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Execution plans

Parallel DML

A recent posting on OTN presented a performance anomaly when comparing a parallel “insert /*+ append */” with a parallel “create table as select”.  The CTAS statement took about 4 minutes, the insert about 45 minutes. Since the process of getting the data into the data blocks would be the same in both cases something was clearly not working properly. Following Occam’s razor, the first check had to be the execution plans – when two statements that “ought” to do the same amount of work take very different times it’s probably something to do with the execution plans – so here are the two statements with their plans:

First the insert, which took 45 minutes:


Here’s one of those odd little tricks that (a) may help in a couple of very special cases and (b) may show up at some future date – or maybe it already does – in the optimizer if it is recognised as a solution to a more popular problem. It’s about an apparent restriction on how the optimizer uses the BITMAP MERGE operation, and to demonstrate a very simple case I’ll start with a data set with just one bitmap index:

Subquery Effects

Towards the end of last year I used a query with a couple of “constant” subqueries as a focal point for a blog note on reading parallel execution plans. One of the comments on that note raised a question about cardinality estimates and, coincidentally, I received an email about the cost calculations for a similar query a few days later.

Unfortunately there are all sorts of anomalies, special cases, and changes that show up across versions when subqueries come into play – it’s only in recent versions of 11.2, for example, that a very simple example I’ve got of three equivalent statements that produce the same execution plan report the same costs and cardinality. (The queries are:  table with IN subquery, table with EXISTS subquery, table joined to “manually unnested” subquery – the three plans take the unnested subquery shape.)

CTEs and Updates

An important target of trouble-shooting, particularly when addressing performance problems, is to minimise the time and effort you have to spend to get a “good enough” result. A recent question on the OTN database forum struck me as a good demonstration of following this strategy; the problem featured a correlated update that had to access a view 84 times to update a small table; but the view was a complex view (apparently non-mergeable) and the update took several hours to complete even though the view, when instantiated, held only 63 rows.

The OP told us that the query “select * from view” took seven minutes to return those 63 rows, and wanted to know if we could find a nice way to perform the update in (approximately) that seven minutes, rather than using the correlated update approach that seemed to take something in the ballpark of 7 minutes per row updated.

NLS Mess

The Oracle database has all sorts of little details built into it to help it deal with multi-national companies, but since they’re not commonly used you can find all sorts of odd “buggy” bits of behaviour when you start to look closely. I have to put “buggy” in quotes because some of the reported oddities are the inevitable consequences of (for example) how multi-byte character sets have to work; but some of the oddities look as if they simply wouldn’t be there if the programmer writing the relevant bit of code had remembered that they also had to cater for some NLS feature.


I received an email recently that started with the sort of opening sentence that I see far more often than I want to:

I have come across an interesting scenario that I would like to run by you, for your opinion.

It’s not that I object to being sent interesting scenarios, it’s just that they are rarely interesting – and this wasn’t one of those rare interesting ones. On the plus side it reminded me that I hadn’t vented one of my popular rants for some time.

Here’s the problem – see if you can work out the error before you get to the rant:

“I’ve got a table and a view on that table; and I’ve got a query that is supposed to use the view. Whether I use the table or the view in query the optimizer uses the primary key on the table to access the table – but when I use the table the query takes about 30 ms, when I use the view the query takes about 903 ms”.

12c Scalar Subquery

Every version of the optimizer enhances existing mechanisms and introduces new features and 12c has introduced some of the most sophisticated transformation to date; in this note I want to demonstrate an enhancement to subquery unnesting that could give a significant performance boost to a certain query pattern but which might, unfortunately, result in worse performance.

Historically subquery unnesting turned subqueries (correlated or not) in the where clause into joins. In 12c subquery unnesting can also turn scalar subqueries in the select list into joins – we’ll discuss why this could be a good thing but might occasionally be a bad thing later on in the article, but let’s start with a test case.

Sample data.

In my demonstration I’m going to use three tables which, for convenience, are three clones of the same data.

Filter Hash

One of the most irritating features of solving problems for clients is that the models I build to confirm my diagnosis and test my solutions often highlight further anomalies, or make me ask questions that might produce some useful answers to future problems.

Recently I had cause to ask myself if Oracle would push a filter subquery into the second tablescan of a hash join – changing a plan from this:

	hash join
		table access full t1
		table access full t2
	table access by rowid t3
		index range scan t3_i1

to this:

hash join
	table access full t1
		table access full t2
		table access by rowid t3
			index range scan t3_i1

or, perhaps more likely, to this:


Here’s a simple data set – I’m only interested in three of the columns in the work that follows, but it’s a data set that I use for a number of different models:


A recent question on the OTN Database Forum asked:

I need to check if at least one record present in table before processing rest of the statements in my PL/SQL procedure. Is there an efficient way to achieve that considering that the table is having huge number of records like 10K.

I don’t think many readers of the forum would consider 10K to be a huge number of records; nevertheless it is a question that could reasonably be asked, and should prompt a little discssion.

First question to ask, of course is: how often do you do this and how important is it to be as efficient as possible. We don’t want to waste a couple of days of coding and testing to save five seconds every 24 hours. Some context is needed before charging into high-tech geek solution mode.