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If you’re familiar with SQL Profiles and SQL Baselines you may also know about SQL Patches – a feature that allows you to construct hints that you can attach to SQL statements at run-time without changing the code. Oracle 12c Release 2 introduces a couple of important changes to this feature:

  • It’s now official – the feature had been copied from package dbms_sqldiag_internal to package dbms_sqldiag.
  • The limitation of 500 characters has been removed from the hint text – it’s now a CLOB column.

H/T to Nigel Bayliss for including this detail in his presentation to the UKOUG last week, and pointing out that it’s also available for Standard Edition.


Headline – if you don’t want to read the note – the /*+ parallel(N) */ hint doesn’t mean a query will use parallel execution, even if there are enough parallel execution server processes to make it possible. The parallel(N) hint tells the optimizer to consider the cost of using parallel execution for each path that it examines, but ultimately the optimizer will still take the lowest cost path (bar the odd few special cases) and that path could turn out to be a serial path.

The likelihood of parallelism appearing for a given query changes across versions of Oracle so you can be fooled into thinking you’re seeing bugs as you test new versions but it’s (almost certainly) the same old rule being applied in different circumstances. Here’s an example – which I’ll start off on

Parallel First_rows()

A recent posting on OTN raised the question of whether or not the “parallel” hint and the “first_rows(n)” hint were mutually incompatible. This reminded me that from time to time other posters on OTN (copying information from various websites, perhaps) have claimed that “parallel doesn’t work with first rows” or, conversely, “first rows doesn’t work with parallel”. This is one of those funny little myths that is so old that the script I’ve got to demonstrate the misconception is dated 2003 with a first test version of

Since I haven’t run the test on any version of Oracle newer than I thought it was time to dust it down, modernise it slightly, and run it again. So here’s the bit that creates a sample data set:

use_nl hint

In response to a recent lamentation from Richard Foote about the degree of ignorance regarding the clustering_factor of indexes I commented on the similar level of understanding of a specific hint syntax, namely use_nl(a b) pointing out that this does not mean “do a nested loop from a to b”. My comment was underscored by a fairly prompt response asking what the hint did mean.

Believe it or Not: Converting an Inner Join to an Outer Join to improve performance

The cost-based optimizer tries to merge views whenever possible but sometimes we ma y want to override this behavior; that is, we may want the optimizer to push predicates into the view instead of merging the view into the main query. If the main query performs an inner join to the view, it becomes necessary to convert the inner join to an outer join if the database version is less than more)

Happy Hinting: Undocumented PUSH_PRED hint variation

There isn’t a documented method of controlling which specific predicate to push.; it appears that the decision is left to the cost-based optimizer. However there is an undocumented method. Both the PUSH_PRED and NO_PUSH_PRED hints accept an optional second parameter(read more)


A posting on the OTN database forum a few days ago demonstrated an important problem with hinting – especially (though it didn’t come up in the thread)  in the face of upgrades. A simple query needed a couple of hints to produce the correct plan, but a slight change to the query seemed to result in Oracle ignoring the hints. The optimizer doesn’t ignore hints, of course, but there are many reasons why it might have appeared to so I created a little demonstration of the problem – starting with the following data set:

Wrong Results

Just in – a post on the Oracle-L mailing lists asks: “Is it a bug if a query returns one answer if you hint a full tablescan and another if you hint an indexed access path?” And my answer is, I think: “Not necessarily”:

SQL> select /*+ full(pt_range)  */ n2 from pt_range where n1 = 1 and n2 = 1;

SQL> select /*+ index(pt_range pt_i1) */ n2 from pt_range where n1 = 1 and n2 = 1;


The index is NOT corrupt.

Connect By

I received an email a couple of days ago that was a little different from usual – although the obvious answer was “it’s the data”. A connect by query with any one of several hundred input values ran in just a few seconds, but with one specific input it was still running 4,000 seconds later using the same execution plan – was this a bug ?

There’s nothing to suggest that it should be, with skewed data anything can happen: even a single table access by exact index could take 1/100th of a second to return a result if there was only one row matching the requirement and 1,000 seconds if there were 100,000 rows in 100,000 different table blocks (and the table was VERY big). The same scaling problem could be true of any type of query – and “connect by” queries can expose you to a massive impact because their run time can increase geometrically as the recursion takes place.


This is just a little example of thinking about hinting for short-term hacking requirements. It’s the answer to a question that came up on the Oracle-L listserver  a couple of months ago (Oct 2015) and is a convenient demonstration of a principle that can often (not ALWAYS) be applied as a response to the problem: “I can make this query work quickly once, how do I make it work quickly when I make it part of a join ?”

The question starts with this query, which returns “immediately” for any one segment: