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Cursor Sharing

When CURSOR_SHARING=FORCE, Does Literal Replacement Always Take Place?

The concept of cursor sharing is simple. If an application executes SQL statements containing literals and if cursor sharing is enabled (i.e. CURSOR_SHARING=FORCE), the database engine automatically replaces the literals with bind variables. Thanks to these replacements, hard parses might be turned into soft parses for the SQL statements that differ only in the literals.

The question raised by the title of this post is: in case cursor sharing is enabled, does literal replacement always take place?

The short answer is no.

I’m aware of three cases where it doesn’t take place. The first two cases are summarized by the following note that I published in the second edition of Troubleshooting Oracle Performance (page 434).

Function-Based Indexes And CURSOR_SHARING = FORCE

In general it is known that Function-Based Indexes (FBIs) can no longer be used by the optimizer if the expression contains literals and CURSOR_SHARING = FORCE / SIMILAR (deprecated) turns those literals into bind variables.

Forced Cursor Sharing And Virtual Columns

So you have that application that cannot be changed but makes use of some weird expressions that screw up the cardinality estimates of the optimizer.

Consider this simple example:

create table t as select rownum as id , case when mod(rownum, 100000) = 0 then 'y' else 'n' end as flag , rpad('x', 100) as filler from dual connect by level <= 1000000 ; exec dbms_stats.gather_table_stats(null, 't', method_opt => 'for all columns size 1 for columns flag size 2', estimate_percent => 30) select flag, count(*) from t group by flag; explain plan for select count(*) from t where flag = 'y' ; set linesize 200 tab off pagesize 0 select * from table(dbms_xplan.display);

Nice Additions For Troubleshooting

This is just a short note that Oracle has added several nice details to 11.2.0.1 and 11.2.0.2 respectively that can be helpful for troubleshooting.

ASH, PGA Memory And TEMP Consumption

Since 11.2.0.1 the V$ACTIVE_SESSION_HISTORY view (that requires Enterprise Edition plus Diagnostic License) contains the PGA_ALLOCATED and TEMP_SPACE_ALLOCATED columns.

In particular the latter closes an instrumentation gap that always bothered me in the past: So far it wasn't easy to answer the question which session used to allocate TEMP space in the past. Of course it is easy to answer while the TEMP allocation was still held by a session by looking at the corresponding V$ views like V$SORT_USAGE, but once the allocation was released answering questions like why was my TEMP space exhausted three hours ago was something that couldn't be told by looking at the information provided by Oracle.

Autotrace Polluting The Shared Pool?

Introduction

Another random note that I made during the sessions attended at OOW was about the SQL*Plus AUTOTRACE feature. As you're hopefully already aware of this feature has some significant shortcomings, the most obvious being that it doesn't pull the actual execution plan from the Shared Pool after executing the statement but simply runs an EXPLAIN PLAN on the SQL text which might produce an execution plan that is different from the actual one for various reasons.

Now the claim was made that in addition to these shortcomings the plan generated by the AUTOTRACE feature will stay in the Shared Pool and is eligible for sharing, which would mean that other statement executions could be affected by a potentially bad execution plan generated via AUTOTRACE rather then getting re-optimized on their own.

Volatile Data, Dynamic Sampling And Shared Cursors

For the next couple of weeks I'll be picking up various random notes I've made during the sessions that I've attended at OOW. This particular topic was also a problem discussed recently at one of my clients, so it's certainly worth to be published here.

In one of the optimizer related sessions it was mentioned that for highly volatile data - for example often found in Global Temporary Tables (GTT) - it's recommended to use Dynamic Sampling rather than attempting to gather statistics. In particular for GTTs gathering statistics is problematic because the statistics are used globally and shared across all sessions. But GTTs could have a completely different data volume and distribution per session so sharing the statistics doesn't make sense in such scenarios.

So using Dynamic Sampling sounds like a reasonable advice and it probably is in many such cases.