 and
  c.owner# = u.user#

call     count       cpu    elapsed       disk      query    current        rows
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
Parse    48753      1.86       2.08          0          0          0           0
Execute  48753      3.75       4.17          0          0          0           0
Fetch    48753      2.86       3.12          0      97506          0           0
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
total   146259      8.47       9.38          0      97506          0           0

 obj$ o, user$ u  where o.obj# = :1 and o.owner# = u.user#

call     count       cpu    elapsed       disk      query    current        rows
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
Parse    48753      1.87       1.99          0          0          0           0
Execute  48753      3.60       3.63          0          0          0           0
Fetch    48753      7.35       7.52          0     243765          0       48753
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
total   146259     12.84      13.14          0     243765          0       48753

The top two statements in the trace file show Oracle first trying to find the name of the constraint that has been breached, then falling back to searching for the name of the unique index that has caused the error to appear. If I had created a unique constraint rather than just a unique index then the second of these two statement would not have appeared in the trace file (and the run would have been a little quicker – hint: constraints are a good thing).

You’ll notice that the total number of calls from the two statement is roughly 292,500 – far short of the 682,000 reported in the session stats. Unfortunately there was nothing else in the trace files that could be blamed for the outstanding 400,000 missing calls. It’s not really necessary to chase up all the details, though; clearly we can see that this feature is very expensive if lots of duplicates appear – like DML error logging it has probably been created as a way of dealing with occasional errors when handling large volumes of data.


Notice that my example uses the “index description” method for specifying the index in the hint; it’s legal with either the name or the description. Interestingly (but, perhaps, unsurprisingly) this is a hint that Oracle has to parse for correctness before optimisation. I made a mistake in my first attempt at writing the update statement leaving me with duplicates in the data so Oracle couldn’t create the unique index; as a consequence of the missing unique index the insert statement reported the Oracle error “ORA-38913: Index specified in the index hint is invalid”.

Update Sept 2019

I’ve just re-run the test on and, and nothing has changed.


  1. Excellent example of analysis. It shows how one must understand the underlying mechanism or you get unintended consequences.

    Comment by scubajim — March 7, 2017 @ 8:10 pm BST Mar 7,2017 | Reply

  2. Hi Jonathan,

    implementation of hint ignore_row_on_dupkey_index is really strange. I ran into issues with in few years back and wrote about it on my blog: Oracle hint ignore_row_on_dupkey_index – part 1 & 2

    Comment by Michal Simonik — January 18, 2018 @ 4:37 pm BST Jan 18,2018 | Reply

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