Oracle Scratchpad

March 2, 2014

Auto Sample Size

Filed under: Function based indexes,Indexing,Infrastructure,IOT,LOBs,Oracle,Statistics — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:38 pm BST Mar 2,2014

In the past I have enthused mightily about the benefits of the approximate NDV mechanism and the benefit of using auto_sample_size to collect statistics in 11g; however, as so often happens with Oracle features, there’s a down-side or boundary condition, or edge case. I’ve already picked this up once as an addendum to an earlier blog note on virtual stats, which linked to an article on OTN describing how the time taken to collect stats on a table increased dramatically after the addition of an index – where the index had this definition:

create bitmap index i_s_rmp_eval_csc_msg_actions on
    s_rmp_evaluation_csc_message (
        decode(instr(xml_message_text,' '),0,0,1)

As you might guess from the column name, this is an index based on an XML column, which is stored as a CLOB.

In a similar vein, I showed you a few days ago an old example I had of indexing a CLOB column with a call to dbms_lob.getlength(). Both index examples suffer from the same problem – to support the index Oracle creates a hidden (virtual) column on the table that can be used to hold statistics about the values of the function; actual calculated values for the function call are stored in the index but not on the table itself – but it’s important that the optimizer has the statistics about the non-existent column values.

So what happens when Oracle collects table statistics – if you’ve enable the approximate NDV feature Oracle does a 100% sample, which means it has to call the function for every single row in the table. You will appreciate that the decode(instr()) function on the LOB column is going to read every single LOB in turn from the table – it’s not surprising that the time taken to calculate stats on the table jumped from a few minutes to a couple of hours. What did surprise me was that my call to dbms_lob.getlength() also seemed to read every lob in my example rather than reading the “LOB Locator” data that’s stored in the row – one day I’ll take a look into why that happened.

Looking at these examples it’s probably safe to conclude that if you really need to index some very small piece of “flag” information from a LOB it’s probably best to store it as a real column on the table – perhaps populated through a trigger so you don’t have to trust every single piece of front-end code to keep it up to date. (It would be quite nice if Oracle gave us the option for a “derived” column – i.e. one that could be defined in the same sort of way as a virtual column, with the difference that it should be stored in the table.)

So virtual columns based on LOBs can create a performance problem for the approximate NDV mechanism;  but the story doesn’t stop there because there’s another “less commonly used” feature of Oracle that introduces a different threat – with no workaround – it’s the index organized table (IOT). Here’s a basic example:

create table iot1 (
        id1	number(7,0),
	id2	number(7,0),
	v1	varchar2(10),
	v2	varchar2(10),
	padding	varchar2(500),
        constraint iot1_pk primary key(id1, id2)
organization index
including id2

insert into iot1
with generator as (
	select	--+ materialize
		rownum id
	from dual
	connect by
		level <= 1e4
        mod(rownum,20)                  id1,
        trunc(rownum,100)               id2,
        to_char(mod(rownum,20))         v1,
        to_char(trunc(rownum,100))      v2,
        rpad('x',500,'x')               padding
	generator	v1,
	generator	v2
	rownum <= 1e5


alter system flush buffer_cache;

alter session set events '10046 trace name context forever';

		ownname		 => user,
		tabname		 =>'IOT1',
		method_opt	 => 'for all columns size 1'

alter session set events '10046 trace name context off';

You’ll notice I’ve created the table then inserted the data – if I did a “create table as select” Oracle would have sorted the data before inserting it, and that would have helped to hide the problem I’m trying to demonstrate. As it is my overflow segment is very badly ordered relative to the “top” (i.e. index) segment – in fact I can see after I’ve collected stats on the table that the clustering_factor on the index is 100,000 – an exact match for the rows in the table.

Running, with a 1MB uniform extent, freelist management, and 8KB block size the index segment held 279 leaf blocks, the overflow segment (reported in view user_tables as SYS_IOT_OVER_81594) held 7,144 data blocks.

So what interesting things do we find in a 10046 trace file after gathering stats – here are the key details from the tkprof results:

SQL ID: 7ak95sy9m1s4f Plan Hash: 1508788224

select /*+  full(t)    no_parallel(t) no_parallel_index(t) dbms_stats
  cursor_sharing_exact use_weak_name_resl dynamic_sampling(0) no_monitoring
  no_substrb_pad  */to_char(count("ID1")),to_char(substrb(dump(min("ID1"),16,

call     count       cpu    elapsed       disk      query    current        rows
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
Parse        1      0.00       0.00          0          0          0           0
Execute      1      0.00       0.00          0          0          0           0
Fetch        1      0.37       0.37       7423     107705          0           1
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
total        3      0.37       0.37       7423     107705          0           1

Misses in library cache during parse: 1
Optimizer mode: ALL_ROWS
Parsing user id: 62     (recursive depth: 1)
Number of plan statistics captured: 1

Rows (1st) Rows (avg) Rows (max)  Row Source Operation
---------- ---------- ----------  ---------------------------------------------------
         1          1          1  SORT AGGREGATE (cr=107705 pr=7423 pw=0 time=377008 us)
    100000     100000     100000   APPROXIMATE NDV AGGREGATE (cr=107705 pr=7423 pw=0 time=426437 us cost=10 size=23944 card=82)
    100000     100000     100000    INDEX FAST FULL SCAN IOT1_PK (cr=107705 pr=7423 pw=0 time=298380 us cost=10 size=23944 card=82)(object id 85913)


SQL ID: 1ca2ug8s3mm5z Plan Hash: 2571749554

select /*+  no_parallel_index(t, "IOT1_PK")  dbms_stats cursor_sharing_exact
  use_weak_name_resl dynamic_sampling(0) no_monitoring no_substrb_pad
  no_expand index(t,"IOT1_PK") */ count(*) as nrw,count(distinct
  sys_op_lbid(85913,'L',t.rowid)) as nlb,null as ndk,
  sys_op_countchg(sys_op_lbid(85913,'O',"V1"),1) as clf
 "TEST_USER"."IOT1" t where "ID1" is not null or "ID2" is not null

call     count       cpu    elapsed       disk      query    current        rows
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
Parse        1      0.00       0.00          0          0          0           0
Execute      1      0.00       0.00          0          0          0           0
Fetch        1      0.16       0.16          0     100280          0           1
------- ------  -------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------  ----------
total        3      0.16       0.16          0     100280          0           1

Misses in library cache during parse: 1
Optimizer mode: ALL_ROWS
Parsing user id: 62     (recursive depth: 1)
Number of plan statistics captured: 1

Rows (1st) Rows (avg) Rows (max)  Row Source Operation
---------- ---------- ----------  ---------------------------------------------------
         1          1          1  SORT GROUP BY (cr=100280 pr=0 pw=0 time=162739 us)
    100000     100000     100000   INDEX FULL SCAN IOT1_PK (cr=100280 pr=0 pw=0 time=164597 us cost=6 size=5900000 card=100000)(object id 85913)

The first query collects table and column stats, and we can see that the approximate NDV method has been used because of the trailing text: /* NDV,NIL,NIL,NDV,NIL,NIL,NDV,NIL,NIL,NDV,NIL,NIL,NDV,NIL,NIL*/. In this statement the hint /*+ full(t) */ has been interpreted to mean an index fast full scan, which is what we see in the execution plan. Although there are only 279 blocks in the index and 7,144 blocks in the overflow we’ve done a little over 100,000 buffer visits because for every index entry in the IOT top we’ve done a “fetch by rowid” into the overflow segment (the session stats records these as “table fetch continued row”). Luckily I had a small table so all those visits were buffer gets; on a very large table it’s quite possible that a significant fraction of those buffer gets will turn into single block physical reads.

Not only have we done one buffer visit per row to allow us to calculate the approximate NDV for the table columns, we’ve done the same all over again so that we can calculate the clustering_factor of the index. This is a little surprising since the “rowid” for an item in the overflow section is stored in the index segment but (as you can see in the second query in the tkprof output) Oracle has used column v1 (the first in the overflow segment) in the call to the sys_op_countchg() function where the equivalent call for an ordinary index would use t.rowid so, presumably, the code HAS to access the overflow segment. The really strange thing about this is that the same SQL statement has a call to sys_op_lbid() which uses the (not supposed to exist in IOTs) rowid – so it looks as if it ought to be possible for sys_op_countchg() to do the same.

So – big warning on upgrading to 11g: if you’ve got IOTs with overflows and you switch to auto_sample_size and enable approximate NDV then the time taken to gather stats on those IOTs may (depending to a large extent on the data clustering) take much longer than it used to.

February 25, 2014

FBI Skip Scan

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

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

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


February 21, 2014

Indexing LOBs

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

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

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

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

Index Compression – aargh

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

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

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


February 4, 2014


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

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

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


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

February 1, 2014

Modify PK

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

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

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

create unique index t1_pk on t1(object_id);

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

create index t1_i1 on t1(object_id, object_name);

drop index t1_pk;

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

alter table t1 modify primary key using index t1_i1;

drop index t1_pk;

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

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

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

January 26, 2014


Filed under: Bugs,Indexing,Oracle,Troubleshooting,Tuning — Jonathan Lewis @ 12:08 pm BST Jan 26,2014

I was involved in a thread on Oracle-L recently started with the question: “How many LIOs is too many LIOs”. Rather than rewrite the whole story, I’ve supplied a list of links to the contributions I made, in order – the final “answer” is actually the answer to a different question – but travels an interesting path to get there.#

I’ve got a script to emulate the requirement so that people can see for themselves the bug that I mention in post 15; I’ll try to add a couple of notes to it and publish it some time, but for the moment I’ll just remind myself that it’s called (slightly counter-intuitively: no_sort_problem.sql)

January 17, 2014

Bitmap question

Filed under: bitmaps,Indexing,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 7:06 pm BST Jan 17,2014

If you know anything about bitmap indexes you probably know that a single entry in a bitmap index takes the form (key_value, starting rowid, ending rowid, BBC compressed bit string). So an entry covers a single value for a column over a range of rowids  in the table, and the string of bits for that (notional) range is reduce to a minimum by a compression mechanism that eliminate repeated zeros in multiples of 8.

So here’s a question – to which I don’t know the answer, although you may be surprised when you try to find it:

If you have a very large table and in one of its columns the first row and the last row (and no others) hold the value 0 (say) and you create a bitmap index on this column, what’s the largest number of rows you could have in the table before Oracle would HAVE to create two index entries in order to cover both rows ?

Follow-up question – once you start getting close to working out the answer, can you think of a way to provide an example without actually creating a table with that many rows in it ?


January 3, 2014

Index Hash

Filed under: Bugs,CBO,Hints,Ignoring Hints,Index Joins,Indexing,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:56 pm BST Jan 3,2014

I’m afraid this is one of my bad puns again – an example of the optimizer  making a real hash of the index hash join. I’m going to create a table with several indexes (some of them rather similar to each other) and execute a query that should do an index join between the obvious two indexes. To show how obvious the join should be I’m going to start with a couple of queries that show the cost of simple index fast full scans.

Here’s the data generating code:


December 17, 2013

dbms_space usage

Filed under: ASSM,Indexing,Infrastructure,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:43 pm BST Dec 17,2013

Just throwing out a brief comment (one of my many draft notes that I don’t have time to complete) about the dbms_space package. You’re probably familiar with this package and how, for ASSM segments, it can give you a measure of the available space in the blocks in a data segment, reporting 6 possible states of the blocks below the high high water mark (HHWM) e.g.:


December 13, 2013

Bitmap Question

Filed under: Indexing,Infrastructure,Oracle,Partitioning — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:09 pm BST Dec 13,2013

This question came up on the OTN database forum a couple of months ago: “Why doesn’t Oracle allow you to create globally partitioned bitmap indexes?” The obvius answer is “It just doesn’t, okay.” But it can be quite interesting to think of reasons why a particular mechanism might not have been implemented – sometimes the answer can give you an insight into how a feature has been implemented, or it might suggest cases where a feature might not work very well, it might give you some ideas on how to work around a particular limitation, and sometimes it might just help to pass the time on a short flight.


December 9, 2013

Bitmap join indexes

Filed under: Indexing,Oracle,Statistics — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:01 pm BST Dec 9,2013

Here’s another of my “draft” notes that needs some exapansion and, most importantly, proof.

I have a fact table with a status id column that shows a massive skew. But I also have a dimension table that holds the “status code” so (in theory, at least) I have to do a join from the statuses table to the facts table to find rows of a given status. Unfortunately the join hides the skew:


November 14, 2013

32K Columns

Filed under: 12c,Function based indexes,Indexing,Infrastructure,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 8:06 am BST Nov 14,2013

Oracle 12c has increased the maximum length of character-based columns to 32K bytes – don’t get too excited, they’re stored out of lines (so similar in cost to LOBs) and need some modification to the parameter file and data dictionary (starting the database in upgrade mode) before you can use them.

Richard Foote has a pair of articles on indexing such columns:

Be cautious about enabling this option and test carefully – there are going to be a number of side effects, and some of them may require a significant investment in time to resolve. The first one that came to my mind was that if you’ve created a function-based index on a pl/sql function that returns a varchar2() type and haven’t explicitly created the index on a substr() of the return value then the data type of the function’s return value will change from the current default of varchar2(4000) to varchar2(32767) – which means the index will become invalid and can’t be rebuilt or recreated.

Obviously you can redefine the index to include an explicit substr() call – but then you have to find all the code that was supposed to use the index and modify it accordingly.

November 11, 2013

Reverse Key

Filed under: Indexing,Oracle,Performance — Jonathan Lewis @ 3:19 pm BST Nov 11,2013

Here’s one of those little details which I would have said just couldn’t be true – except it’s in the manuals, and the manuals happen to be right.


November 6, 2013

12c In-memory

Filed under: 12c,compression,Indexing,Infrastructure,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:53 pm BST Nov 6,2013

I wrote a note about the 12c “In-Memory” option some time ago on the OTN Database forum and thought I’d posted a link to it from the blog. If I have I can’t find it now so, to avoid losing it, here’s a copy of the comments I made:


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