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December 2009

HOTSOS SYMPOSIUM ’2010

I will be presenting on two topics in HOTSOS’ 2010, an Oracle performance focused conference, in my home town Dallas, Texas. You can read about my presentation topics in HOTSOS’ 2010 Riyaj . This symposium is a valued conference for performance engineers, DBAs and developers who are interested to know learn about performance. There are many great speakers presenting in this conference and the main page for this conference is HOTSOS ’2010 . BTW, My friend Alex Gorbachev interviewed Gary Goodman and posted a video in his blog also.

Tanel Poder is conducting the HOTSOS training day this year. You can’t miss his training day and I heard that he is working on a MOTS (Mother Of all Tuning Script) and planning to release that in HOTSOS ’2010.

On behalf of the Dallasites, I invite you to visit Dallas and attend this great conference.

I wish you a Happy and prosperous New Year ’2010!

user centered design

It's the day before the new year and I have two topics related to development that I am hoping to complete today to wrap up 2009. Then I plan to refocus this blog on its originally intended topic - measurement. I can't promise not to wander off topic again but I will do my best.A few weeks ago, Cary Millsap sent me a link to The Fable of the User-Centered Designer. It's short and an enjoyable

50+ SQL Performance Optimization scenarios

Before the year ends I’d like to share some good stuff…

I have never seen a huge compilation of SQL tuning tips or rewrite scenarios (with test cases) and got them only on OracleFans forum… ooops… so you can’t read Chinese? try this translated version, whew.. good thing Google has this translate service that I am able to read in Chinese.. </p />
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Oracle Open World 2009 Report - Part Two


Tuesday October 13th

Unconference on Indexes
Richard Foote
10/13/2009 10:00 AM

I started off the day attending the indexing presentation of fellow Oak Table member Richard Foote.  Foote has become quite well known for his expertise on index internals since the publication of Oracle B-Tree Index Internals: Rebuilding the Truth

This was basically a Q&A session, and I will include just a couple of the questions.

Q: Have you ever seen an index Skip Scan used correctly?
A: The short answer was 'No'

NULL is not zero!

Some time ago I wrote a post about how COUNT(*) and COUNT(column) are semantically different things (link). Such queries may return different results if the column counted has NULLs in it. And the difference comes from that NULL is not a value, it’s rather a state which says “value unknown” or “no value entered”.
So, you better understand how NULLs interact with your SQL constructs if you call yourself a DBA or a database developer ;-)

NULL is not zero!

Some time ago I wrote a post about how COUNT(*) and COUNT(column) are semantically different things (link). Such queries may return different results if the column counted has NULLs in it. And the difference comes from that NULL is not a value, it’s rather a state which says “value unknown” or “no value entered”.
So, you better understand how NULLs interact with your SQL constructs if you call yourself a DBA or a database developer ;-)

Instance_Number is busy Message during Standby Instance Startup

Recently I encountered a situation that demonstrates how, in an Oracle database, an error may stem from a very unrelated cause. A DBA was building a physical standby database for an upcominmg training. The two servers he was using were part of a RAC cluster; so the Oracle binaries were already there. He decided to use the same ORACLE_HOME for the new databases as well - a quite logical decision to savbe on space and administration issues. He created a primary database on server n1 and a standby database on the server n2. Follooing the usual manual procedure in building the standby database, he copied the pfile from primary database, modified the parameters and brought up the standby instance in nomount mode on the server n2.

SQL> startup nomount pfile=initSTBY.ora

But it refused to come up, with the following error:

ORA-00304: requested INSTANCE_NUMBER is busy

Alert log showed:

USER (ospid: 14210): terminating the instance due to error 304
Instance terminated by USER, pid = 14210

This was highly unusual. The primary and standby both were non-RAC; there was no instance number concept in a non-RAC database. By the way, the RAC instance on that server (or on the server n1) was not running; so there was no question of any conflict with the RAC instances either. The primary database was called PRIM while the standby was called STBY - eliminating the possibility of an instance name clash as well. And this error came while merely trying to start the instance, not even while mounting - eliminating the standby controlfile as a cause.

The error 304 showed:

00304, 00000, "requested INSTANCE_NUMBER is busy"
// *Cause: An instance tried to start by using a value of the
// initialization parameter INSTANCE_NUMBER that is already in use.
// *Action: Either
// a) specify another INSTANCE_NUMBER,
// b) shut down the running instance with this number
// c) wait for instance recovery to complete on the instance with
// this number.

Needless to say, being for a non-RAC database there was no "instance_number" parameter in the initialization parameter file of primary or the standby. So, the suggestions for the resolution seemed odd. MetaLink provided no help. All the ORA-304 errors were related to RAC with the instance_number mismatch.

As it always happens, it fell on my lap at this time. With just days to go live, I had to find a solution quickly. Long hours of troubleshooting, tracing the processes and examination of occasional trace files did not yield any clue. All the clue seemed to point to RAC, which this database was not. The Oracle Home was a RAC home, which meant the oracle binary was linked with the "rac" option.

So, the next logical step was to install a new Oracle Home without the rac option. After doing so, I tried to bring up the instance, using the new ORACLE_HOME and LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable; but, alas, the same error popped up.

Just to eliminate the possibility of some unknown bug, I decided to put an instance_number parameter, setting it to "1", from the default "0". The same error. I changed it to "2", again, the result was the same error.

Although this didn't help, at least it gave a clue that the error was not related to instance_number. The error message was clearly wrong. With this in mind, I went back to the basics. I went through the alert log with a fine toothed comb, scanning and analyzing each line.

The following line drew my attention:

DB_UNQIUE_NAME STBY is not in the Data Guard configuration

This was odd; the db_unique_name STBY was not defined in DG configuration. [BTW, note the spelling of "unique" in the message above. That is not what I typed; it was a copy and paste from the actual message in the alert log. Someone in Oracle Development should really pay atytention to typos in messages. This is clearly more than a nuisance; what if some process scans for db_unique_name related errors? It will not find the message at all!]

Checking the dg configuration, I found that the DBA has correctly defined the primary and standby names. In any case, Data Guard has not been started yet; this is merely at the instance startup - why is it complaining for data guard configuration at this time.

Perplexed, I resorted to a different approach. I renamed the pfile and all other relevant files. Then I built the standby myself, from scratch - using the same names - PRIM and STBY. And this time, everything worked fine. The instance STBY did come up.

While this solvbed the urgency problem, everyone, inclduing myself, wanted to know what the issue was in the earlier case where the DBA had failed to bring up the instance. To get the answer, I compared the files I created with the DBA created when tried and failed. Voila! The cause was immediately clear - the DBA forgot to put a vital parameter in the pfile of the standby instance:

db_unique_name = 'STBY'

This parameter was absent; so it took the default value as the db_name, which was "PRIM". This caused the instance to fail with a seemingly unrelated message - "ORA-304 Instance_number is busy"!

Learning Points

  1. In Oracle, most errors are obvious; but some are not. So, do not assume the error message is accurate. If all logic fails, assume the error messsage is wrong, or at least inaccurate.
  2. Instead of over-analyzing the process already followed, it may make sense to take a breather, wipe out everything and start fropm scratch. This is evben mor effective when someone else does it, offering a fresh approach and possibly not repeating the same mistakes.
  3. Finally, the issue at hand: if you do not define db_unique_name parameter in the standnby instance, you will receive ORA-304 during instance startup.

Hope this was helpful. Happy New Year, everybody.

The “Do What You Love” Mirage

I am inspired by having read an article called “Do what you love mirage” by Denis Basaric. It begins...

“Do what you love” is advice I hear exclusively from financially secure people. And it rings hollow to me. When you need money to survive, you do any work that is available, love does not play into that choice. Desperation does.

Please read it before you go on.

Welcome back.

This article puts a very important cycle within my life into words. I believe, as Denis says, that a lot of times, we get the cause-effect relationship mixed up when we think about loving what we do.

I love what I do. Well, a lot of it. But Denis is right: I didn’t choose what I do out of love. I chose what I love out of doing. Some examples:

Hinting Sub-Queries on Oracle

This posting is a purely Oracle RDBMS discussion about how to correctly apply hints to sub-queries. However, it is particularly relevant to PeopleSoft, which it makes extensive use of correlated sub-queries. The point of this story is not the particular hints that I applied, but where I placed the hints, and how I scoped them to the sub-queries.

The following SQL extract is from the delivered Global Payroll GPGB_EDI process (although I have already made some minor changes, and PS_GP_RSLT_PIN is partitioned). Notice that each sub-query joins two tables together. PS_GP_RSLT_PIN is second largest of Global Payroll result tables. PS_GP_PIN is a look-up table, and the criterion on PIN_CODE will only return a single row.

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UPDATE Table(GPGB_EDIE_TMP) X

Hinting Sub-Queries on Oracle

This posting is a purely Oracle RDBMS discussion about how to correctly apply hints to sub-queries. However, it is particularly relevant to PeopleSoft, which it makes extensive use of correlated sub-queries. The point of this story is not the particular hints that I applied, but where I placed the hints, and how I scoped them to the sub-queries.

The following SQL extract is from the delivered Global Payroll GPGB_EDI process (although I have already made some minor changes, and PS_GP_RSLT_PIN is partitioned). Notice that each sub-query joins two tables together. PS_GP_RSLT_PIN is second largest of Global Payroll result tables. PS_GP_PIN is a look-up table, and the criterion on PIN_CODE will only return a single row.

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UPDATE Table(GPGB_EDIE_TMP) X