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histograms

Histogram Upgrade

I’ve written notes in the past about the improvements 12c introduces for histograms – particularly the frequency and top-N histograms which can be generated “free of charge” while the basic “approximate NDV” scans are taking place to gather stats. Gathering histograms in 12c is much safer than it used to be in earlier versions of Oracle even in the case of the new hybrid histograms (which are still sampled on a very small sample and therefore still a stability risk).

PK Histogram

One of the little myths of Oracle appeared on the Oracle-L list server a few days ago – the one that says: “you don’t need a histogram on a single column unique/primary key”.

Not only can a histogram be helpful on a column that’s declared to hold unique values, the optimizer may even spot the need automatically. It’s a little unusual (and probably the result of poor programming practice) but it does happen. Here’s an example demonstrating the principle:

Storing Date Values As Numbers (The Numbers)

In my last couple of posts, I’ve been discussing how storing date data in a character based column is a really really bad idea. In a follow-up question, I was asked if storing dates in NUMBER format was a better option. The answer is that it’s probably an improvement from storing dates as strings but it’s […]

Stats History

From time to time we see a complaint on OTN about the stats history tables being the largest objects in the SYSAUX tablespace and growing very quickly, with requests about how to work around the (perceived) threat. The quick answer is – if you need to save space then stop holding on to the history for so long, and then clean up the mess left by the history that you have captured; on top of that you could stop gathering so many histograms because you probably don’t need them, they often introduce instability to your execution plans, and they are often the largest single component of the history (unless you are using incremental stats on partitioned objects***)

Disappearing Histograms

In general once you have a histogram on a column you keep it.  However, this is not because DBMS_STATS simply maintains it because it is there, but because it is still appropriate to have it based on the column workload usage.
Since Oracle 10g, the default method for collecting histograms is AUTO, which means that Oracle determines whether to collect a histogram based on data distribution and the workload of the column.
What is less well known (including to me until recently), is that histograms can be removed if there is no column workload to justify them.

This can be an issue when for some reason you have imported statistics on a freshly rebuilt table with no column usage.  I think the first two scenarios are the most likely:

Histogram Limit

A surprising question came up on OTN a couple of days ago:

Why does a query for “column = 999999999999999999” run slower than a query for “column > 999999999999999998” (that’s 18 digit numbers, if you don’t want to count them). With the equality predicate the query is very slow, with the range-based predicate perfomance is good.

Estimate_percent

Here’s a live one from OTN – here are a couple of extracts from the problem statement:

We’re experiencing an issue where it seems that the query plan changes from day to day for a particular procedure that runs once a night.
It’s resulting in a performance variance of 10 second completion time vs 20 minutes (nothing in between).
It started occurring about 2 months ago and now it’s becoming more prevalent where the bad query plan is coming up more often.
I noticed that the query plans vary for a simple query.
We do run gather statistics every night. (DBMS_STATS.GATHER_SCHEMA_STATS (ownname=>sys_context( ‘userenv’, ‘current_schema’ ), estimate_percent => 1);)

The query and two execution plans look like this:

Histogram Tip

I’ve just responded to the call for items for the “IOUG Quick Tips” booklet for 2015 – so it’s probably about time to post the quick tip that I put into the 2014 issue. It’s probably nothing new to most readers of the blog, but sometimes an old thing presented in a new way offers fresh insights or better comprehension.

Histogram Tips

A histogram, created in the right way, at the right time, and supported by the correct client-side code, can be a huge benefit to the optimizer; but if you don’t create and use them wisely they can easily become a source of inconsistent performance, and the automatic statistics gathering can introduce an undesirable overhead during the overnight batch. This note explains how you can create histograms very cheaply on the few columns where they are most likely to have a beneficial effect.

Comparisons

“You can’t compare apples with oranges.”

Oh, yes you can! The answer is 72,731,533,037,581,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Adjusting Histograms

This is a quick response to a question on an old blog post asking how you can adjust the high value if you’ve already got a height-balanced histogram in place. It’s possible that someone will come up with a tidier method, but this was just a quick sample I created and tested on 11.2.0.4 in a few minutes.  (Note – this is specifically for height-balanced histograms,  and it’s not appropriate for 12c which has introduced hybrid histograms that will require me to modify my “histogram faking” code a little).