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I had a recent conversation at Oracle OpenWorld 2015 about a locking anomaly in a 3-node RAC system which was causing unexpected deadlocks. Coincidentally, this conversation came about shortly after I had been listening to Martin Widlake talking about using the procedure dbms_stats.set_table_prefs() to adjust the way that Oracle calculates the clustering_factor for indexes. The juxtaposition of these two topics made me realise that the advice I had given in “Cost Based Oracle – Fundamentals” 10 years ago was (probably) incomplete, and needed some verification. The sticking point was RAC.

Index Usage – 4

Here’s a thought that came to me while I was writing up a note about identifying redundant indexes a few minutes ago. Sometimes you end up supporting applications with unexpected duplication of data and indexes and need to find ways to reduce overheads. Here’s some code modelling a scenario that I’ve seen more often than I like (actually, just once would be more often than I’d like):

Index Usage – 3

In my last note on index usage I introduced the idea of looking at v$segstat (or v$segment_statistics) and comparing the “logical reads” statistic with the “db block changes” statistic as an indicator of whether or not the index was used in execution plans. This week I’ll explain the idea and show you some results – with a little commentary – from a production system that was reported on the OTN database forum.

Index Usage – 2

I’ve been a little slow in the follow-up to my previous posting on possibly redundant indexes. Before going into the slightly more complex stuff, there’s another peripheral point (but a very important one) that’s worth raising about how clever the optimizer can be. Here’s some code for to demonstrate the point:

Index Usage

The question of how to identify indexes that could be dropped re-appeared (yet again) on the OTN database forum last week. It’s not really surprising that it recurs so regularly – the problem isn’t an easy one to solve but new (and even less new) users keep hoping that there’s a quick and easy solution.

There are, however, strategies and pointers that can help you to optimise the trade-off between effort, risk, and reward. Broadly the idea is to spend a small amount of effort finding a relatively small number of “expensive” indexes that might be safe to drop, so that when you do the detailed analysis you have a good chance that the time spent will be rewarded by a positive result.

Before we get to some results posted on OTN, it’s worth thinking about the global impact and what we’re trying to achieve, and the threats that go with our attempt to achieve it.

PQ Index anomaly

Here’s an oddity prompted by a question that appeared on Oracle-L last night. The question was basically – “Why can’t I build an index in parallel when it’s single column with most of the rows set to null and only a couple of values for the non-null entries”.

That’s an interesting question, since the description of the index shouldn’t produce any reason for anything to go wrong, so I spent a few minutes on trying to emulate the problem. I created a table with 10M rows and a column that was 3% ‘Y’ and 0.1% ‘N’, then created and dropped an index in parallel in parallel a few times. The report I used to prove that the index build had run  parallel build showed an interesting waste of resources. Here’s the code to build the table and index:

PK Index

Here’s one of those little details that I might have known once, or maybe it wasn’t true in earlier versions of oracle, or maybe I just never noticed it and it’s “always” been true; and it’s a detail I’ll probably have forgotten again a couple of years from now.  Consider the following two ways of creating a table with primary key:

Reverse Key

A question came up on the OTN database forum recently asking if you could have a partitioned index on a non-partitioned table.

(Aside: I’m not sure whether it would be quicker to read the manuals or try the experiment – either would probably be quicker than posing the question to the forum. As so often happens in these RTFM questions the OP didn’t bother to acknowledge any of the responses)

Golden Oldies

I’ve just been motivated to resurrect a couple of articles I wrote for DBAZine about 12 years ago on the topic of bitmap indexes. All three links point to Word 97 documents which I posted on my old website in September 2003. Despite their age they’re still surprisingly good.


There’s a live example on OTN at the moment of an interesting class of problem that can require some imaginative thinking. It revolves around a design that uses a row in one table to hold the low and high values for a range of values in another table. The problem is then simply to count the number of rows in the second table that fall into the range given by the first table. There’s an obvious query you can write (a join with inequality) but if you have to join each row in the first table to several million rows in the second table, then aggregate to count them, that’s an expensive strategy.  Here’s the query (with numbers of rows involved) that showed up on OTN; it’s an insert statement, and the problem is that it takes 7 hours to insert 37,600 rows: