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Getting Your Transaction SCN – USERENV(COMMITSCN)

A few days ago I was introduced (or re-introduced) to USERENV(‘COMMITSCN’) by Jonathan Lewis. This is an internal function that allows limited access to the SCN of your transaction.

I was trying to find a way to get the actual commit SCN easily as it struck me that Oracle would have it to hand somewhere and it would be unique to the change and generated very efficiently. I could not find anything to do it so I asked Jonathan and he pointed me straight to this post he did about it a while back. What a nice chap. However, the post is from 1999 (last CENTURY!) so I thought I should just check it out first…

STANDARD date considerations in Oracle SQL and PL/SQL

Most of us know that the Oracle DATE datatype has upper and lower limits. From the Oracle 11g Database Concepts manual:

Oracle Database can store dates in the Julian era, ranging from January 1, 4712 BCE through December 31, 9999 CE (Common Era, or ‘AD’). Unless BCE (‘BC’ in the format mask) is specifically used, CE date entries are the default.

I never believe 100% anything I read, so I’ll try that. I’ll set my session to show dates with the AD/BC indicator and step back in time:

Table High Water Mark and How Empty the Table Is

On a recent post about reducing the high water mark in a table by shrinking it someone asked if you could tell how much “space” there was in a table that could be recovered by compressing it.

Yes. As pseudo-code:

select number_of_rows*average_row_length. That is how much data there is.
Divided by the block size, to give how many blocks-worth of data you have.
Divided this by a “overhead” fudge factor to allow for wasted space (see later) of about 20%
Compare to the number of blocks used by the table.

Here is some code to do it, showing some extra data and how we calculate the effective percentage of space used (pct_spc_used). It runs against an example table ‘HWM’

Dropped Tables, Hiding Extents and Slow DBA_FREE_SPACE Queries

My last post was on slow dictionary queries caused by having many, many thousands of extents in your database. This post is about a special case of this problem, which I encountered recently. It was on an Exadata box – Exadata is not particularly relevant to the issue, but I’m curious to see if mentioning Exadata will make this post more popular :-)

I was querying the used and free space on a very small database on the client’s X2-2 1/4 rack Exadata machine. The query was really slow, taking about 30 seconds. This is a FAST box, what is going on?

I quickly realised that the problem was specific to one tablespace:

Slow querying of DBA_EXTENTS, DBA_FREE_SPACE and dropping tables

Are you finding queries to identify free space, the size of segments or details of extents in your database are very slow? You could have a database with a very, very large number of extents. If you are on version 9 or up, I would suggest you check the extent management settings for any tablespace holding large segments (see later).

{Caveat – I’m writing this posting based on what I remember of some issues I had on two V10.2 databases 2 and 3 years ago respectively, and those systems are no longer available to me. So please treat everything I say here with some caution – I’ve not checked and verified it to the level I normally would. But I wanted to move this information from another posting I am writing on a recent experience I will verify…}

Lack of Index and Constraint Comments

Something I’ve just reminded myself of is that under Oracle you cannot add a comment on an index or a constraint. You can only add comments on tables, views, materialized views, columns of those object types and a couple of esoteric things like Operators, Editions and Indextypes.

Here is an example of adding comments to tables and columns:

Why is my SYSAUX Tablespace so Big? Statistics_level=ALL

One of my most popular postings is about why your SYSTEM tablespace could be rather large. Recently I’ve had issues with a SYSAUX tablespace being considerably larger than I expected, so I thought I would do a sister posting on the reason.

The client I was working with at the time was about to go live with a new application and database. For various reasons I was a little anxious about how the Java application (the User Interface) would actually call the stored PL/SQL code I had helped develop. Initial workloads would be low and so I asked that the STATISTICS_LEVEL be set to ALL, so that bind variables (amongst other things) would be gathered. This is on version, btw, enterprise edition and 4-node RAC.

We went live, issues were encountered and resolved, the usual way these things work. Then, a few weeks in and when everything was still very “exciting” from a problem resolution perspective, I got an odd email from the DBA team. Would they like us to add another datafile to the SYSAUX tablespace. Huh? I checked. I’d been watching the size of our application’s tablespaces but not the others {well, I was not supposed to be a DBA and I was watching an awful lot of other things}. Our SYSAUX tablespace was around 160GB in size, having pretty much filled it’s 5th datafile. Why? I checked to see what was taking up the space in the tablespace:

 select * from
 (select owner,segment_name||'~'||partition_name segment_name,bytes/(1024*1024) size_m
 from dba_segments
 where tablespace_name = 'SYSAUX'
 where rownum < 40

OWNER              SEGMENT_NAME                                             SIZE_M
------------------ -------------------------------------------------- ------------
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_3911            27,648
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_3911         26,491
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_3537            23,798
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_3537         22,122
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_4296            17,378
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_4296         16,818
SYS                WRH$_ACTIVE_SESSION_HISTORY~WRH$_ACTIVE_14459270_3          136
SYS                WRH$_SQLSTAT~WRH$_SQLSTA_14459270_3911                       96
SYS                WRH$_SQLSTAT~WRH$_SQLSTA_14459270_3537                       72
SYS                WRH$_SQLSTAT~WRH$_SQLSTA_14459270_4296                       47
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_MISSES_SUMMARY_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_           45
SYS                I_WRI$_OPTSTAT_H_OBJ#_ICOL#_ST~                              41
SYS                WRH$_SYSMETRIC_SUMMARY~                                      40
SYS                WRH$_LATCH_MISSES_SUMMARY_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_           37

As you can see, almost all the space is being taken up by WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN and WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK partitions. They are massive compared to other objects. A quick goggle did not come up with much other than many hits just listing what is in SYSAUX and the odd person also seeing SYSAUX being filled up with these objects and suggested ways to clear down space, nothing about the cause.

I had a chat with the DBAs and we quickly decided that this was going to be something to do with AWR given the name of objects – “WRH$_” objects are the things underlying AWR. The DBA suggested my settings of 15 minute intervals and 35 day retention was too aggressive. I knew this was not the case, I’ve had more aggressive snapshot intervals and longer retention periods on far busier systems than this. I did not have access to Metalink at that point so I asked the DBAs to raise a ticket, which they duly did.

Oracle support cogitated for a couple of days and came back with the advice to reduce the retention period. Hmmmm. Via the DBA I asked Oracle support to explain why those objects were so large when I had not seen this issue on several other systems. Was it a bug? I had by now corroborated with a friend from a previous site with 5 minute snapshot intervals and two months retention period and their SYSAUX tablespace was about 10GB all in. I did not want to go changing things if we did not know it would fix the issue as we really wanted to stop the growth of SYSAUX as soon as possible, not just try a hunch.

As you probably realise from the title of this blog, the issue was not the snapshot interval or retention period but the STATISTICS_LEVEL=ALL. The one and only hit you get in metalink if you search on WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN is note 874518.1. From V10.1.0.2 to V11.1.0.7 setting this parameter to ALL is known to create a lot of data about Latch children and not clear it down when the AWR data is purged (Bug 8289729). The advice was to change STATISTICS_LEVEL and make the snapshot interval larger. I’d suggest you just need to alter the STATISTICS_LEVEL, unless you really, really need that extra information gathered. It seemed to take Oracle Support an extra day or two to find that note for us. {I’ve since checked out Metalink directly to confirm all this}.

So with a known issue we felt confident that altering the initialisation parameter would solve the issue. It took a while for us to change the STATISTICS_LEVEL on the production system – Change Control for that site is rather robust. This allowed us to see some other impacts of this issue.

The mmon process which looks after AWR data was becoming a top session in our OEM performance screens. In particular, a statement with SQL id 2prbzh4qfms7u that inserted into the WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN table was taking several seconds to run each time and was running quite often {I include the SQL ID as it may be the same on many oracle V10 systems as it is internal code}:

The internal SQL inserting into wrh$_latch_children was becoming demanding

This was doing a lot of IO, by far the majority of the IO on our system at the time – it was a new system and we had been able to tune out a lot of the physical IO.

The physical IO requirements and 15-20 second elapsed time made this out most demanding statement on the system

We also now started to have issues with mmon running out of undo space when it ran at the same time as our daily load. This was particularly unfortunate as it coincided in a period of “intense management interest” in the daily load…

What was happening to the size of the SYSAUX tablespace?

Enter the tablespace (or leave null)> sys

TS_NAME              ORD      SUM_BLKS        SUM_K  MAX_CHNK_K NUM_CHNK
-------------------- ----- ----------- ------------ ----------- --------
SYSAUX               alloc  58,187,904  465,503,232  33,553,408       14
                     free       10,728       85,824      21,504       20
SYSTEM               alloc     128,000    1,024,000   1,024,000        1
                     free       68,360      546,880     546,752        3

4 rows selected.

select * from
(select owner,segment_name||'~'||partition_name segment_name,bytes/(1024*1024) size_m
 from dba_segments
 where tablespace_name = 'SYSAUX'
where rownum < 40

OWNER    SEGMENT_NAME                                                     SIZE_M
-------- ------------------------------------------------------------ ----------
SYS      WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_6201                     30262
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_5817                     29948
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_5435                     28597
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_4675                     28198
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_3911                     27648
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_5817                  27144
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_6585                     26965
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_6201                  26832
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_4675                  26741
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_3911                  26491
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_4296                     26307
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_5435                  26248
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_4296                  25430
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_6585                  25064
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_5058                     24611
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_5058                  23161
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_6966                      9209
         WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK~WRH$_LATCH__14459270_6966                   8462
         WRH$_SYSMETRIC_SUMMARY~                                             152
         WRH$_ACTIVE_SESSION_HISTORY~WRH$_ACTIVE_14459270_3911               136
         WRH$_SQLSTAT~WRH$_SQLSTA_14459270_3911                               96


OWNER                          OBJ_PART_NAME                                SIZE_M
------------------------------ ---------------------------------------- ----------
SYS                            WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN-WRH                  231745.063
SYS                            WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK-WRH               215573.063
SYS                            WRH$_SQLSTAT-WRH                           711.0625
SYS                            WRH$_LATCH_MISSES_SUMMARY_PK-WRH           439.0625
SYS                            WRH$_ACTIVE_SESSION_HISTORY-WRH            437.0625
SYS                            WRH$_LATCH_PARENT-WRH                      292.0625
SYS                            WRH$_LATCH-WRH                             276.0625
SYS                            WRH$_LATCH_MISSES_SUMMARY-WRH              273.0625
SYS                            WRH$_SEG_STAT-WRH                          268.0625
SYS                            WRH$_LATCH_PARENT_PK-WRH                   239.0625
SYS                            WRH$_SYSSTAT_PK-WRH                        237.0625

Yes, that is close to half a terabyte of SYSAUX and it is all used, more partitions have appeared and the total size of the largest segments in SYSAUX show how WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN and WRH$_LATCH_CHILDREN_PK make up the vast majority of the space used.

Shortly after, we finally got permission to change the live system. The impact was immediate, mmon dropped from being the most demanding session, that SQL code dropped down the rankings and the issues with running out of undo ceased.

I was anxious to see if the old data got purged, as the Metalink note had suggested the data would not be purged. Thankfully, that was not the case. The space was slowly released as normal purging of data outside the retention period took place and after just over a month, the SYSAUX tablespace contained a lot less information and was mostly free space:

OWNER      OBJ_PART_NAME                                SIZE_M
---------- ---------------------------------------- ----------
SYS        WRH$_LATCH_MISSES_SUMMARY_PK-WRH           512.0625
SYS        WRH$_LATCH_MISSES_SUMMARY-WRH              350.0625
SYS        WRH$_LATCH-WRH                             304.0625
SYS        WRH$_SQLSTAT-WRH                           280.0625
SYS        WRH$_LATCH_PK-WRH                          259.0625
SYS        WRH$_SYSSTAT_PK-WRH                        247.0625
SYS        WRH$_SERVICE_STAT_PK-WRH                   228.0625
SYS        WRH$_PARAMETER_PK-WRH                      201.0625
SYS        WRH$_PARAMETER-WRH                         169.0625
SYS        WRH$_SYSSTAT-WRH                           169.0625
SYS        WRH$_SEG_STAT-WRH                          161.0625
SYS        WRH$_SYSTEM_EVENT_PK-WRH                   156.0625
SYS        WRH$_SYSMETRIC_SUMMARY-                         152
SYS        WRH$_SYSTEM_EVENT-WRH                      133.0625
SYS        WRH$_SERVICE_STAT-WRH                      123.0625
SYS        WRH$_ACTIVE_SESSION_HISTORY-WRH            115.0625

TS_NAME              ORD      SUM_BLKS        SUM_K  MAX_CHNK_K NUM_CHNK
-------------------- ----- ----------- ------------ ----------- --------
SYSAUX               alloc  58,251,904  466,015,232  33,553,408       15
                     free   57,479,400  459,835,200   4,063,232    1,208
SYSTEM               alloc     128,000    1,024,000   1,024,000        1
                     free       68,048      544,384     544,320        2

Now, how do we get that space back? I left that with the DBA team to resolve.

Oh, one last thing. I mentioned the above to a couple of the Oaktable lot in the pub a few weeks back. Their instant response was to say “You set STATISTICS_LEVEL to ALL on a live system?!? You are mad!”

{Update, I’ve just spotted this posting by Colbran which is related. Last time I googled this I just got a stub with no information}

Database Sizing – How much Disk do I need? (The Easy Way)

How much Disk do I need for my new Oracle database? Answer:-

  • 8-10 times the volume of raw data for an OLTP system
  • 2-4 times the raw data volume for a Data Warehouse.
  • The bigger the database, the nearer you will be to the lower multiplication factors.

{Disclaimer. This is of course just my opinion, based on some experience. If you use the above figures for a real project and get the total disc space you need wrong, don’t blame me. If you do and it is right, then of course you now owe me a beer.}

Many of us have probably had to calculate the expected size a database before, but the actual database is only one component of all the things you need to run the Oracle component of your system. You need to size the other components too – Archived redo logs, backup staging area, dataload staging area, external files, the operating system, swap space, the oracle binaries {which generally gets bigger every year but shrink in comparison to the average size of an Oracle DB} etc…

In a similar way to my thoughts on how much database space you need for a person, I also used to check out the total disk space every database I created and those that I came across took up. {A friend emailed me after my earlier posting to ask if I had an obsession about size. I think the answer must be “yes”}.

First of all, you need to know how much “raw data” you have. By this I mean what will become the table data. Back in the early 90’s this could be the total size of the flat files the old system was using, even the size of the data as it was in spreadsheets. An Oracle export file of the system gives a pretty good idea of the raw data volume too. Lacking all these then you need to roughly size your raw data. Do a calculation of “number_of_rows*sum_of_columns” for your biggest 10 tables (I might blog more on this later). Don’t be tempted to overestimate, my multipliers allow for the padding.

Let us say you have done this and it is 60GB of raw data for an OLTP system. Let the storage guys know you will probably want about 500GB of space. They will then mentally put it down as “of no consequence” as if you have dedicated storage guys you probably have many terabytes of storage. {Oh, I should mention that I am not considering redundancy at all but space that is provided. The amount of actual spinning disk is down to the level and type of RAID you storage guys make you use. That is a whole other discussion}.

If you come up with 5TB of raw data for a DW system then you need around 12-15TB of disk storage.

If you come up with more than a Terabyte or so of raw data for an OLTP system or 10 to 20 Terabytes for a DW, when you give you figures to the storage guys/procurement people then they may well go pale and say something like “you have got to be kidding!”. This is part of why the multiplication factor for Data Warehouses and larger systems in general is less, as you are forced to be more careful about the space you allocate and how you use it.

The overhead of total disk space over Raw data reduces as the database gets bigger for a number of reasons:

  • The size of the Oracle binaries and the OS does not change as the database gets bigger.
  • The size of swap space does not increase in line wiht the database as, generally speaking, if you increase the database size from 100GB to 1TB you do not have the luxury of increasing the system memory of your server. It probably doubles.
  • Very large databases tend to have something making them big, like images or embedded documents, which are not indexed. Thus the ratio of table segments to index segments increases.
  • If you have a very large database you start removing indexes (often those that support constraints) to aid performance of data load and management, again improving the ratio of table segments to index segments.
  • Backups become partial or incremental to reduce the size and duration of the backup.
  • As mentioned before, the sheer size of system is such that you just take more care over cleaning up work areas, paring down the archived redo log areas (those files to compress well) and other areas.
  • If things get extreme or you have been doing this for donkeys years {note to none-UK people, this means many, many years} you start altering PCTFREE and checking over extent sizes.

My best ever ratio of database size to raw data was around 1.6 and it took an awful lot of effort and planning to get there. And an IT manager who made me very, very aware of how much the storage was costing him (it is not the disks, it’s all the other stuff).

I should also just mention that the amount of disk you need is only one consideration. If you want your database to perform well you need to consider the number of spindles. After all, you can create a very large database indeed using a single 2TB disc – but any actual IO will perform terribly.