Oracle Scratchpad

October 19, 2017

Question Time

Filed under: Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 7:15 pm GMT Oct 19,2017

It’s that time of year again – the UKOUG Tech conference is approaching and I’ve organised a panel session on the Cost Based Optimizer.

This year I’ve got Christian Antognini, Nigel Bayliss, Maria Colgan and special guest star, all the way from Australia, Richard Foote on the panel, with Neil Chandler and Martin Widlake taking on their inimitable role of MCs.

If you’ve got any questions you’d like to put to the panel, you will have a chance to write them down on the day, but it would be nice to have a few supplied in advance in the comment below.  Tactical, strategic, technical, or just plain curious – this is a panel that can tell you what can be done, what shouldn’t be done, and how to do the things you shouldn’t do but sometimes have to.

If you prefer to email your questions then click this link.

Latest thought – a tweet would be a nicely sized question – if you want to reply to this one.

October 11, 2017

In memoriam – 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Lewis @ 1:30 pm GMT Oct 11,2017

My father-in-law died a couple of weeks ago, aged 95. This is the story that he wrote for his children and grandchildren a few years ago describing his experiences as a Naval engineer on the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable during the second world war.


When war broke out on 3rd September 1939 I wanted to join the Navy, and a few days later I saw a  new recruiting office near Southend Pier so I went in and asked how I would be able to join. A Petty Officer looked at me and said “Well, sonny, you will have to wait until you are 18”. I was then only 17 so I continued with my plan to become an engineer. In those days parents either had to pay the full cost of university education or rely on their children gaining scholarships. In my case scholarships were essential. So, concentrating on mathematics, I took Higher School Certificate (A-Levels) in July 1938 and July 1939, but did not gain any scholarships. At that time I was Head Boy at Lindisfarne College and in late September the school was evacuated to North Wales from the Southend area because of fears of bombing and invasion but here the buildings were not well equipped and there was no laboratory. However, the Southend High School remained at Southend and arrangements were made to transfer me there.

In December 1939 I was awarded a Scholarship at Queens’ College, Cambridge. Then in May 1940 when the German blitzkrieg started the High School was evacuated to Mansfield in the Midlands, but there I took the HSC again and as a result gained a State Scholarship and a Southend Borough Major Scholarship, which in total was enough to see me through Cambridge. There I made friends with Denis Campbell, Stuart Glass and Edward Higham. In addition to lectures we went regularly to tutorials with a great character called (Professor) Archie Browne. He had additional duties as Steward of the College, and was responsible for obtaining food supplies and coal for heating, which was very difficult in wartime.

The course was completed in two years and, with blackouts, air raid precautions and other restrictions, social life was limited. I joined the Naval Section of the Cadet Corps and the Home Guard which took up one or two afternoons each week. I remember one exercise where we had to make a mock attack by night on an airfield some ten miles north of Cambridge. The defenders somehow knew that we would attack the SE corner and mustered there, but we made a mistake and went for the NE corner which was undefended, so we theoretically captured that bit of airfield! We had to march there and back, and the blisters lasted for weeks. On another exercise Cambridge was attacked by the Welch Fusiliers, I remember being knocked on the head and falling into a ditch half full of water. I was considered a casualty and allowed to return to college for a hot bath.

July – September 1942         I applied to join the Royal Navy as an engineer officer and had interviews at the Admiralty including medical examinations. As a result I was accepted and appointed a Probationary Temporary Acting Sub.Lieutenant (E) RNVR, and the next step was to purchase my uniform at Gieves in London, including the purple stripe denoting engineering.

October 1942         I reported to Portsmouth Barracks for four weeks training. I wore my uniform for the first time at Warminster in Wiltshire where we were living, and traveled to Portsmouth without any knowledge of how to make or receive naval salutes in public! This was soon rectified at Portsmouth where I joined twenty other trainees for the course which included instruction in naval customs and traditions, rules and regulations, security, and the all-embracing Kings Regulations and Admiralty Instructions. We also had training in small arms firing and endless square bashing under the eagle eye of Chief Petty Officer Sims, who was as tough as old boots.

November 1942 – November 1943         I was posted to John Brown’s Engineering Works at Clydebank with Donald Townend and Ian Richardson for practical marine engineering training. John Brown’s was a huge organisation which built engines as well as ships, and just after we arrived Indefatigable was launched. This was an amazing sight, seeing 30,000 tons of ship slide down the slipway into the river Clyde. Before the war the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth were built on the same slipway.

The three of us were billeted with two or three other naval officers in lodgings at Glasgow where we three shared a room and were looked after by a homely landlady and her staff. Every morning we put on civilian clothes and caught a rickety old tram for a 30 minute journey to Clyde bank. There we worked successively in the Pattern-shop (making wood moulds), Foundry, Boiler-shop (being deafened by riveting), Machine-shop, Fitting-shop, Pipe-shop, Drawing Office and Dockyard. We did actually work, scraping bearings, operating lathes, casting metal, always under the supervision of an experienced workman. During lunch hours we used to climb over Indefat, deafened again by riveting, but we got to know the ship. At that time the yard was completing R class destroyers at the rate of about one every fortnight, and we used to take part in their initial sea trials so gaining experience of firing up boilers and operating turbine plant.

During the summer of 1943 we got to know the permanent RN engineer officers appointed to supervise the fitting out of the ship, including Peter Sandison who looked after the flight deck gear. We were seconded to help the checking of the installation and testing of all kinds of machinery, and in November I was chosen to be officially appointed to Indefat, while the other two went off to other ships.

December 1943 – February 1944         The ship was commissioned on 8th December and taken over by the RN from the yard. After dock trials we steamed down the Clyde and carried out various trials including full power of the 148,000 HP engines, the measured mile speed test (32 knots) off the Isle of Arran, and steering and going astern trials from full ahead. I remember on one occasion the steering gear locked solid at hard-a-starboard while doing full speed. We went round in circles flying two black balls showing we were out of control! Several weeks were spent commissioning and training the crew, taking on stores and ammunition, gunnery practice, testing of radar and flight deck equipment, while some time was spent at sea.

March – June 1944         The first aircraft flew in on 23rd March, and thereafter the squadrons began to arrive. We spent days at sea practising aircraft landings and by the end of June we had a complement of some 75 aircraft including Seafires, Fireflies and Hellcats. When at sea engineer officers kept watch for four hours at a time, the middle watch (midnight to 4 am) and the morning watch (4 am to 8 am) being the worst. During a watch we had to visit each engine room and boiler room, and altogether a total of seventeen machinery spaces where each involved climbing up and down three sets of ladders, as the only passage was via the main deck. The best visit was always to a boiler room, where the Chief Stoker would provide a mug of ‘kai’, a chocolate slab heated in hot water and steam.

In addition each officer had responsibility for a department which included the operation and maintenance of all the equipment in it, and the men carrying out this work. Over the years mine included seven steam generators supplying electricity to the ship, three emergency diesel generators, motor boats, steering gear and auxiliary machinery including the big evaporators for making the ship’s fresh water from seawater. Also every six months each officer took it in turn to run the ship’s laundry for 2000 crew!

At Action Stations if not on watch each engineer officer had a Damage Control section of the ship to look after. Mine was the midships section above one of the engine rooms, and my team consisted of about ten stokers and technicians. We might be stationed there all day with only sandwiches and ‘Spotted Dick’ for lunch!

July – October 1944         Indefat joined the Fleet at Scapa Flow surrounded by battleships, cruisers and destroyers, and spent much time at sea on Russian convoy escort duty going beyond the Arctic Circle. In July we made an attack on the largest German battleship Tirpitz, which was moored in a Norwegian fiord and was always a potential menace to Russian convoys. This operation was called MASCOT and with two other carriers the aircraft carrying out the attack included 44 Barracudas, 18 Hellcats and 12 Fireflies, supported by many Seafires as fighter escorts. The weather was not good with cloud and fog around and although the Tirpitz was damaged it was decided to make another attack in mid-August. Prior to that strikes were made against some installations on the Norwegian coast and then on 18th August we sailed for the second Tirpitz attack called operation GOODWOOD. At this time a valuable convoy was en route to Russia and our job was to protect it from the Tirpitz and Uboats. The convoy did arrive safely.

Indefat aircraft included 12 Barracudas, 12 Fireflies, 12 Hellcats and 32 Seafires, and the ship was accompanied by Formidable, Furious and two small escort carriers, together with destroyers. On the first day one escort carrier was torpedoed and badly damaged, and had to return to Scapa escorted by the second small carrier. Some time later a destroyer was torpedoed and sank, with few survivors. The operation lasted for seven days with the ship at Action Stations most of the time. At one point Indefat seemed to be under serious attack by Uboats, with the ship taking evasive action and shaken by exploding depth charges from nearby destroyers, while it was reported that one torpedo passed under Indefat. GOODWOOD was successful as Tirpitz was hit several times and had to be moved to the port of Tromso for repairs, where she was later sunk by the RAF with their 10 ton Tallboy bombs. Had she remained in the narrow fiord in the lee of the mountains protected by smokescreens they might never have hit her.

Above the Arctic Circle the sun at this time only went below the horizon for a short time, which meant that our ships could be continually kept under observation by German aircraft and Uboats. There were however some fascinating panoramas of sea and sky, and I remember that one evening the ship had to steam into the wind straight for the coast and the spectacular black rugged mountains of Norway loomed up ahead. I vowed that one day I would revisit the area, and so I did with Joan during our Norwegian cruise of 1987.

Our base was Scapa Flow where we returned every few days. Occasionally we went ashore and the main treat was a visit to the NAAFI canteen which provided a large dish of bacon and baked beans. Otherwise we spent time in the wardroom eating, drinking and playing shove ha’penny or bar skittles. One day we played hockey against a team of large and ruthless Wrens, who beat us using their sticks with wild abandon.

In July more engineer officers joined the ship and I knew that one of them would occupy the vacant berth in my double cabin. I anxiously watched them come aboard and liked the look of Brian, and was very glad when he was allocated to my cabin. Then began a friendship which has lasted all our lives.

October – November 1944         We returned to Clydebank in October and made preparations for going to the Far East. Then we steamed down to Portsmouth and went into dry dock for maintenance and cleaning the ship’s bottom. After this we were ready for sailing but before doing so on 16th November the King and the Royal Family came aboard to wish us Good Luck. We were all mustered in our divisions on the flight deck, the King inspected us and then asked for a cup of tea. This caused a flap as all the cooks and stewards were mustered, and it took the duty officer nearly half an hour to find some tea and make it!

December 1944         After leaving Portsmouth we sailed to Ceylon, passing through Gibraltar, the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and then across the Indian Ocean arriving at Colombo on 10th December. We stopped off Algiers where our Mess Secretary went ashore and triumphantly came back with a large load of Algerian wine, which turned out to be the most awful plonk! We had Admiral Vian, the fighting Admiral, on board and at Colombo he demanded to be ferried ashore immediately in his Admiral’s Barge. This motor boat arrived on board at Portsmouth just before we sailed and was stowed in one of the hangars, where the engine could not be tested. I was in charge of boats and I insisted that the boat should have a trial run before an official trip. The Admiral was furious and came storming down the Hight deck demanding an explanation, so I stood to attention quaking in my shoes and gave one. He looked me up and down and said “Right, I will give you ten minutes”. Luckily all went well. Strange how one remembers these things!

During the remainder of the month we spent time at Colombo or Trincomalee storing ship, or at sea exercising with other ships of the Fleet. Trincomalee was a beautiful harbour, and I remember Brian and I were thrilled to bring back a pineapple (which we hadn’t seen for years) to our cabin, but when with due ceremony we slit it open it was full of insects!

January 1945         On New Year’s Day we sailed in company with three other carriers, the battleship King George V, and several cruisers and destroyers for air strikes against the Japanese oil refineries at Palembang in Sumatra. The first strike took place on 4 January and about 100 aircraft took part plus 40 Seafires which provided fighter cover. The refineries were damaged but after returning to Trincomalee it w as decided that further strikes would be carried out and they took place on 24 and 29 January. These were major strikes carried out by 144 aircraft for the first and 128 for the second, plus the usual fighter cover. This time the Japanese were well prepared and on several occasions the Fleet came under attack by enemy aircraft. These were fought off by our guns and aircraft, two being shot down close to Indefat. There were many air battles and we lost 41 aircraft together with many of the aircrews. This included several aircraft that were damaged by enemy action and then crashed on deck landing. The worst event was the fate of nine aircrew survivors who had to force land in Sumatra, were made prisoners, taken to Singapore and then later beheaded. The strikes were successful as the refineries produced some 50 of Japanese oil requirements and they were reduced to a standstill, only increasing back to one third capacity by the end of March. After this we steamed south for Australia and crossed the line (the Equator) with King Neptune and his cohorts “coming aboard” on 1st February. I was duly ducked and scrubbed m a makeshift swimming pool.

February 1945         We called in at Fremantle and six days later arrived in Sydney and moored at Wooloomooloo near the Harbour Bridge. The Australians were very hospitable and Brian, Colin and I were “adopted” by the Murray-Jones family with two daughters, Judy and Annabel. They would invite us home for a meal or arrange some tennis or swimming, not that there was much time as we were busy with maintenance and storing for the Pacific. Towards the end of the month we steamed north with the British Pacific Fleet under Admiral Rawlings.

March 1945         After 11 days at sea we arrived at the island of Manus and then went on to Ulithi, another island. This had an enormous harbour and was full of American ships, a total of about 1,400 preparing for the invasion of Japan. Our Fleet then became Task Force 57 operating with the American 3rd Fleet under Admiral Spruance, and consisted of three other Fleet carriers, eleven destroyers and a number of support ships including sloops, frigates, minesweepers, oil tankers and hospital ships. Sailing from Ulithi our first strike took place on 26th March against some of the Japanese islands south of Okinawa where it was estimated that the Japanese had 10,000 aircraft, of which about 4,000 were suicide bombers called Kamikazes.

Then began a series of strike days, each being a long day’s activity for the Fleet, particularly for the ships’ companies of the aircraft carriers. We would go to Action Stations at 0600 and return to Defence Stations at 2000, and periodically a “Flash Red” warning would be broadcast when enemy aircraft approached. Several air battles took place and, throughout the day, the Fleet wheeled and turned in and out of the wind for the carriers to land on and fly off strikes and fighter escorts. When the last aircraft landed on at dusk the air engineering department worked all night to repair, re-arm, and refuel aircraft ready for the next day.

April 1945         On the morning of 1 April we were hit by a Kamikaze which exploded into the flight deck and bridge structure. Because the flight deck had 3″ armour plate the damage was not catastrophic but fourteen of the crew, including the ship’s doctor, were killed and there was a lot of damage to the flight deck barrier gear and bridge communications. I was Damage Control Officer for the area and my team had to remove the casualties and start repairing the damage. I remember the whole area was flooded with hot steam, as the steam-to-ships siren pipework was broken, until I managed to telephone Y boiler room to shut off the master valve.

Peter Sandison’s team did a good job to repair arrester wires and barriers, and the ship was flying off aircraft an hour later, much to the amazement of the American ships and Admirals. The American carriers with light steel decks were very vulnerable and many of their carriers were sunk or badly damaged due to Kamikazes. On 6 and 7 April the Japanese made massive attacks on allied ships with most of them concentrated on American ships to the north of our Fleet. These attacks were made by 600 aircraft, including 355 Kamikazes, and some 380 were shot down but six American ships were sunk and twenty-one damaged. At this time the giant Japanese battleship Yamato came out on a suicide mission and was sunk by American torpedo bombers with a loss of 2,100 men.

Operations continued until the last week of April when our Fleet returned to Leyte island for refitting and oiling, having been at sea continuously for 32 days. By this time sixty support ships had arrived to provide repair and maintenance facilities. During the month I was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant (E) RN and wore my second stripe.

May 1945         On 1st May the Fleet including the carriers Indefatigable, Implacable. Indomitable, Formidable and Victorious left Leyte to resume operations against the Japanese shipping and shore installations, with Action Stations every day except for the odd day when we retired for refuelling by waiting tankers. British ships were essentially designed for Atlantic operations, and consequently there was very little air conditioning to deal with the hot climate of the Pacific, Some of the machinery spaces reached temperatures of 1400 F and almost every day one’s boiler suit could be twice soaked with perspiration. After a few weeks one would suffer from prickly heat and would be painted with purple potassium permanganate, so looking like an Ancient Briton! Sleeping at night on the quarter-deck was the most comfortable time. Food was almost all dehydrated or tinned and a staple of the diet of dehydrated potato served in a variety of ways – mashed, cubed, boiled, roast or fried. There were also plenty of tins of egg powder and powdered milk!

On 4 May Formidable was hit by a Kamikaze which caused considerable damage and fires on the flight deck but the ship remained operational. Indomitable was nearly hit by another Kamikaze which was shot down and crashed some thirty feet off the starboard bow. A few days later Formidable was again hit and fires were started in the hangar, and nine aircraft were destroyed. All through this period the enemy pressed home their attacks with great skill and determination, making good use of cloud cover, decoys and variations of height. All five carriers were hit at least once by Kamikazes, but nevertheless our aircraft flew some 2500 sorties, dropped over 500 tons of bombs and destroyed about 60 aircraft, at a loss of 98 aircraft.

June 1945         At the beginning of June we returned to Sydney for vital boiler maintenance, aircraft repairs and other general refitting. This was a welcome relief after 100 days on the ship at sea and again the Murray Jones were very hospitable, so we enjoyed some tennis and swimming off Bondi Beach. Towards the end of June the Fleet sailed north again and resumed operations in co-operation with the American Third Fleet.

July – August 1945         We carried out strikes against the Japanese mainland for the first time, including airfields and installations in the Tokyo area. The routine developed of 4 or 5 days at Action Stations, then a day’s withdrawal for refuelling, and then back again for more strikes. It was a time of Action Stations, watch-keeping, eating and sleeping in a noisy, hot and tiring atmosphere, with some excitement when enemy aircraft appeared. The Flight Deck was again busy from dawn to dusk, sending off bombers and also fighters to protect the Fleet. Unfortunately many did not return, and several had accidents when landing back on. At this stage the whole of the Japanese mainland from north to south was under attack by allied ships, with the Americans concentrating on destroying the remnants of the Japanese navy. The British aircraft bombed industrial targets including shipping, oil storage tanks, railways and factories, and on two occasions the battleship King George V carried out extensive bombardment with her heavy guns.

On 4th August all ships were ordered to withdraw some 300 miles from Japan, and on the 6th the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and then the second on Nagasaki. Further strikes continued until the Japanese finally surrendered on 15th August. The Fleet remained at sea but on the 25th we were hit by a typhoon. The waves were awesome, I remember standing on the flight deck which was 70 ft above normal sea level, and watching waves much higher than this coming towards me. The ship was rolling 35° from one side to the other, but we survived. Three American destroyers capsized, and we saw one American carrier with a large part of its flight deck hanging over its bows, as though it had received a punch on the nose!

September 1945         The Japanese Surrender was signed on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2nd September, much to our relief. We remained at sea, and with the American Fleet took part in an enormous “parade” of ships outside Tokyo Bay. Then we spent three days in the Bay, while some of our crew went ashore to find and collect prisoners of war and transport them to hospital ships. The famous Mount Fuji is usually covered in cloud but early one morning the tannoy broadcast that it was visible, and I remember a marvellous view of its snow-capped peak.

After this we steamed back to Sydney arriving towards the end of the month, ready for a respite after 73 days of sea time. It was time to reflect on past events, the worst being during July and August when the Fleet lost over 140 aircraft from all causes, by enemy action or deck landings. Since then there has been a lot of discussion about dropping the atomic bombs and their consequences, but to my mind the following reasons justified the decision.

  1. The Americans estimated that there would be around a half-million Allied casualties if the invasion of Japan had taken place later in the year. This did not happen.
  2. About 40,000 British and Allied prisoners of war were kept by the Japanese in horrendous conditions and most would probably not have survived another winter. They were rescued.
  3. The Japanese had some five thousand aircraft and pilots trained as Kamikazes to be used against an invasion fleet, and we would have been in the forefront of this.

October – December 1945         Indefat remained in Sydney and the crew were allowed a lot of shore leave. The Murray-Jones thoughtfully provided a flat where many of us could stay, including Brian, Colin, Peter Fanghanel and others. One highlight was when all the latter including me made up a party to go ski-ing for a week at Mount Kosciusco. We arrived at the snowline and were then told that the chalet was 12 miles away and could only be reached on skis. Some of us, including me, had not skied before but we were told “Oh, that’s OK, today is Tuesday, and there is a tractor going up on Thursday which could pick you up if you are stuck”!

This was a time of hard work and playas supplies were exhausted, the engines needed refitting, the ship needed cleaning and the typhoon had damaged part of the hull so the ship had to go into dry dock. Some of us were seconded to the dockyard to help out with various jobs and I enjoyed the use of a 500cc motor-bike.

We managed another five days on a sheep farm, again with Brian and Colin. The farm was enormous and the family relied on horses to get around. On the first day we were each provided with a horse, but I viewed this with trepidation. So evidently did the horse, as after 15 minutes he turned round and trotted home, and there was nothing I or anyone else could do to stop him! I decided that I would stick to something with a brake and throttle.

January – March 1946         On 20th January we left Sydney for the journey home. Three days later we arrived at Melbourne where we had a tremendous welcome, with a parade led by the Royal Marines hand marching through the streets to the City Hall where the Governor took the salute accompanied by Admiral Vian. We stayed a week and were well entertained, then steamed across the Australian Bight which was unpleasantly rough to call in at Fremantle for a few hours before setting off for Capetown.

We arrived at Capetown after 17 days at sea. Again we were well looked after with a reception at the Governor’s Residence and an expedition to Table Mountain. This was the highlight of the visit, we took the cable car to the top with marvellous views all round and then came all the way down on foot. On 24th February we left Capetown, arriving at Gibraltar on 11 th March. On the way we passed close to St. Helena and Ascension Island. The Duty Officer went ashore and paid his respects to the Governor, who presented him with a live turtle to make soup! The ship’s butcher did not think much of this so when we left the turtle was returned to the sea, and was last seen swimming happily to the shore.

This part of the trip was pleasant and not too hot, every day there were games of deck hockey on the flight deck using a rope grommet instead of a ball. At Gibraltar we stayed for one day and Peter Fanghanel was the only one of our group who managed to go ashore, he came back with a large case of Tio Pepe sherry.

Finally we arrived at Portsmouth on 16th March and berthed inside the harbour, with crowds lining the Southsea promenade and cheering as we went in. We engineers saw little of this, hut we looked forward to a pint at the St. Enoch’s Hotel and then some leave. I think I had about ten days at Westcliff with Mother and Brenda, it was good to see them again after nearly 2½years.

April – October 1946         The ship sailed again on 25th April with 130 “Bush Brides”, who were brides of Australian servicemen and were going to join their husbands to live in Australia. The voyage again was through the Mediterranean and then a brief stay at Aden. Brian, Colin and I went ashore and we asked some joker the way to the local Club for a drink. “Oh” he said “lt’s that white building up on the hill”. So we trudged up the hill, knocked on the front door which was opened by a smart servant who asked what we wanted. We said we would like a drink, to which he replied that this was the Consul’s Residence. Anyway, the Consul was very decent, gave us more than one drink and we went happily back to the ship.

We arrived back in Sydney on 25th May and left again on the 9th June with over 1,000 service personnel due to be demobilised, including some RAF. We also carried 65 tons of food for Britain and about 18,000 gift parcels of food. From Fremantle the engines worked at full power and lndefat made a record-breaking non-stop trip of 21 days to Portsmouth. Then on 29th July we sailed again to Colombo and repatriated another large number of service personnel. The highlight I remember was a visit to Kandy and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, where we were guided by Buddhist priests in their saffron yellow robes.

The last major event was a parade by the ship’s company on 19th September through Holborn in London, the borough that had “adopted” us during the war. As one of the officers with the longest-serving time in Indefat I was placed in the front rank, and there is a photo in our album. After the march we were inspected by the Mayor and then had a luncheon in the Town Hall, where our Battle Ensign flown by Indefat during Action Stations was presented to be hung in the Council Chamber. The demobilisation process was slow, but I finally left the ship and the Navy on 1st October 1946, after a wardroom party the night before! I well remember going down the gangway, walking through Portsmouth Dockyard and then out through the Main Gate, ready to face a different kind of life and world.

October 6, 2017

12c Parse

Filed under: 12c,Oracle,Upgrades — Jonathan Lewis @ 9:07 am GMT Oct 6,2017

Following on from a comment to a recent posting of mine about “bad” SQL ending up in the shared pool and the specific detail that too much bad SQL could cause contention problems while staying virtually invisible, there’s a related note today on the ODC (formerly OTN) forum of a little change in 12.2 that alerts you to the problem.

Try executing the following anonymous block (on a non-production system):

        m1 number;
        for i in 1..10000 loop
                execute immediate 'select count(*) frm dual' into m1;
                when others then null;
        end loop;

Then check your alert log (if you want to be a little cautious, change the 10,000 in the loop to something like 200). If you’re running you’ll find something like the following:

ORCL(3):WARNING: too many parse errors, count=100 SQL hash=0x19a22496
ORCL(3):PARSE ERROR: ospid=4577, error=923 for statement:
ORCL(3):select count(*) frm dual
ORCL(3):Additional information: hd=0x7673c258 phd=0x765151a8 flg=0x28 cisid=135 sid=135 ciuid=135 uid=135
ORCL(3):----- PL/SQL Call Stack -----
  object      line  object
  handle    number  name
0x76734f18         5  anonymous block
ORCL(3):WARNING: too many parse errors, count=200 SQL hash=0x19a22496
ORCL(3):PARSE ERROR: ospid=4577, error=923 for statement:
ORCL(3):select count(*) frm dual
ORCL(3):Additional information: hd=0x7673c258 phd=0x765151a8 flg=0x28 cisid=135 sid=135 ciuid=135 uid=135
ORCL(3):----- PL/SQL Call Stack -----
  object      line  object
  handle    number  name
0x76734f18         5  anonymous block

The warning will be repeated every hundred occurrences. As you can see the guilty (ORA-00923: missing FROM) SQL appears in the report so you know what you’re looking for. In my particular case, with the silly PL/SQL block, the address of the calling anonymous pl/sql block was also reported:

select sql_text from V$sql where child_address = '0000000076734F18';

declare m1 number; begin  for i in 1..10000 loop  begin   execute immediate 'sel
ect count(*) frm dual' into m1;   dbms_output.put_line(m1);  exception	 when ot
hers then null;  end;  end loop; end;

In the case of the OP on ODC the SQL reported in the alert log was simply: “SELECT 1”. As Billy Verreynne suggested in the thread, this looks like the sort of code that would be sent to the database by some of the connection pooling clients to check that the database is up. Unfortunately (apart from the waste of effort) this particular setup seems to think it’s talking to some database other Oracle!


This is a feature of 12.2 – 11g and 12.1 don’t write such warnings to the alert log.


A tweet from Mohamed Houri reminds me that parse failures like these, of course, show up in the instance activity stats, in particular:

Name                               Value
----                               -----
opened cursors cumulative         10,006
enqueue requests                  10,002
enqueue releases                  10,002
sql area purged                   10,000
sql area evicted                  10,000
parse count (total)               10,008
parse count (hard)                10,002
parse count (failures)            10,000

The enqueue requests are for the ‘CU’ (cursor) enqueue which, I think, appeared in 10g – they’re acquired (and released) on every hard parse.

Most of the figures that my session reports here are likely to be highly camouflaged by the rest of the activity from a normal system, so the most important number is the “parse count (failures)” – so it’s useful to know that you can subtract that number the other statistics to give you an idea of the impact that would be eliminated if you could located and stop the thing generating the failing statements.


Patrick Joliffe (see pingback below) has published an article pointing out that in earlier versions of Oracle you can set event 10035 to get the same information dumped into the alert log on every parse failure.


October 3, 2017


Filed under: Oracle,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 4:15 pm GMT Oct 3,2017

Here’s a quick quiz.

According to the Oracle 12.1 Database SQL Tuning Guide the first stage of parsing a statement is the Syntax Check, which is followed by the Semantic Check, followed by the Shared Pool Check. So where you do think the statement text will be while the Syntax Check is going on ?







And the answer looks like ….




… the shared pool. Here’s a simple test, cut-n-paste from SQL*Plus running under in the SYS schema (I’ve also done this in the past with older versions):




SQL> select user frrom dual;
select user frrom dual
ERROR at line 1:
ORA-00923: FROM keyword not found where expected

SQL> select kglhdpar, kglhdadr, kglobt03, kglnaobj from x$kglob where kglnaobj like '%frrom%' and kglnaobj not like '%kgl%';

---------------- ---------------- ------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
00000000D1EE3880 00000000AEF43F40 bshhvh0ypcz6x select user frrom du
00000000D1EE3880 00000000D1EE3880 bshhvh0ypcz6x select user frrom du

2 rows selected.


So the statement is garbage and fails (or ought to be failing) on a syntax text – but I can find it in x$kglob – the library cache objects – in the SGA with a parent and child entry.

I have to say that when I first read, many years ago, that there was a syntax check it struck me that the fastest way of doing a syntax check on a “good” system would be to start with a search for the text in the library cache. If it were there (and on a good system it probably would be within a few minutes of startup) then you could have a flag that avoided the CPU cost of doing the syntax check and move straight on to the semantic (basically object and permissions) check.


October 2, 2017


Filed under: latches,mutex,Oracle,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 8:42 am GMT Oct 2,2017

How can a single piece of SQL text – checked very carefully – end up with multiple SQL_IDs ? There are probably quite a lot of people who know the answer to this question but won’t think of it until they’re reminded and, thanks to a question that came up on the forum formerly known as OTN a couple of days ago, I was reminded about it recently and rediscovered an article I had drafted on the topic a few years ago.

The specific problem on the forum was about having a huge number of child cursors for a single parent thanks to a frequently executed update statement that updated all 50 columns of a table using bind variables to do so. The reason why a single statement could produce so many child cursors seemed to be due to the variation in the lengths of the bind variables supplied – which could well be the consequence of an internal library mechanism rather than an explicit design mechanism written into the client code. One of the comments to my 2007 article suggested event  10503 as a damage limitation mechanism, but there was some problem with it not working as expected at the time. A quick check on MoS now reports bug 10274265 : “EVENT 10503 NOT WORKING ON THE SESSION LEVEL” as fixed in 12.1 with lots of backport patches to various versions of 11.2

Moving on from the back-story, the case that prompted my draft note in 2014 was the simpler one of having lots of sessions constantly executing exactly the same SQL statement and child cursor, so rather than having a latch/mutex type of problem because of a large number of child cursors I was seeing a problem purely because of the level of concurrent access to the same child cursor.  The solution in the version of Oracle the client was using at the time was to tell Oracle to mark the SQL statement as “hot” by setting a hidden parameter; but the mechanism is now officially exposed in a procedure called dbms_shared_pool.markhot() that I learned about a few months ago when I was at a client who had a similar problem with highly concurrent execution of a small set of statements – with the extra twist that the table referenced in the critical statements was a partitioned table which suffered a fairly regular partition exchange.

When a statement (through it’s “full_hash_value”) is marked as hot, an extra value visible as the property column in v$db_object_cache is set to a value that seems to be dependent on the process id of the session attempting to execute the statement, and this value is used as an extra component in calculating a new full_hash_value (which leads to a new hash_value and sql_id). With a different full_hash_value the same text generates a new parent cursor which is (probably) going to be associated with a new library cache hash bucket and latch. The property value for the original parent cursor is set to “HOT”, and the extra copies become “HOTCOPY1”, “HOTCOPY2” and so on. Interestingly once an object is marked as HOT and the first HOTCOPYn has appeared the original version may disappear from v$sql while still existing in v$db_object_cache.

The number of “HOTCOPYn” versions of the statement is limited by the hidden parameter “_kgl_hot_object_copies” which (according to my notes) defaults to either cpu_count or cpu_count/2. On my most recent test on it seemed to be the latter.

Marking a cursor hot

There are three options:

  • set a hidden parameter in the startup file
  • execute an “alter system” command to set the hidden parameter
  • from onwards (possibly earlier in 11.2) call dbms_shared_pool.markhot()


Startup file:

_kgl_debug="hash='cc7d5ecdcc9e7c0767456468efe922ea' namespace=0 debug=33554432"

Alter system call with multiple targets:

alter system set "_kgl_debug" =
        "hash='cc7d5ecdcc9e7c0767456468efe922ea' namespace=0 debug=33554432",
        "hash='59a1f6575a5006600792ee802558305b' namespace=0 debug=33554432"

markhot() procedure:

                hash            =>'71fc6ccf9a3265368492ec9fc05b785b',
                namespace       =>0,
                global          =>true

The namespace identifies the object as an SQL Cursor (you can mark other types of object as hot if you need to), and for those of a mathematical bent you’ll work out that the debug values is power(2,25).

The value supplied as the hash is the full_hash_value and you can find this in v$db_object_cache either by searching on some string that easily identifies your statement, or by searching v$sql on a string to get the (short) hash value of the statement and using that to search v$db_object_cache on the hash_value column.

        property        hot_flag,
        name like '{some part of your critical SQL statement}'

I ran into two problems using the markhot() approach. The first not terribly serious – the second fatal, except I’m not going to do it again and I wouldn’t have run into it if I hadn’t been impatient working around the first.

First: if you’ve already got lots of sessions executing the statement and holding cursors open in some way before you call markhot() then it may be some time before all those sessions release the hot parent and child and acquire a “cool” parent and child and unfortunately you can’t call markhot() until at least one session has opened the relevant cursor – and that’s a problem that isn’t relevant if you’ve got the hidden parameter set.

Secondly: although eventually your hot cursor(s) will drop out of use, if you try to get rid of them early by a cunning call to dbms_shared_pool.purge() you may find that you don’t manage to purge them; if you decide to try again, and again (as I did) you may find that your session goes into an infinite CPU spin and no-one can get at the hot cursor.  Be patient, once you’ve marked a cursor as hot your application will (probably) end up spreading itself over the copies.

One last detail – if, for any reason, you decide that a cursor no longer needs to be marked hot there is a procedure dbms_shared_pool.unmarkhot() that takes the same three parameters to clear the property and allow the copies to disappear.


The OTN problem that prompted me to write this note wasn’t about high concurrency levels, it was about mutex contention while searching for the right child cursor. The markhot() procedure doesn’t really look as if it’s designed to address this issue but, as a side-effect of having multiple parent cursors for the same statement text, there should be fewer sessions searching each child-cursor chain at any one moment and this may be enough to reduce the contention. Statistically, of course, every child chain is likely to end up the same length so the amount of shared pool memory used by the SQL statement will eventually grow by a factor matching the number of hot copies produced – but if the problem is contention it may be better (e.g.) to have 16 times the memory used so that 100 concurrent sessions can be spread across 16 different chains rather than having 100 sessions all trying to search the same chain at the same time.


September 19, 2017

With Subquery()

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Lewis @ 7:19 pm GMT Sep 19,2017

Here’s a little oddity that came up recently on the OTN database forum – an example where a “with” subquery (common table expression / factored subquery) produced a different execution plan from the equivalent statement with the subquery moved to an inline view; tested in and Here are the two variations:

with  tbl as (
          select 1 col1, 'a'  col2 from dual
union all select 2 , 'a' from dual
union all select 3 , 'b' from dual
union all select 4 , 'a' from dual
union all select 5 , 'a' from dual
union all select 6 , 'b' from dual
union all select 7 , 'b' from dual
lag_data as (
        select col1, col2, lag(col2) over (order by col1) col2a from tbl
select  col1, col2
from    lag_data
where   col2a is null or col2a <> col2
order by col1

with  tbl as (
          select 1 col1, 'a'  col2 from dual
union all select 2 , 'a' from dual
union all select 3 , 'b' from dual
union all select 4 , 'a' from dual
union all select 5 , 'a' from dual
union all select 6 , 'b' from dual
union all select 7 , 'b' from dual
select  col1, col2
from    (
        select col1, col2, lag(col2) over (order by col1) col2a from tbl
where   col2a is null or col2a <> col2
order by col1

You’ll notice that there’s an explicit “order by” clause at the end of both queries. If you want the result set to appear in a specific order you should always specify the order and not assume that it will appear as a side effect; but in this case the ordering for the “order by” clause seems to match the ordering needed for the analytic function, so we might hope that the optimizer would take advantage of the analytic “window sort” and not bother with a “sort order by” clause. But here are the two plans – first with subquery factoring, then with the inline view:

| Id  | Operation        | Name | Rows  | Bytes | Cost (%CPU)| Time     |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT |      |       |       |    16 (100)|          |
|   1 |  SORT ORDER BY   |      |     7 |    56 |    16  (13)| 00:00:01 |
|*  2 |   VIEW           |      |     7 |    56 |    15   (7)| 00:00:01 |
|   3 |    WINDOW SORT   |      |     7 |    42 |    15   (7)| 00:00:01 |
|   4 |     VIEW         |      |     7 |    42 |    14   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   5 |      UNION-ALL   |      |       |       |            |          |
|   6 |       FAST DUAL  |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   7 |       FAST DUAL  |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   8 |       FAST DUAL  |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   9 |       FAST DUAL  |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|  10 |       FAST DUAL  |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|  11 |       FAST DUAL  |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|  12 |       FAST DUAL  |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |

Predicate Information (identified by operation id):
   2 - filter(("COL2A" IS NULL OR "COL2A"<>"COL2"

| Id  | Operation        | Name | Rows  | Bytes | Cost (%CPU)| Time     |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT |      |       |       |    15 (100)|          |
|*  1 |  VIEW            |      |     7 |    56 |    15   (7)| 00:00:01 |
|   2 |   WINDOW SORT    |      |     7 |    42 |    15   (7)| 00:00:01 |
|   3 |    VIEW          |      |     7 |    42 |    14   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   4 |     UNION-ALL    |      |       |       |            |          |
|   5 |      FAST DUAL   |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   6 |      FAST DUAL   |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   7 |      FAST DUAL   |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   8 |      FAST DUAL   |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|   9 |      FAST DUAL   |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|  10 |      FAST DUAL   |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |
|  11 |      FAST DUAL   |      |     1 |       |     2   (0)| 00:00:01 |

Predicate Information (identified by operation id):
   1 - filter(("COL2A" IS NULL OR "COL2A"<>"COL2"))

The two plans are different, and the difference is an extra “sort order by” operation even though the optimizer has moved the subquery with the analtyic function inline so that in principle both statements are the technically the same and merely cosmetically different.

It’s been some time since I’ve noticed subquery factoring resulting in a change in plan when the expected effect is purely cosmetic. Interestingly, though, the “unparsed query” in the 10053 (CBO) trace file is the same for the two cases with the only difference being the name of a generated view:

        "LAG_DATA"."COL1" "COL1","LAG_DATA"."COL2" "COL2" 
                "TBL"."COL1" "COL1","TBL"."COL2" "COL2",
                ) "COL2A" 
        FROM    (
                            (SELECT 1 "COL1",'a' "COL2" FROM "SYS"."DUAL" "DUAL") 
                 UNION ALL  (SELECT 2 "2",'a' "'A'" FROM "SYS"."DUAL" "DUAL") 
                 UNION ALL  (SELECT 3 "3",'b' "'B'" FROM "SYS"."DUAL" "DUAL") 
                 UNION ALL  (SELECT 4 "4",'a' "'A'" FROM "SYS"."DUAL" "DUAL") 
                 UNION ALL  (SELECT 5 "5",'a' "'A'" FROM "SYS"."DUAL" "DUAL") 
                 UNION ALL  (SELECT 6 "6",'b' "'B'" FROM "SYS"."DUAL" "DUAL") 
                 UNION ALL  (SELECT 7 "7",'b' "'B'" FROM "SYS"."DUAL" "DUAL")
                ) "TBL"
        ) "LAG_DATA" 

The above is the unparsed query for the query with two factored subqueries; the only difference in the unparsed query when I moved the analytic subquery inline was that the view name in the above text changed from “LAG_DATA” to “from$_subquery$_008”.


When I used a real table (with the same data) instead of a “union all” factored subquery for the driving data this anomaly disappeared. The union all is a convenient dirty trick for generating very small test data sets on OTN – it remains to be seen whether a more realistic example of multiple factored subqueries would still result in the optimizer losing an opportunity for eliminating a “sort order by” operation.

In passing – did you notice how the optimizer had managed to rewrite a “lag()” analytic function as a form of “first_value()” function with decode ?

August 14, 2017

Join Elimination Bug

Filed under: Bugs,CBO,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 11:59 am GMT Aug 14,2017

A few years ago a bug relating to join elimination showed up in a comment to a post I’d done about the need to keep on testing and learining. The bug was visible in version and, with a script to replay it, I’d found that it had disappeared by

Today I had a reason to rediscover the script, and decided to test it against – and found that the bug was still present.

Here’s the model:

rem     Script:         join_eliminate_bug_2.sql
rem     Author:         Jonathan Lewis
rem     Dated:          Dec 2012

drop table child purge;
drop table parent purge;

create table parent (
        id      number(4),
        name    varchar2(10),
        constraint par_pk primary key (id)
        deferrable initially immediate

create table child(
        id_p    number(4)       
                constraint chi_fk_par
                references parent,
        id      number(4),
        name    varchar2(10),
        constraint chi_pk primary key (id_p, id)

insert into parent values (1,'Smith');
insert into parent values (2,'Jones');

insert into child values(1,1,'Simon');
insert into child values(1,2,'Sally');

insert into child values(2,1,'Jack');
insert into child values(2,2,'Jill');



set serveroutput off

        child   chi,
        parent  par
where = chi.id_p

select * from table(dbms_xplan.display_cursor);

The setup is just to show you the correct results with join elimination taking place. Here’s the output from the query and the actual execution plan:

      ID_P         ID NAME
---------- ---------- ------------
         1          1 Simon
         1          2 Sally
         2          1 Jack
         2          2 Jill

4 rows selected.

SQL_ID  1whubydgj8w0s, child number 0
select  chi.* from  child chi,  parent par where = chi.id_p

Plan hash value: 2406669797

| Id  | Operation         | Name  | Rows  | Bytes | Cost  |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT  |       |       |       |    11 |
|   1 |  TABLE ACCESS FULL| CHILD |     4 |    48 |    11 |

On a single column join, with referential integrity in place, and no columns other than the primary key involved, the optimizer eliminates table parent from the query. But if I now defer the primary key constraint on parent and duplicate every row (which ought to duplicate the query result), watch what happens with the query:

set constraint par_pk deferred;

insert into parent (id,name) values (1,'Smith');
insert into parent (id,name) values (2,'Jones');

alter system flush shared_pool;

        child   chi,
        parent  par
where = chi.id_p

select * from table(dbms_xplan.display_cursor);

      ID_P         ID NAME
---------- ---------- ------------
         1          1 Simon
         1          2 Sally
         2          1 Jack
         2          2 Jill

4 rows selected.

SQL_ID  1whubydgj8w0s, child number 0
select  chi.* from  child chi,  parent par where = chi.id_p

Plan hash value: 2406669797

| Id  | Operation         | Name  | Rows  | Bytes | Cost  |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT  |       |       |       |    11 |
|   1 |  TABLE ACCESS FULL| CHILD |     4 |    48 |    11 |

I get the same plan, so I get the same results – and notice that I flushed the shared pool before repeating the query so I haven’t fooled Oracle into reusing the wrong plan by accident – it’s a whole new freshly optimized plan.

Just to show what ought to happen here’s the last bit of the test case:

select  /*+ no_eliminate_join(@sel$1 par@sel$1) */
        child   chi,
        parent  par
where = chi.id_p

select * from table(dbms_xplan.display_cursor);

      ID_P         ID NAME
---------- ---------- ------------
         1          1 Simon
         1          2 Sally
         1          1 Simon
         1          2 Sally
         2          1 Jack
         2          2 Jill
         2          1 Jack
         2          2 Jill

8 rows selected.

SQL_ID  5p8sp7k8b0fgq, child number 0
select /*+ no_eliminate_join(@sel$1 par@sel$1) */  chi.* from  child
chi,  parent par where = chi.id_p

Plan hash value: 65982890

| Id  | Operation                    | Name   | Rows  | Bytes | Cost  |
| Id  | Operation                    | Name   | Rows  | Bytes | Cost  |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT             |        |       |       |     5 |
|   1 |  NESTED LOOPS                |        |     4 |    60 |     5 |
|   2 |   NESTED LOOPS               |        |     4 |    60 |     5 |
|   3 |    INDEX FULL SCAN           | PAR_PK |     2 |     6 |     1 |
|*  4 |    INDEX RANGE SCAN          | CHI_PK |     2 |       |     1 |
|   5 |   TABLE ACCESS BY INDEX ROWID| CHILD  |     2 |    24 |     2 |

Predicate Information (identified by operation id):

   4 - access("PAR"."ID"="CHI"."ID_P")

I ran this test on – and then repeated it on the bug is still present (although I thought I’d seen a MoS note saying it had been fixed in 12.1).

It’s always a little dangerous playing around with deferrable constraints – my view is that you should keep the interval of deferment as short as possible and don’t try to use it for doing anything other than correcting known data errors. At present if you have code that defers constraints and runs non-trivial queries afterwards you might want that code to start with an “alter session” to set the hidden parameter _optimizer_join_elimination_enabled to false (after checking with Oracle support, of course).

August 3, 2017

Rebuilding Indexes

Filed under: Indexing,Infrastructure,Oracle,Partitioning,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 1:00 pm GMT Aug 3,2017

One of the special events that can make it necessary to rebuild an index is the case of the “massive DML”, typically a bulk delete that purges old data from a table. You may even find cases where it’s a good idea to mark a couple of your indexes as unusable before doing a massive delete and then rebuild them after the delete.

Despite the fact that a massive delete is an obvious special case it’s still not necessary in many cases to worry about a rebuild afterwards because the space made free by the delete will be smoothly reused over time with very little variation in performance. There is, however, one particular feature that increases the probability of a rebuild becoming necessary – global (or globally partitioned) indexes on partitioned tables. The problem (and the absence of problem in non-partitioned tables) is in the nature of the rowid.

For non-partitioned tables, and partitioned tables with local indexes, the rowid stored in an index is (assuming we’re thinking only of heap tables) stored as a sequence of 6 bytes consisting, in order, of: (tablespace relative file number, block number within file, row number within block). If the table is non-partitioned, or if this is an index segment from a locally partitioned index, all the index entries will be pointing to the same table segment and Oracle knows which segment that is from the data dictionary information – so Oracle can derive the data_object_id of the table segment and convert the tablespace relative file number into the absolute file number to navigate to the right row in the table.

When the index is global or globally partitioned any index entry may point to any of the table’s segments, so the rowid that is stored in the index is expanded by a further 4 bytes to hold the data_object_id of the table segment it is pointing to – and the data_object_id is the leading component: (data_object_id, tablespace relative file number, block number within file, row number within block). Think about what this means when you start to drop “old” partitions and add new partitions. Compare this with what happens when you simply delete a large volume of old data from a table and starting inserting new data. There’s an important difference to the way in which indexes will evolve.

Purging data

When you delete a large volume of data from a (simple, heap) table you will create a lot of empty space in a lot of existing table blocks. If that delete is supposed to get rid of “old” data (and to keep the description simple we’ll assume it’s the first time you’ve done this) it’s very likely that the delete will result in lots of empty blocks near the start of the table – rows that were inserted at the same time will tend to be physically close to each other in the table. This means that future inserts will soon start to reuse those table blocks. Think about what this means for index entries – especially for non-unique keys.

Assume you have 100 rows with value ‘XXX’ for an indexed column. Breaking the rowid into its component parts the index entries will be (‘XXX’,{file_id, block_id, row_number}).  Now assume you delete the oldest 10 rows then, over time, insert 10 more rows with the same key value. You’ve deleted the 10 index entries with the lowest values for (file_id, block_id) but the space that’s become available in the table will be in and around exactly that range of blocks – so the new index entries will probably end up looking very similar to the deleted index entries and inserted in and around the existing index entries for value ‘XXX’, so over time the index is unlikely to allocate much new space.

Now think about what happens when your table it partitioned but the index is global; your index entries are (‘XXX’,{data_object_id, file_id, block_id, row_number}). When you drop the oldest partition you will probably[1] delete all the index entries with the lowest data_object_id. When you start inserting new rows for ‘XXX’ the new table partition will have a data_object_id that is going to be higher than any previous data_object_id – which means you’re going to be inserting rows into the right-hand (high-value) edge of this section of the index. In some cases – typically those where you have a couple of leaf blocks per key value – the index may end up growing significantly because the insertion point for rows in the new partition isn’t in the leaf block with the available space, and it won’t be until you’ve done a few more bulk deletes and the leaf blocks relating to the oldest table partitions become completely empty that the space can be reused.

An example of this type of behaviour probably appeared on the OTN database forum quite recently.  Of course, there are various reasons why indexes can become inefficient, and the degree of inefficiency may only become noticeable over a fairly long period of time; moreover there are various reasons why global indexes are a little problematic, and various reasons why a bulk delete (which is what executing “alter table drop partition” does to a global index) has unpleasant side effects dependent somewhat on the number (and size) of the partitions and on how many you try to drop in one go.

There’s not  a lot you can do about this quirk of global indexes, but it’s always worth taking extra care with partitioned tables and focusing even more carefully on a strategic review of indexes:

  • Does this index really need to exist at all
  • Could this index be replaced by a selective function-based index
  • Does this index really need to be global / globally partitioned
  • How big is this index compared to the size it ought to be
  • Should this index be (basic) compressed
  • Is this index likely to be disrupted by a historic purge – or is there another reason for its undesirable behaviour


[1] probably delete entries with the lowest data_object_id” – I have to say this because if you’ve executed a “move partition” at any time a new data_object_id will have been generated for the partition, so the oldest partition could, in principal, have the highest data_object_id. The issue of changing data_object_ids brings a whole new level of complexity to global indexes – but only in a few special cases, fortunately.



July 25, 2017

Redo OP Codes:

Filed under: Infrastructure,Oracle,redo — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:17 pm GMT Jul 25,2017

This posting was prompted by a tweet from Kamil Stawiarski in response to a question about how he’d discovered the meaning of Redo Op Codes 5.1 and 11.6 – and credited me and Julian Dyke with “the hardest part”.

Over the years I’ve accumulated (from Julian Dyke, or odd MoS notes, etc.) and let dribble out the occasional interpretation of a few op codes – typically in response to a question on the OTN database forum or the Oracle-L listserver, and sometimes as a throwaway comment in a blog post, but I’ve never published the full set of codes that I’ve acquired (or guessed) to date.

It’s been some time since I’ve looked closely at a redo stream, and there are many features of Oracle that I’ve never had to look at at the level of the redo so there are plenty of gaps in the list – and maybe a few people will use the comments to help fill the gaps.

It’s possible that I may be able to add more op codes over the new days – I know that somewhere I have some op codes relating to space management, and a batch relating to LOB handling, but it looks like I forgot to add them to the master list – so here’s what I can offer so far:

1	Transaction Control

2	Transaction read

3	Transaction update

4	Block cleanout
		4.1	Block cleanout record
		4.2	Physical cleanout
		4.3	Single array change
		4.4	Multiple array changes
		4.5	Format block
		4.6	ktbcc redo -  Commit Time Block Cleanout Change (?RAC, ?recursive, ?SYS objects)

5	Transaction undo management
		5.1	Update undo block
		5.2	Get undo header
		5.3	Rollout a transaction begin
		5.4	On a rollback or commit
		5.5	Create rollback segmenr
		5.6	On a rollback of an insert
		5.7	In the ktubl for 'dbms_transaction.local_transaction_id'
			(begin transaction) - also arrives for incoming distributed
			tx, no data change but TT slot acquired. Also for recursive
			transaction (e.g. truncate). txn start scn:  0xffff.ffffffff
		5.8	Mark transaction as dead
		5.9	Rollback extension of rollback seg
		5.10	Rollback segment header change for extension of rollback seg
		5.11	Mark undo as applied during rollback
		5.19	Transaction audit record - first
		5.20	Transaction audit record - subsequent
		5.23	ktudbr redo: disable block level recovery (reports XID)
		5.24	ktfbhundo - File Space Header Undo

6	Control file

10	Index
		10.1	SQL load index block
		10.2	Insert Leaf Row
		10.3	Purge Leaf Row
		10.4	Delete Leaf Row
		10.5	Restore Leaf during rollback
		10.6	(kdxlok) Lock block (pre-split?)
		10.7	(kdxulo) unlock block during undo
		10.8	(kdxlne) initialize leaf block being split
		10.9	(kdxair) apply XAT do to ITL 1	-- related to leaf block split
		10.10	Set leaf block next pointer
		10.11	(kdxlpr) (UNDO) set kdxleprv (previous pointer)
		10.12 	Initialize root block after split
		10.13	index redo (kdxlem): (REDO) make leaf block empty,
		10.14	Restore block before image
		10.15	(kdxbin) Insert branch block row
		10.16	Purge branch row
		10.17	Initialize new branch block
		10.18	Update key data in row -- index redo (kdxlup): update keydata
		10.19	Clear split flag
		10.20	Set split flag
		10.21	Undo branch operation
		10.22	Undo leaf operation
		10.23	restore block to tree
		10.24	Shrink ITL
		10.25	format root block
		10.26	format root block (undo)
		10.27	format root block (redo)
		10.28	Migrating block (undo)
		10.29	Migrating block (redo)
		10.30	Update nonkey value
		10.31	index root block redo (kdxdlr):  create/load index
		10.34 	make branch block empty
		10.35	index redo (kdxlcnu): update nonkey
		10.37	undo index change (kdxIndexlogicalNonkeyUpdate) -- bitmap index
		10.38	index change (kdxIndexlogicalNonkeyUpdate) -- bitmap index
		10.39	index redo (kdxbur) :  branch block update range
		10.40	index redo (kdxbdu) :  branch block DBA update,

11	Table
		11.1  undo row operation
		11.2  insert row  piece
		11.3  delete row piece
		11.4  lock row piece
		11.5  update row piece
		11.6  overwrite row piece
		11.7  manipulate first column
		11.8  change forwarding address - migration
		11.9  change cluster key index
		11.10 Set Cluster key pointers
		11.11 Insert multiple rows
		11.12 Delete multiple rows
		11.13 toggle block header flags
		11.17 Update multiple rows
		11.19 Array update ?
		11.20 SHK (mark as shrunk?)
		11.24 HCC update rowid map ?

12	Cluster

13	Segment management
		13.1	ktsfm redo: -- allocate space ??
		13.5	KTSFRBFMT (block format) redo
		13.6	(block link modify) (? index )  (options: lock clear, lock set)
		13.7	KTSFRGRP (fgb/shdr modify freelist) redo: (options unlink block, move HWM)
		13.13	ktsbbu undo - undo operation on bitmap block
		13.14	ktsbbu undo - undo operation on bitmap block
		13.17	ktsphfredo - Format Pagetable Segment Header
		13.18	ktspffredo - Format Level1 Bitmap Block
		13.19	ktspsfredo - Format Level2 Bitmap Block
		13.21	ktspbfredo - Format Pagetable Datablock
		13.22	State change on level 1 bitmap block
		13.23	Undo on level 1 bitmap block
		13.24	Bitmap block (BMB) state change (level 2 ?)
		13.25	Undo on level 2 bitmap block
		13.26	?? Level 3 bitmap block state change ??
		13.27	?? Level 3 bitmap block undo ??
		13.28	Update LHWM and HHWM on segment header
		13.29	Undo on segment header
		13.31	Segment shrink redo for L1 bitmap block
		13.32	Segment shrink redo for segment header block

14	Extent management
		14.1	ktecush redo: clear extent control lock
		14.2	ktelk redo - lock extent (map)
		14.3	Extent de-allocate
		14.4	kteop redo - redo operation on extent map
		14.5	kteopu undo - undo operation on extent map
		14.8	kteoputrn - undo operation for flush for truncate

15	Tablespace

16	Row cache

17	Recovery management
		17.1	End backup mode marker
		17.3	Crash Recovery at scn:  0x0000.02429111

18	Block image (hot backups)
		18.1	Block image
		18.3	Reuse redo entry
				   (Range reuse: tsn=1 base=8388753 nblks=8)
				or (Object reuse: tsn=2 objd=76515)

19	Direct loader
		19.1	Direct load block record
		19.2	Nologging invalidate block range
			Direct Loader invalidate block range redo entry

20	Compatibility segment

21	LOB segment
		21.1	kdlop (Long Feild) redo:  [sic]
				(insert basicfile clob)

22	Locally managed tablespace
		22.2	ktfbhredo - File Space Header Redo:
		22.3	ktfbhundo - File Space Header Undo:
		22.5	ktfbbredo - File BitMap Block Redo:
		22.16	File Property Map Block (FPM)

23	Block writes
		23.1	Block written record
		23.2	Block read record (BRR) -- reference in Doc ID: 12423475.8

24	DDL statements
		24.1	DDL
		24.2	Direct load block end mark
		24.4	?? Media recovery marker
		24.10	??
		24.11	??

(E & O.E) – you’ll notice that some of the descriptions include question marks – those are guesses – and some are little more than the raw text extracted from a redo change vector with no interpretation of what they might mean.


It didn’t take long for someone to email me a much longer list that has been published elsewhere on the Internet. The results don’t have the hierarchical style display I have above, so I may copy the extra entries into the list above when I get a little time.

July 24, 2017

Fast Now, Fast Later

Filed under: Infrastructure,Oracle,Statspack,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 1:39 pm GMT Jul 24,2017

The following is the text of an article I published in the UKOUG magazine several years ago (2010), but I came across it recently while writing up some notes for a presentation and thought it would be worth repeating here.

Fast Now, Fast Later

The title of this piece came from a presentation by Cary Millsap and captures an important point about trouble-shooting as a very memorable aphorism. Your solution to a problem may look good for you right now but is it a solution that will still be appropriate when the database has grown in volume and has more users.

I was actually prompted to write this article by a question on the OTN database forum that demonstrated the need for the basic combination of problem solving and forward planning. Someone had a problem with a fairly sudden change in performance of his system from November to December, and he had some samples from trace files and Statspack of a particular query that demonstrated the problem.

The query was very simple:

select  *
from    tph
where   pol_num = :b0
order by
        pm_dt, snum

When the query was operating fast enough the trace file from a sample run showed the following (edited) tkprof output, with an the optimizer taking advantage of the primary key of (pol_num, pm_dt, snum) on table TPH to avoid a sort for the order by clause. (Note that the heading on the plan is “Row Source Operation” – which means it’s the execution plan that really was used)

call    count    cpu  elapsed  disk  query  current  rows
Parse       1   0.01     0.13     0    106        0     0
Execute     1   0.03     0.03     0      0        0     0
Fetch       4   0.01     0.22    46     49        0    43
total       6   0.06     0.39    46    155        0    43

Rows Row Source Operation
---- --------------------
  43 TABLE ACCESS BY INDEX ROWID TPH (cr=49 pr=46 pw=0 time=226115 us)
  43   INDEX RANGE SCAN TPH_PK (cr=6 pr=3 pw=0 time=20079 us)(object id 152978)

Elapsed times include waiting on following events:
Event waited on               Times  Max. Wait Total Waited
db file sequential read          46       0.01         0.21

When the query was running less efficiently the change in the trace didn’t immediately suggest any fundamental problems:

call    count    cpu  elapsed  disk  query  current  rows
Parse       1   0.00     0.00     0     51        0     0
Execute     1   0.01     0.01     0      0        0     0
Fetch       4   0.00     0.59    47     51        0    45
total       6   0.01     0.61    47    102        0    45

Rows Row Source Operation
---- --------------------
45 TABLE ACCESS BY INDEX ROWID TPH (cr=51 pr=47 pw=0 time=593441 us)
45 INDEX RANGE SCAN TPH_PK (cr=6 pr=2 pw=0 time=33470 us)(object id 152978)

Elapsed times include waiting on following events:
Event waited on               Times  Max. Wait Total Waited
db file sequential read          47       0.03         0.58

The plan is the same, the number of rows returned is roughly the same, and the number of disc reads and buffer gets has hardly changed. Clearly the overall change in performance comes from the slower average disk read times (a total of 0.21 seconds with a maximum of one hundredth of a second, compared to a total 0.58 seconds with a maximum of 3 hundredths), but why has the disk I/O time changed?

The figures give us a couple of preliminary ideas. An average read time of 4.5 milliseconds ( 0.21 seconds / 46 reads) is pretty good for a “small” random read of a reasonably loaded disc subject to a degree of concurrent access [ed: bearing in mind this was 2010], so the waits for “db file sequential read” in the first tkprof output are probably getting some help from a cache somewhere – possibly a SAN cache at the end of a fibre link or maybe from a local file system buffer (we might get a better idea if we could see the complete list of individual read times).

In the second case an average of 12.3 milliseconds ( 0.58 seconds / 45 reads) looks much more like a reasonable amount of genuine disc I/O is taking place – and the maximum of 30 milliseconds suggests that the disc(s) in question are subject to an undesirable level of concurrent access: our session is spending some of its time in a disk queue. Again, it would be nice to see the wait times for all the reads, but at this point it’s not really necessary.

There are couple more clues about what’s going on – one is the text of the query itself (and I’ll be coming back to that later) and the other is in the detail of the disk I/Os. If you check the “Row Source Operation” details you’ll see that in the first case the sample query selected 43 rows from the table and requested 43 (46 – 3) physical reads (pr) of the table to do so. In the second case it was 45 rows and 45 (47 – 2) physical reads. Is this simply a case of the same query needing a little more data and having to do a little more work as time passes?

So now we come to the Statspack data. Based on my observations (or guesses) about the nature of the query and the work going on, I asked if we could see some summary information for a couple of comparative intervals, and also to see if this particular query appeared in the “SQL ordered by reads” section of the Statspack reports. Here are the results, first for a snapshot taken in October:

Top 5 Timed Events                                                    Avg %Total
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                                                   wait   Call
Event                                            Waits    Time (s)   (ms)   Time
----------------------------------------- ------------ ----------- ------ ------
db file sequential read                      3,816,939      58,549     15   79.4
CPU time                                                     7,789          10.6
db file parallel write                         371,865       2,005      5    2.7
log file parallel write                         75,554       1,552     21    2.1
log file sync                                   17,198       1,228     71    1.7

                                                     CPU      Elapsd     Old
 Physical Reads  Executions  Reads per Exec %Total Time (s)  Time (s) Hash Value
--------------- ------------ -------------- ------ -------- --------- ----------
        775,166       43,228           17.9   24.3   212.58  12449.98  1505833981
Module: javaw.exe

You might notice that the critical query is actually a ‘select for update’ rather than the simple select that we had originally been told about; this doesn’t affect the execution plan, but is going to have some significance as far as undo and redo are concerned.

Now look at the corresponding figures for an interval in December:

Top 5 Timed Events                                                    Avg %Total
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                                                   wait   Call
Event                                            Waits    Time (s)   (ms)   Time
----------------------------------------- ------------ ----------- ------ ------
db file sequential read                      7,000,428      92,970     13   89.8
CPU time                                                     6,780           6.5
db file parallel write                         549,286       1,450      3    1.4
db file scattered read                          84,127         720      9     .7
log file parallel write                         41,197         439     11     .4

                                                     CPU      Elapsd     Old
 Physical Reads  Executions  Reads per Exec %Total Time (s)  Time (s) Hash Value
--------------- ------------ -------------- ------ -------- --------- ----------
      2,444,437       43,363           56.4   25.2   221.31  23376.07 1505833981
Module: javaw.exe

You’ll see in both cases that a huge fraction of the total database time is spent in single block reads (the “db file sequential read” time), but in December the number of reads has gone up by about 3.2 million. You can also see that about 1.7 million of the “extra” reads could be attributed to the critical query even though the number of executions of that query has hardly changed. The average number of reads per execution has gone up from 18 to 56. (I did ask if I could see the section of Statspack titled “SQL ordered by Executions” as this includes the average number of rows per execution and it would have been nice to know whether this average had gone up just a little bit, or whether it had gone up in line with the average reads per execution. Unfortunately the request was ignored, so I am going to proceed as if the change in the average result set was small.)

This, perhaps, tells us exactly what the problem is (and even if it doesn’t, the figures are symptomatic of one of the common examples of non-scalable queries).

Look at the query again – are we reporting all the rows for a “policy number”, ordered by “payment date”. If so, the number of payments recorded is bound to increase with time, and inevitably there will be lots of payments for policies belonging to other people between each pair of payments I make on my policy – and that would put each of my payments in a different table block (if I use a normal heap table).

Initially the payments table may be sufficiently small that a significant fraction of it stays in Oracle’s data cache or even in the file-system or SAN cache; but as time passes and the table grows the probability of me finding most of my blocks cached decreases – moreover, as time passes, I want increasing numbers of blocks which means that as I read my blocks I’m more likely to knock your blocks out of the cache. Given the constantly increasing numbers of competing reads, it is also no surprise that eventually the average single block read time also increases.

In scenarios like this it is inevitable that performance will degrade over time; in fact it is reasonably likely that the performance profile will degrade slowly to start with and then show an increasingly dramatic plunge. The only question really is how much damage limitation you can do.

One strategy, of course, is to increase the memory available for the critical object(s). This may mean assigning the table to a generously sized KEEP cache. (The cache need not be the same size as the table to improve things, but the bigger the better – for this query, at least). But such a strategy is only postponing the inevitable – you really need to find an approach which is less susceptible to the passage of time.

In this case, there are a few options to consider. First – note that we are selecting all the rows for a policy: do we really need to, or could we select the rows within a given date range, thus setting an upper limit on the average volume of data we need to acquire for any one policy. If we do that, we may want to think about strategies for summarizing and deleting older data, or using partitioning to isolate older data in separate segments.

If we can’t deal with the problem by changing the code (and, in this case, the apparent business requirement) can we avoid the need to visit so many data blocks for single policy. There are two obvious options to consider here – we could create the table as an “index cluster” clustered on the policy number; in this way we pay a penalty each time we insert a new row for a policy because we have to find the correct block in the cluster but when we run a query against that policy we will only need to read one or two blocks (probably) to get all the data. Alternatively we could consider setting the table up as an index-organized table (IOT) – again we do more work inserting data into the correct leaf block in the index but again we reap the benefit as we query the data because all the rows we want are in the same two or three leaf blocks (and stored in the order we want them).

Of course we are still subject to the same basic problem of the result set increasing in size as time passes, but at least we have managed to reduce (dramatically) the number of blocks we have to visit and the rate of growth of the number of blocks per query, thereby improving the scalability of the queries significantly.

Introducing new structures to an existing system is difficult, of course, and we may have to work out variations on this theme (like creating an index that includes all the table columns if we can’t switch to an IOT!). The key point is this, though: sometimes we can look at our data and the critical queries and recognize that the volume of data we have to process (even if we don’t return it, as we did in this example) is always going to increase over time, then we need to consider ways of minimizing the volume of data, or improving the packing of data so that the work we do doesn’t change (much) over time. Don’t just think ‘fast now’, think ‘will it still be fast later’.


July 22, 2017

In Memoriam – 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Lewis @ 5:10 pm GMT Jul 22,2017

This is the second of two items that my mother typed out more than 25 years ago. I had very mixed emotions when reading it but ultimately I felt that it was a reminder that, despite all the nasty incidents and stupid behaviour hyped up by the press and news outlets, people and organisations are generally kinder, gentler and more understanding than they were 60 years ago.

This story is about the birth of my brother who was born with a genetic flaw now known as Trisomy 21 though formerly known as Down’s syndrome or (colloquially, and no longer acceptably) mongolism. It is the latter term that my mother uses as it was the common term at the time of birth and at the time she typed her story.

A child is born.

The history written by Dorothy Kathleen Lewis (1925 – 2017) about the birth of her first son

My pregnancy was normal. The first indication I had that something was wrong was in the delivery room when the baby was born; there was “oh” and silence then whispers. I asked what was wrong but was told nothing. The baby was put in a cot and the doctor came into the room and then he was taken out. I had not seen the baby – just knew that it was a boy. Again when I asked I was told that this was routine. Eventually the baby was brought back and given to me. When I saw him I thought he looked very odd and was so floppy. When I held him upright I could see he was a mongol, but prayed that I was wrong and this would go away. I asked to be told what the matter was with the baby and was told to tell my husband to ask if I was worried – which made me more suspicious.

Visiting was restricted and I did not see my husband until the evening. Fathers were just shown the babies at the nursery door and were not allowed to hold them. My husband was delighted that we had a little boy and I didn’t have the heart to tell him what I feared.

David had difficulty feeding and was put on a bottle at three days, the teat of the bottle made with a big enough hole for the milk to drip into his mouth because he was not sucking. When we went home, still not having been told of his conditions, he was being fed 8 times a day taking just 1.5 ounces per feed. Each feed took an hour to get into him, then at night it was back to bed for 2 hours and a repeat performance.

I took David to the child welfare clinic and again the actions of the people there spoke volumes, the health visitor hurried into the doctor and I was shown in – jumping the queue. (The clinic was held in our church hall which was next to the vicarage and I was very embarrassed that I should be singled out, although it was obvious why.) I asked the doctor what she thought and she said he did look mongoloid, but perhaps I should see the paediatrician where he was born.

At 6 weeks [ed: see photo] I went for my post natal and there was great concern in the waiting room as to how the baby was getting on. None of the other mothers who were there were being asked. I said he still looks like a mongol. My husband was still not aware of David’s condition or my suspicions, I wanted to protect him from the hurt I was feeling, but now I know it was not the kindest thing to do.

I then took David back to the Middlesex hospital and saw the paediatrician, who took him away from me, and whilst I sat at one end of a very large room he had David on a table at the other end with a group of students. I could not hear what they were saying, but when David was brought back to me I was told: “You have a complete vegetable; he will never walk or talk – just lie in his pram and stare up at the sky. The best thing you can do is to put him in a home and forget you ever had a baby.” I was devastated; I couldn’t run away from it any more. He had an enlarged liver and spleen and his spine was curving outwards. When I held him in my arms it was a little like a floppy parcel and there was no buoyancy at all.

When I got home I couldn’t hold back the tears that had been stifled all those weeks and I had to tell my husband. It was dreadful, I think it would have been better had we been able to grieve together in the beginning.

From then on everything David did was a milestone and he brought us a lot of joy. Just before he was five I had to take him to County Hall in London for assessment. That was a nightmare because by this time I had two other children – little boys – it was necessary to take the older of the two with me, a very busy child. We went into a large room and an elderly fussy lady had a lot of questions for David to answer. He was shown pictures and asked what they were. He hid his face from her and was saying the words to me, many of which he already knew, but because he was not answering her they were crossed out. So his assessment was a very low one.

I don’t think it would have made a lot of difference whether he had answered her he so surely wasn’t school material. He had been going to a junior training centre from the age of 3½ because I was expecting Jonathan. A social worker who came to see me at that time asked what sex I would like my third child to be and I said I didn’t mind so long as I had a normal healthy child, and she said that was a funny answer to give – I didn’t think it funny.

People’s reactions were very different 37 years ago [ed: now 64 years]. Once it was made known that David was as he was people who had known me from childhood would cross the street [to avoid speaking to me], they didn’t know what to say. But we didn’t hide him away and when we went on holiday we just said three children and we sometimes got a reaction when we arrived, but David was always well-behaved and everybody loved him. He learned a great deal from his brothers and I thank God he was our first child.

[Dorothy Kathleen Lewis: Banbury 1990]


While copying up this story I was prompted to look at a few statistics from the UK’s Office of National Statistics for 1953 (and 50 years later); in particular the stats about child mortality and measles caught my eye.

Infant mortality for England and Wales

Year Births Still-births Died with 1 week Died within 4 weeks Died within 1 year
1953 684,372 15,681 10,127 12,088 18,324
2003 621,469 3,612 1,749 2,264 3,306

Don’t forget when you read the mortality figures that the 2003 numbers will include births that could be anything up to 8 weeks premature. I think anything more than about 2 weeks premature would probably have ended up in the still-births column in 1953.

Measles (England and Wales).

Year Cases Reported Deaths
1953 545,050 242
2003 2,048 0


I’ve received a private email pointing out that some of the cases reported as still-births in 1953 would now be identified as murder, where babies born with obvious viability issues would be smothered at birth – sometimes without the mother even knowing.


July 7, 2017


Filed under: CBO,Oracle,Upgrades — Jonathan Lewis @ 1:14 pm GMT Jul 7,2017

The title is a well-known shorthand for parameter optimizer_features_enable and it has been the topic of a recent blog post by Mike Dietrich in which he decries the practice of switching the parameter back to an older version on an upgrade (even though, as he points out, Oracle support has been known to recommend it and the manuals describe – though not with 100% accuracy – why you might do so).

I am one of the people who will suggest that on the upgrade a client should consider setting the optimizer_features_enable to the version just left behind as a strategy for getting to a newer version of the base code while minimising the threat of plan instability, so I’m going to play devil’s advocate in this case even though, as we shall see, I am nearly 100% in favour of Mike’s complaint.

The first point, of course, is full disclosure to the client.  Eventually they will have to set the parameter to the current database version, all they’re doing to trying to spread out the workload of addressing a perceived threat. Moreover, they are only minimising the threat, not eliminating it. Setting the parameter has the effect of changing the state of a long list of parameters and “fix controls” – but there’s no guarantee that it will reverse out all the code changes between the two versions. One hopes it won’t reverse out a bug-fix (though Mike quotes a MoS note where exactly that problem appears); more significantly it might not reverse out a clever code optimisation that (in a few unlucky cases) happens to make the SQL run more slowly even when a new transformation is not involved. What you’re hoping for when you set this parameter is that the number of places in your application where you get an unlucky change in performance is much smaller than it would be if you didn’t set the parameter.

The second point is that you really want to have the minimum impact possible while doing expending as little human effort as possible. To this end it’s better to think in terms of setting the parameter for specific users (via a logon trigger), or specific sessions (e.g. batch runs), or specific statements (through a hint or SQL Patch). It may take a couple of test runs to spot the critical classes of statements that point you at the right granularity of implementation, but the more of your SQL that runs at the newer optimizer level the better.

If you’re going to aim for minimum impact, though, and if you’ve got the time to do some broad-brush testing it’s worth going back to my comment that this parameter is a big switch for a number of parameters and fix controls. Perhaps you will be able to spot which new feature, or which fix control is the one thing that needs to be changed – in the short-term – for your system.  Again, statement level is preferable to session level, which is preferable to user level, which is preferable to system level.

The thought of adding a controlling parameter as hint to a statement will probably have some people thinking about creating SQL baselines rather than adding hints to code – and if it’s 3rd party code then an SQL Baseline may be the necessary strategy. Bear in mind that a common advisory for upgrades is “create SQL Baselines for all your SQL first” – it wouldn’t have been me that said it, though!  So here’s something to consider in the light of the whole yes/no argument about optimizer_features_enable, what does a baseline look like ? Here, taken from an 11g database is the critical content of a baseline for “select user from dual”:


It’s a set of hints – including the optimizer_features_enable() hint.Using SQL Baselines to stabilise your code on the upgrade leaves you exposed (in principle) to exactly the problem in the MoS notes that Mike cited as his example of the parameter undoing a bug-fix and producing wrong results. That, by the way, is why I’m not worried by Mike’s example: if the parameter re-introduces a bug then you would have been running with the bug – or probably a workaround to the bug – anyway (Unless, say, you upgraded from to and decided to set the parameter to – but that’s not a strategy compatible with the idea of using the parameter for stability with minimum short-term change.)

The second MoS note that Mike cites is really the one that states – emphasis is mine – a realistic view of the parameter (though I’d view the restriction to Oracle Global Support is a legal cop-out rather than a pure technology requirement):

Modifying the OPTIMIZER_FEATURES_ENABLE parameter generally is strongly discouraged and should only be used as a short term measure at the suggestion of Oracle Global Support.

The follow-up comment is, to my mind, a bit hand-wavy:

By reducing the OPTIMIZER_FEATURES_ENABLE level, new optimizer features are disabled. This has serious potential for negatively affecting performance generally by eliminating the possibility of choosing better plans that are only available with features enabled within the higher revision levels.

Arguing the case against setting the parameter because of the potential for affecting performance negatively – when you’re doing it so that nothing changes – is about as valid as the argument for setting it because of the potential for affecting performance negatively in a tiny percentage of plans that use new features when it’s a very bad idea.

Bottom line: whether or not you set the parameter you’re likely to hit a few edge cases where performance suffers; the less time you have for proper testing in advance the more likely you are to feel the need to set the parameter – but if you start heading in that direction think about using the time you do have available to minimise the scope, or even getting down to the detail of which ACTUAL feature is the problem feature that needs to be disabled for your system.


If you want to check which parameters and fix controls change as you set the optimizer_features_enable you could mess around with the dynamic performance views. Alternatively you could take advantage of the optimizer trace – it’s one of the easy things that the 10053 offers.  Enable the trace, optimize a simple statement, then check the trace file for the bit about optimizer parameters – the section you need from 12c trace will be as follows:


... Some 1,700 lines

Column Usage Monitoring is ON: tracking level = 1

In my case I connected to SQL*Plus, enabled the trace and executed “select 1 from dual”; then I reconnected, set the trace again, set the optimizer_features_enable back to (I was on at the time) and executed “select 2 from dual”. Then I deleted everything but the relevant section from the two trace files. One of the joys of Unix is that you can then run commands like the following:

sdiff  -s  or32_ora_2098.trc  or32_ora_2110.trc  |  expand  >ofe_diff.txt

That’s “side by side comparison, showing only the differences, expand tab marks out to spaces”. Here’s the result (with one blank line inserted between the parameters and the fix controls):

                                                              > optimizer_features_enable           =
                                                              > _fix_control_key                    = -1750344682
optimizer_features_enable           =                <
_optimizer_undo_cost_change         =                | _optimizer_undo_cost_change         =
_fix_control_key                    = 0                       <
_optimizer_cube_join_enabled        = true                    | _optimizer_cube_join_enabled        = false
_optimizer_hybrid_fpwj_enabled      = true                    | _optimizer_hybrid_fpwj_enabled      = false
_px_replication_enabled             = true                    | _px_replication_enabled             = false
_optimizer_partial_join_eval        = true                    | _optimizer_partial_join_eval        = false
_px_concurrent                      = true                    | _px_concurrent                      = false
_px_object_sampling_enabled         = true                    | _px_object_sampling_enabled         = false
_optimizer_unnest_scalar_sq         = true                    | _optimizer_unnest_scalar_sq         = false
_px_filter_parallelized             = true                    | _px_filter_parallelized             = false
_px_filter_skew_handling            = true                    | _px_filter_skew_handling            = false
_optimizer_multi_table_outerjoin    = true                    | _optimizer_multi_table_outerjoin    = false
_px_groupby_pushdown                = force                   | _px_groupby_pushdown                = choose
_optimizer_ansi_join_lateral_enhance = true                   | _optimizer_ansi_join_lateral_enhance = false
_px_parallelize_expression          = true                    | _px_parallelize_expression          = false
_optimizer_ansi_rearchitecture      = true                    | _optimizer_ansi_rearchitecture      = false
_optimizer_gather_stats_on_load     = true                    | _optimizer_gather_stats_on_load     = false
_px_adaptive_dist_method            = choose                  | _px_adaptive_dist_method            = off
_optimizer_batch_table_access_by_rowid = true                 | _optimizer_batch_table_access_by_rowid = false
_px_wif_dfo_declumping              = choose                  | _px_wif_dfo_declumping              = off
_px_wif_extend_distribution_keys    = true                    | _px_wif_extend_distribution_keys    = false
_px_join_skew_handling              = true                    | _px_join_skew_handling              = false
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_px_single_server_enabled           = true                    | _px_single_server_enabled           = false
_optimizer_dsdir_usage_control      = 126                     | _optimizer_dsdir_usage_control      = 0
_px_cpu_autodop_enabled             = true                    | _px_cpu_autodop_enabled             = false
_optimizer_use_gtt_session_stats    = true                    | _optimizer_use_gtt_session_stats    = false
_optimizer_adaptive_plans           = true                    | _optimizer_adaptive_plans           = false
_optimizer_proc_rate_level          = basic                   | _optimizer_proc_rate_level          = off
_adaptive_window_consolidator_enabled = true                  | _adaptive_window_consolidator_enabled = false
_optimizer_strans_adaptive_pruning  = true                    | _optimizer_strans_adaptive_pruning  = false
_optimizer_null_accepting_semijoin  = true                    | _optimizer_null_accepting_semijoin  = false
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_optimizer_cluster_by_rowid_control = 129                     | _optimizer_cluster_by_rowid_control = 3
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_optimizer_inmemory_gen_pushable_preds = true                 | _optimizer_inmemory_gen_pushable_preds = false
_optimizer_inmemory_autodop         = true                    | _optimizer_inmemory_autodop         = false
_optimizer_inmemory_access_path     = true                    | _optimizer_inmemory_access_path     = false
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_optimizer_inmemory_minmax_pruning  = true                    | _optimizer_inmemory_minmax_pruning  = false
_optimizer_inmemory_cluster_aware_dop = true                  | _optimizer_inmemory_cluster_aware_dop = false

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That’s 50 parameter differences, and 147 fix controls. Quite a lot of fixes between the two versions.

If you’re coming to the upgrade a couple of years late then you might want to consider using the new version number and list of parameters you generate as the criteria as a search for bugs in MoS. You might even find that simply running your eye down the list of parameters gives you a clue about a type of execution plan that you’ve never seen in the older version.


July 5, 2017

In Memoriam

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Lewis @ 5:19 pm GMT Jul 5,2017

My mother died a few weeks ago after a couple of months in terminal care. One of my tasks while she was in care was to go through all her paperwork and while doing so I discovered a couple of stories from her past that she had typed out (remember type-writers?) about 30 years ago. I typed them up on my laptop and printed several copies to hand out for people to read at the tea-party we held for her old friends – of all ages, ranging from 15 to 99 – after the funeral; this seemed to give them a lot of pleasure and they found them so interesting that I decided to share them with a larger audience. So here’s the story, written by my mother in 1983, of her evacuation experience at the start of the 2nd world war when she was a little over 14 years old.

The Summer of 1939.

Reminiscences of Dorothy Kathleen Lewis (1925 – 2017)

There had been a lot of talk about a war coming. Adolf Hitler and his armies had marched into Austria and were threatening Poland. We had all been issued with gas masks – just in case we would need them – and emergency plans had been made to evacuate all children from the big cities.

During the school holidays I was taken by my parents, with my sister, to my mother’s home village of Llangeitho in Cardiganshire. My mother had a cousin who was a retired school teacher and it was arranged with Auntie Jane that if war broke out Peggy and I would be sent to stay with her. I don’t think we were very pleased with the arrangement because to us she was very old-fashioned, not a bit like our mother. We ended our holiday and went back to London to wait for the school term to begin.

On the 1st September we heard that all children from our school whose parents wanted them to be evacuated should assemble at the school gates with a small suitcase and their gas masks. As we had already been told we were going to Llangeitho if the war broke out we stood and watched all our friends walking in crocodile fashion down the street and mothers and fathers crying watching them go. It was a very sad day, but I wished I was going with them. I didn’t like the idea of staying with Auntie Jane. None of these children knew where they were going, just somewhere in the countryside for safety, and they didn’t know who would be looking after them.

Well, on the morning of 3rd September Neville Chamberlain, our prime minister, spoke on the wireless (we now call it a radio) to say that we were at war with Germany. Immediately the sirens went and everyone ran to the shelters. My parents, Peggy, and I went to Baker Street Station, which has very deep platforms. There were hundreds of people with the same thing on their minds. We all took our gas masks with us. After a short time the all-clear went. My father sent a telegram to Auntie Jane to say Peggy and I would be leaving London on the train at 9:25pm that night. Trains did not travel as fast as they do today and we were due to arrive at Pont Llanio Station at 7:30am on Monday morning. Peggy’s friend and her mother (an Italian lady who did not speak very good English) was coming too, also one of the young people from the village who was working in London.

Paddington Station had very dim lights and when we got on the train there were no lights at all. After a little while we children began to feel a bit less afraid and started to tell ghost stories and play memory games. It was fun going to the toilet on the train because there were people sitting in the corridor and so was their luggage. We could not see them and I don’t think we really tried – it was all a game. We were supposed to be sleeping, but we were too excited for that. When it came time to eat our sandwiches we had to taste them before we knew what we were eating. Can you imagine being in a train without any lights, and there were no lights in the streets or houses or on the station platforms that we passed. Names of stations had already been removed in case the country was invaded by the enemy. The belief was that the enemy would not know were he was if there were no road signs etc. No-one thought about them using maps and compasses as they would now. [ed: 1983]

We eventually arrived in a town called Carmarthen where we had to change trains and take a slow train to Pont Llanio where a car would meet us. Our train from Paddington was very late arriving and the slow train had gone. Someone telephoned Pont Llanio station to say we would be late and to send the car back. The train from Carmarthen was a very slow one and my father used to say “you could get out of the train and pick flowers on the bank and get back into the train again”. It really was very slow and chugged its way along the line. We arrived at last in Pont Llanio and then in Llangeitho after a journey of 16 hours. [ed: 4:30 to 5:00 hours driving time, now; 6 hours by public transport] I am sure we must have looked very dirty and untidy. The trains in those days were steam and there would be plenty of coal smuts flying around.

I did not think Auntie Jane would be very pleased to see us and I was soon to find out that I had thought rightly. The first thing she did was to take up the stair carpet in case we wore it out. I don’t know how she thought we would do that because once we came down in the morning we were not allowed to go back upstairs again until we went to bed. [ed: if you’ve read “Carrie’s War” you may recognise the behaviour]  She also did not know that children eat quite a lot too. For breakfast Auntie Jane would boil an egg and cut it in half, so Peggy and I had half each. And the same for our dinner, we would have two small potatoes – and this was before rationing and shortage of food. We had a lot of friends in the village and if it was not for them asking us out to tea and/or supper we would have been very hungry. Peggy went to school in the village, but I was too old [ed: at 14 yrs 4 months] and had nothing to do all day, but soon found a baby I could take out in the pram and that meant I would be asked if I would like a piece of cake and a drink. After a few weeks and a number of letters home things goT a little better because my mother was sending parcels of food to Auntie Jane. I don’t know what arrangements were made money wise; because we were not Government evacuees Auntie Jane would not have been paid by the authorities to keep us.

One of the things we used to do together with two of our friends was to help the local butcher clean out his slaughter-house after he had killed a beast. This meant he then asked us to supper in his old farm-house with a huge Inglenook fireplace. Another of my mother’s friends used to have us in early for a meal and say “don’t tell Auntie Jane or she will not give you anything else to eat”. I often think back on those days and wonder why she was so mean. She had never married and had children, but being a teacher I would have expected her to be more tolerant.

In December of 1939 Peggy wrote a letter home which was full of complaint and left it somewhere where Auntie Jane found it and this letter was sent to my parents with a letter from Auntie Jane asking that we be sent back to London. A lot of the people in the village were very surprised to think that she should think to send us back to London when there were air-raids (these had not started at that time). People were saying we would be going home to be killed, but as for me I would rather take that chance than be left in Llangeitho.

Going back to London wasn’t much fun – the school was closed so once again we were at a loose end. We stayed in London over Christmas and again the government started evacuating school children and in February we joined a group who were leaving London – this time as London School Evacuees. We were sent to Buckingham to a family with a little girl of 2 years. This seemed to be alright and we went to school in the afternoons whilst the local children went to school in the mornings. It got rather uncomfortable there after a while because the man of the house, aged 24, lost his job (I don’t know why) and there were a lot of arguments in the house. His wife did not make herself look smart and he started to pay too much attention to me. Again a letter home that it was time we left there and one morning my father arrived and said: “pack your bags, you’re coming home”. What joy!

I don’t have much memory about this part of being an evacuee except to say I was relieved to be out of that house and back in the safety of my family. Whilst we were in Buckingham there had been bombing in London and Peggy and I were taken to see some of the damage that had been done. I think this was to frighten us so that we would be willing to go away again. I certainly did not like the sirens going and having to stop what we were doing and go to the shelter[1]. Once again we were on the move and this time I have a very detailed memory of the events.

We were assembled at the school playground all with our cases and gas masks – worried children and even more worried parents and teachers. No one knew where we were going except that we all piled into a double-decker bus. Lots of tears this time because we knew that people were being killed and injured. Would we see our parents again? What was going to happen to us if they were killed? Where would we go, who would look after us? Questions, questions!

We were taken to Marylebone station and put on an underground train. Where was it going? What were mum and dad doing now; were they still blowing their noses? We were not so bothered because we still knew where we were. Next stop Paddington Station and hundreds of children milling about. I remember I was in the Junior Red Cross at that time and a Red Cross nurse saw my badge and came to speak to me. Such a little thing but it meant such a lot and I have never forgotten her kind words, saying I was going somewhere safe and would be alright. Maybe I was crying at the time, I don’t know.

As the train pulled out of Paddington Station we were all trying to get to a window to wave, although we didn’t know anybody and we didn’t know where we were going. Well of all places – we arrived in Banbury. Now my Auntie Kit, my father’s sister, only lived about 2 miles out of Banbury in a village called Bodicote. I knew Banbury well because we had often visited Bodicote. If only she knew I was here. I know we could not stay with her because she had a very small house and she had 4 children already.

Again on another bus and somehow Peggy and I and two other girls from my class got separated from the rest of our school and we were taken to a village called Great Rollright. Peggy and I went to stay with a lady called Mrs. Robinson who kept the village shop, and my two class friends went to a farm.

Mrs. Robinson was a kind lady – she had asked for two boys but somewhere along the line she had two girls instead. It was very strange arriving in Great Rollright. We were all taken into the Church Hall and there were village people there who, to us, had a funny way of speaking. And one after the other they were saying how many children they would take. Mrs. Robinson wasn’t there, so maybe that is why she didn’t get two boys. I thought it was very embarrassing to be standing there with these quaint country people whilst they were deciding whether they wanted one, two, or three children.

Our time with Mrs. Robinson was very happy. Peggy went to the village school and I went to the county school in Chipping Norton, again on a part-time basis. Mrs. Robinson had a pet cockerel which was allowed to roam round the house – I hated that bird and I think it knew it. Its name was Cocky. Every time I wanted to go down the garden to the toilet this bird would follow me and stay outside until I came out again and peck my legs as I raced back up the garden.

There was certainly plenty to eat in this house and we really had an enjoyable time there. We were always sent to bed with a small glass of cider. I never knew then that cider was an alcoholic drink and I thought it was lovely. We didn’t seem any the worse for it anyway.

We got involved with the village church and would have been happy to have stayed there. But doom. One day I came home from school to find my head mistress from London sitting at the table. Unbeknown to us she had been frantically looking for these four girls she had lost at Banbury Station. I don’t know how she had found us, whether she had contacted our parents or hunted through the schools in the area. With a surname like Walklett I don’t think we would have been difficult to find. I don’t think she had been in touch with our parents – what an awful thing to say to them: “I’m very sorry but I may have lost your children”. No, she must have hunted through the school registers.

The upshot of this visit was that she had found somewhere more suitable for us and would we pack our things because she had found somewhere else for us to stay. More tears because we liked Mrs. Robinson, and the village people were all lovely to us and we were invited to their homes. Off we went with Miss Attride in the car to another village called Duns Tew. The strange thing was that none of our school were there, so why were we moved yet again?

This time we stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Beck, his name was Harry and hers was Daisy, but they were Mr. and Mrs. Beck to us. Mr. Beck was a farm hand and he worked with horses. He used to plough the fields of the farm across the road. He must have walked miles in the days he was ploughing. Although I had had many holidays in Wales and Shropshire at haymaking time I knew nothing about ploughing.

Mr. and Mrs. Beck had a young man living with them. He was like their son; although his family lived in the village he had lived with the Becks since he was a baby and they called him their son. His name was Walter. The village was a beautiful place and we lived in No. 73. There were no street names, every house had a name and a number so we were at No. 73 Duns Tew, the last house in the village, a lovely old thatched cottage. There was always a big wood fire in the grate and plenty on the table. Mr. and Mrs. Beck were the nicest people in village.

Peggy now had to go to Steeple Aston School (since moving to Banbury in 1975 I have met the widow of her headmaster there), and I went to a Continuation College which had been evacuated from the East End of London. This was very odd to me – we were taught shorthand, typing, arithmetic, English grammar, French. This was obviously training us for the commercial world. I was much younger than the other girls there but my education was more advanced than theirs so I soon became top of the class. My English was always being complimented. What they didn’t know was that I had a Welsh mother and the Welsh language used very letter in the word. My French was well in advance and my Maths took a flying leap.

I made friends in the class. The class was held in The Hall, North Aston – a country seat. The Hall was so large that there were 9 girls living there and they had servants. The school room was in the Grand Hall and it was so beautiful it seemed a pity to me that there were desks etc. on the polished floor.

In Duns Tew we had one of the masters of the school staying in The Nurseries (which is still there) and every Friday evening the family he stayed with invited those of us in the village to spend the evening in their house and they had a piano so all the war songs were being sung: “Roll out the Barrel”, “We’re going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried line” and many more.

Because the school at North Aston was a long walk I bought a bike, something I had always wanted, and I joined the cycling group. This meant on one day a week we would go for an outing to places like Blenheim Palace [ed: 10 miles away] etc. I became a good cyclist and had plenty of energy when others flagged behind. I certainly made use of my bike.

One particularly happy time was when it snowed in the winter. Yes, we did get snow in London, but not like this. It was white[2] and where the wind blew it was as high as the hedgerows; I couldn’t believe what I saw. Walter the Beck’s son had a sledge and he showed us where it was good to use it. It was a fantastic time.


[Banbury, 1983]



[1] One of the stories about my mother that I first heard at her funeral was about the time she persuaded her parents to let her stay at home overnight. At the time the family used to head for the air-raid shelter (i.e. the local underground station) at the end of the day and stay there all night long. My mother hated this and persuaded her parents to let her stay at home in her own bed provided she promised to join them at the air-raid shelter as soon as the air-raid sirens sounded. She was only allowed to do this once – because she managed to sleep through two bombing runs and without being woken by the sirens or the explosions.

[2]If you’re wondering why white snow is worth mentioning you probably don’t know about the density of London smog at that time.

June 14, 2017


Filed under: Execution plans,Oracle,Performance — Jonathan Lewis @ 3:46 pm GMT Jun 14,2017

An interesting observation appeared recently as a side-channel on a question on the OTN database forum – how does Oracle execute an unpivot() operation. Here’s an example of such a query:

rem     Script:         unpivot_2.sql
rem     Author:         Jonathan Lewis
rem     Dated:          June 2017

create table t1( id, col1, col2, col3, col4, col5, padding )
pctfree 95 pctused 5
-- compress for query low
        1, 100 , 200 , 300 , 400 , 500,rpad('x',100)
        rownum <= 50000       -- > needed to bypass wordpress format glitch

execute dbms_stats.gather_table_stats(user,'t1',method_opt=>'for all columns size 1')

        /*+ gather_plan_statistics find this */
        id, max(val) as high_val
unpivot include nulls (
        val for source in (col1, col2, col3, col4, col5)
group by id
order by id

I’ve created a table with 50,000 rows (all_objects is quite large in and, but with lots of free space per block so that I get three rows per block for a total of roughly 16,667 blocks which is going to make it fairly easy to spot any interesting session statistics. Then I’ve used an unpivot() call that has the effect of turning one row with five columns into five rows with one column.

Here’s the basic execution plan for the query (as pulled from memory):

| Id  | Operation            | Name | Starts | E-Rows | Cost (%CPU)| A-Rows |   A-Time   | Buffers |  OMem |  1Mem | Used-Mem |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT     |      |      1 |        | 10695 (100)|      1 |00:00:00.18 |   16671 |       |       |          |
|   1 |  SORT GROUP BY       |      |      1 |      1 | 10695   (2)|      1 |00:00:00.18 |   16671 |  2048 |  2048 | 2048  (0)|
|   2 |   VIEW               |      |      1 |    250K| 10653   (2)|    250K|00:00:01.41 |   16671 |       |       |          |
|   3 |    UNPIVOT           |      |      1 |        |            |    250K|00:00:00.52 |   16671 |       |       |          |
|   4 |     TABLE ACCESS FULL| T1   |      1 |  50000 |  2131   (2)|  50000 |00:00:00.12 |   16671 |       |       |          |

According to the plan Oracle has done one full tablescan on the data (Starts = 1), but the unpivot operation has used this to produce 250,000 rows of output from 50,000 rows (A-Rows=) of input. Note, however, that the cost of the view operation is 5 times the cost of the tablescan but, on the other hand, the number of buffers visited is 16,671 (which matches the size of the table). So have we done 5 tablescans with a union all, or have we done one tablescan ?

The next step is to look at the 10053 (optimizer) trace file, specifically for the “unparsed query” which (despite the final plan table showing the plan we’ve just seen above) looked like this – after applying a few purely cosmetic changes:

Final query after transformations:******* UNPARSED QUERY IS *******
SELECT "from$_subquery$_002"."ID" "ID",MAX("from$_subquery$_002"."VAL") "HIGH_VAL"
FROM    (
                   (SELECT "T1"."ID" "ID","T1"."PADDING" "PADDING",'COL1' "SOURCE","T1"."COL1" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "T1")
        UNION ALL  (SELECT "T1"."ID" "ID","T1"."PADDING" "PADDING",'COL2' "SOURCE","T1"."COL2" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "T1")
        UNION ALL  (SELECT "T1"."ID" "ID","T1"."PADDING" "PADDING",'COL3' "SOURCE","T1"."COL3" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "T1")
        UNION ALL  (SELECT "T1"."ID" "ID","T1"."PADDING" "PADDING",'COL4' "SOURCE","T1"."COL4" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "T1")
        UNION ALL  (SELECT "T1"."ID" "ID","T1"."PADDING" "PADDING",'COL5' "SOURCE","T1"."COL5" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "T1")
        ) "from$_subquery$_002"
GROUP BY "from$_subquery$_002"."ID"
ORDER BY "from$_subquery$_002"."ID"

And then there’s the outline (which I can see in the 10053 trace, or in the plan pulled from memory by a call to dbms_xplan.display_cursor()).

Outline Data
      NO_ACCESS(@"SEL$6" "from$_subquery$_002"@"SEL$6")
      FULL(@"SEL$5" "T1"@"SEL$5")
      FULL(@"SEL$4" "T1"@"SEL$4")
      FULL(@"SEL$3" "T1"@"SEL$3")
      FULL(@"SEL$2" "T1"@"SEL$2")
      FULL(@"SEL$1" "T1"@"SEL$1")

And if I also pull the alias (query block and fully qualified table name) information from memory:

Query Block Name / Object Alias (identified by operation id):
   1 - SEL$6
   2 - SET$1 / from$_subquery$_002@SEL$6
   3 - SET$1
   4 - SEL$5 / T1@SEL$5

Then there’s the alternative (though not necessarily correct) way to find an “unparsed” version of the query – dbms_sql2.expand_sql_text() in 11g, dbms_utility.expand_sql_text() in 12c:

variable m_sql_out clob

        m_sql_in    clob :=
                'select /*+ gather_plan_statistics find this */ id, max(val) as high_val
                from    t1
                        unpivot include nulls ( val for source in (col1, col2, col3, col4, col5) )
                group by id
                order by id

--      dbms_sql2.expand_sql_text(        -- 11g
        dbms_utility.expand_sql_text(     -- 12c


set long 20000
print m_sql_out

SELECT "A1"."ID" "ID",MAX("A1"."VAL") "HIGH_VAL" FROM  ( (SELECT "A3"."ID" "ID",
","A4"."COL2" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "A4") UNION ALL  (SELECT "A5"."ID" "ID
CE","A6"."COL4" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "A6") UNION ALL  (SELECT "A7"."ID" "
"T1" "A7")) "A1" GROUP BY "A1"."ID" ORDER BY "A1"."ID"

So at some level the optimizer does think it’s doing 5 tablescans – and the t1 reported in the unpivot plan is from the fifth (i.e. last) copy of the table in the union all. But the execution statistics and the session statistics say I’ve done just one tablescan – and this persists even when I make the table so large that it (a) won’t fit the buffer cache, and/or (b) uses direct path reads, and/or (c) runs under Exadata with Hybrid columnar compression.

So what’s (probably) happening ?

I think Oracle has a code path that says it’s doing a union all of tablescans (at least for this example) but tells it that the union all is there as an expansion of an unpivot so (sticking with an example that does a tablescan into the buffer cache) Oracle reads the number of blocks dictated by the current multiblock read count into the cache, pins that one batch of blocks, scans the batch (or, possibly, each block in turn) 5 times (or as required), unpins the batch and then reads the next batch. So the session does five tablescans but does them in a way that lets you see only one tablescan in the statistics.


There was a change in the results when I tested this on; the unparsed query reported only a two-part union all subquery, and the table alias information in the plan identified the referenced table as the copy of the table from the second (i.e. still last) subquery in the union all. More significantly the cost of the VIEW operation was a close match to the cost of a single tablescan, rather than being a multiple thereof:

select * from table(dbms_xplan.display_cursor('1k077bzp0t6mn',null,'outline alias cost 

| Id  | Operation            | Name | Starts | E-Rows | Cost (%CPU)| A-Rows |   A-Time   | Buffers | Reads  |  OMem |  1Mem | Used-Mem |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT     |      |      1 |        |  1117 (100)|      1 |00:00:00.13 |    8350 |   8334 |       |       |          |
|   1 |  SORT GROUP BY       |      |      1 |    250K|  1117   (6)|      1 |00:00:00.13 |    8350 |   8334 |  2048 |  2048 | 2048  (0)|
|   2 |   VIEW               |      |      1 |    250K|  1076   (2)|    250K|00:00:00.13 |    8350 |   8334 |       |       |          |
|   3 |    UNPIVOT           |      |      1 |        |            |    250K|00:00:00.09 |    8350 |   8334 |       |       |          |
|   4 |     TABLE ACCESS FULL| T1   |      1 |  50000 |  1074   (2)|  50000 |00:00:00.07 |    8350 |   8334 |       |       |          |

Query Block Name / Object Alias (identified by operation id):
   1 - SEL$3
   2 - SET$1 / from$_subquery$_002@SEL$3
   3 - SET$1
   4 - SEL$2 / T1@SEL$2

Outline Data
      NO_ACCESS(@"SEL$3" "from$_subquery$_002"@"SEL$3")
      FULL(@"SEL$2" "T1"@"SEL$2")

"."COL2" "VAL" FROM "TEST_USER"."T1" "A3" UNION ALL SELECT "A3"."ID" "ID","A3"."
allstats last'));

It used to be hard enough working out what the run-time engine was doing when the optimizer and the run-time engine claimed that they were working on the same (transformed version of the) SQL; but now we can get the impression that the optimizer is directing the run-time engine to execute a plan that couldn’t possibly match the (unparsed) query that the optimizer had been considering.

June 12, 2017


Filed under: 12c,Execution plans,Hints,Oracle,Upgrades — Jonathan Lewis @ 12:48 pm GMT Jun 12,2017

If you’re familiar with SQL Profiles and SQL Baselines you may also know about SQL Patches – a feature that allows you to construct hints that you can attach to SQL statements at run-time without changing the code. Oracle 12c Release 2 introduces a couple of important changes to this feature:

  • It’s now official – the feature had been copied from package dbms_sqldiag_internal to package dbms_sqldiag.
  • The limitation of 500 characters has been removed from the hint text – it’s now a CLOB column.

H/T to Nigel Bayliss for including this detail in his presentation to the UKOUG last week, and pointing out that it’s also available for Standard Edition.

There are a couple of other little changes as you can see below from the two extract from the 12.2 declarations of dbms_sqldiag and dbms_sqldiag_internal below:

 Argument Name                  Type                    In/Out Default?
 ------------------------------ ----------------------- ------ --------
 SQL_TEXT                       CLOB                    IN
 HINT_TEXT                      CLOB                    IN
 NAME                           VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 DESCRIPTION                    VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 CATEGORY                       VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 VALIDATE                       BOOLEAN                 IN     DEFAULT

 Argument Name                  Type                    In/Out Default?
 ------------------------------ ----------------------- ------ --------
 SQL_ID                         VARCHAR2                IN
 HINT_TEXT                      CLOB                    IN
 NAME                           VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 DESCRIPTION                    VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 CATEGORY                       VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 VALIDATE                       BOOLEAN                 IN     DEFAULT

 Argument Name                  Type                    In/Out Default?
 ------------------------------ ----------------------- ------ --------
 SQL_ID                         VARCHAR2                IN
 HINT_TEXT                      CLOB                    IN
 CREATOR                        VARCHAR2                IN
 NAME                           VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 DESCRIPTION                    VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 CATEGORY                       VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 VALIDATE                       BOOLEAN                 IN     DEFAULT

 Argument Name                  Type                    In/Out Default?
 ------------------------------ ----------------------- ------ --------
 SQL_TEXT                       CLOB                    IN
 HINT_TEXT                      CLOB                    IN
 CREATOR                        VARCHAR2                IN
 NAME                           VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 DESCRIPTION                    VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 CATEGORY                       VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 VALIDATE                       BOOLEAN                 IN     DEFAULT

  • The function names change from i_create_patch to create_sql_patch when exposed in dbms_sqldiag.
  • There are two versions of the function – one that requires you to supply the exact SQL text, and a new version that allows you to supply an SQL ID.
  • The internal function also adds a creator to the existing parameter list – and it doesn’t have a default so if you’ve already got some code to use the internal version it’s not going to work on an upgrade to 12.2 until you change it.

I was prompted to write this note by a tweet asking me if there’s any SQL available to see the contents of an SQL Profile in 11g and 12c. (I published some simple code several years ago for 10g, (before accepting – in the body of the blog, after accepting – in the linked comment) but Oracle changed the base tables in 11g). The answer is yes, probably on the Internet somewhere, but here’s some code I wrote a couple of years ago to report profiles in the more recent versions of Oracle:

rem     sql_profile_baseline_11g.sql
rem     J.P.Lewis
rem     July 2010

set pagesize 60
set linesize 132
set trimspool on

column hint format a70 wrap word
column signature format 999,999,999,999,999,999,999

break on signature skip 1 on opt_type skip 1 on plan_id skip 1

spool sql_profile_baseline_11g

        )       opt_type,
        extractvalue(value(tab),'.')    hint
                /*+ no_eliminate_oby */
                comp_data is not null
        order by
                signature, obj_type, plan_id
        )       prf,
        )       tab

This will report the hints associated with SQL Baselines, SQL Profiles, and SQL Patches – all three store the data in the same base table. As a minor variation I also have a query that will reported a named profile/baseline/patch, but this requires a join to the sqlobj$ table. As you can see from the substitution variable near the end of the text, the script will prompt you for an object name.

set pagesize 60
set linesize 180
set trimspool on

column  plan_name format a32
column  signature format 999,999,999,999,999,999,999
column  category  format a10
column  hint format a70 wrap word

break on plan_name skip 1 on signature skip 1 on opt_type skip 1 on category skip 1 on plan_id skip 1

spool sql_profile_baseline_11g

        )       opt_type,
        extractvalue(value(hnt),'.') hint
                /*+ no_eliminate_oby */
                        sqlobj$         so,
                        sqlobj$data     sod
               = '&m_plan_name'
                and     sod.signature = so.signature
                and     sod.category = so.category
                and     sod.obj_type = so.obj_type
                and     sod.plan_id = so.plan_id
                order by
                        signature, obj_type, plan_id
        )       prf,
        table (
        )       hnt


One of the enhancements that appeared in 12c for SQL Baselines was that the plan the baseline was supposed to produce was stored in the database so that Oracle could check that the baseline would still reproduce the expected plan before applying it the DBA could see what the baseline has been producing before Oracle stopped using it. (Currently Oracle stores the plan’s hash value, and stops using the baseline if it starts to produce a different hash value. Storing the plan as well gives the DBA a chance of working out how to reproduce the correct plan and create a new baseline to get to it.)

These plans (also generated for Profiles and Patches) are stored in the table sqlobj$plan, and the dbms_xplan package has been enhanced with three new functions to report them:

 Argument Name                  Type                    In/Out Default?
 ------------------------------ ----------------------- ------ --------
 NAME                           VARCHAR2                IN
 FORMAT                         VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT

 Argument Name                  Type                    In/Out Default?
 ------------------------------ ----------------------- ------ --------
 SQL_HANDLE                     VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 PLAN_NAME                      VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT
 FORMAT                         VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT

 Argument Name                  Type                    In/Out Default?
 ------------------------------ ----------------------- ------ --------
 NAME                           VARCHAR2                IN
 FORMAT                         VARCHAR2                IN     DEFAULT

SQL> select * from table(dbms_xplan.display_sql_profile_plan('SYS_SQLPROF_015c9bd3bceb0000'));


SQL text: select, from       t1, t2 where between 10000 and
          20000 and     t2.n1 = t1.n1 and       t2.n1 = t2.v2

SQL Profile Name: SYS_SQLPROF_015c9bd3bceb0000
Status:           ENABLED
Plan rows:        From dictionary

Plan hash value: 3683239666

| Id  | Operation               | Name     | Rows  | Bytes | Cost (%CPU)| Time     |    TQ  |IN-OUT| PQ Distrib |
|   0 | SELECT STATEMENT        |          | 10501 |   287K|   248   (4)| 00:00:01 |        |      |            |
|   1 |  PX COORDINATOR         |          |       |       |     0   (0)|          |        |      |            |
|   2 |   PX SEND QC (RANDOM)   | :TQ10002 | 10501 |   287K|   248   (4)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,02 | P->S | QC (RAND)  |
|*  3 |    HASH JOIN BUFFERED   |          | 10501 |   287K|   248   (4)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,02 | PCWP |            |
|   4 |     PX RECEIVE          |          | 10002 |    97K|   123   (3)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,02 | PCWP |            |
|   5 |      PX SEND HASH       | :TQ10000 | 10002 |    97K|   123   (3)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,00 | P->P | HASH       |
|   6 |       PX BLOCK ITERATOR |          | 10002 |    97K|   123   (3)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,00 | PCWC |            |
|*  7 |        TABLE ACCESS FULL| T1       | 10002 |    97K|   123   (3)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,00 | PCWP |            |
|   8 |     PX RECEIVE          |          |   104K|  1845K|   124   (4)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,02 | PCWP |            |
|   9 |      PX SEND HASH       | :TQ10001 |   104K|  1845K|   124   (4)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,01 | P->P | HASH       |
|  10 |       PX BLOCK ITERATOR |          |   104K|  1845K|   124   (4)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,01 | PCWC |            |
|* 11 |        TABLE ACCESS FULL| T2       |   104K|  1845K|   124   (4)| 00:00:01 |  Q1,01 | PCWP |            |

Predicate Information (identified by operation id):

   3 - access("T2"."N1"="T1"."N1")
   7 - filter("T1"."ID"<=20000 AND "T1"."ID">=10000)
  11 - filter("T2"."N1"=TO_NUMBER("T2"."V2"))

   - automatic DOP: Computed Degree of Parallelism is 2

Disclaimer – I’ve checked only the SQL_PROFILE function call on 12.2, after creating a profile to check that my old 11g report still worked in 12c.

Update Aug 2017

I have just rediscovered a note I made (though I don’t have a reference to the source) that Patch 17203284 backports the visibility of create_sql_patch to dbms_sqldiag in The description for the patch is: Enhancements for dbms_sqldiag_internal.i_create_patch but the “Bugs resolved by this patch” link on the patch details screen leads to the “Requested bug could not be displayed” page.

[Update: Oct 2017,(and see comment below) – this patch doesn’t make public a procedure create_sql_patch, it simply adds a version of i_create_patch that takes a CLOB hint text to dbms_sqldiag_internal.]


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