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About the oracle database and compiling and linking.

This blogpost is about how the oracle database executable created or changed during installation and patching. I take linux for the examples, because that is the version that I am almost uniquely working with. I think the linux operating is where the vast majority of linux installations are installed on, and therefore an explanation with linux is helpful to most of the people.

The first thing to understand is the oracle executable is a dynamically linked executable. This is easy to see when you execute the ‘ldd’ utility against the oracle executable:

$ ldd oracle
	linux-vdso.so.1 (0x00007ffd3f5b0000)
	libodm19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libodm19.so (0x00007fa693084000)
	libofs.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libofs.so (0x00007fa692e82000)
	libcell19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libcell19.so (0x00007fa692b69000)
	libskgxp19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libskgxp19.so (0x00007fa69284d000)
	libskjcx19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libskjcx19.so (0x00007fa692604000)
	librt.so.1 => /lib64/librt.so.1 (0x00007fa6923fb000)
	libclsra19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libclsra19.so (0x00007fa6921c0000)
	libdbcfg19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libdbcfg19.so (0x00007fa691f93000)
	libhasgen19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libhasgen19.so (0x00007fa691270000)
	libskgxn2.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libskgxn2.so (0x00007fa69106d000)
	libocr19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libocr19.so (0x00007fa690d49000)
	libocrb19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libocrb19.so (0x00007fa690a49000)
	libocrutl19.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libocrutl19.so (0x00007fa690828000)
	libaio.so.1 => /lib64/libaio.so.1 (0x00007fa690625000)
	libons.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libons.so (0x00007fa6903d1000)
	libmql1.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libmql1.so (0x00007fa69016f000)
	libipc1.so => /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libipc1.so (0x00007fa68fcf5000)
	libdl.so.2 => /lib64/libdl.so.2 (0x00007fa68faf1000)
	libm.so.6 => /lib64/libm.so.6 (0x00007fa68f76f000)
	libpthread.so.0 => /lib64/libpthread.so.0 (0x00007fa68f54f000)
	libnsl.so.1 => /lib64/libnsl.so.1 (0x00007fa68f336000)
	libresolv.so.2 => /lib64/libresolv.so.2 (0x00007fa68f11f000)
	libc.so.6 => /lib64/libc.so.6 (0x00007fa68ed5d000)
	/lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00007fa693287000)

The way this works, is that a library is defined in the ELF (the executable format of linux executables) header of the oracle executable. This can be seen using the ‘readelf’ utility:

$ readelf -d oracle

Dynamic section at offset 0x16f03640 contains 45 entries:
  Tag        Type                         Name/Value
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libodm19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libofs.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libcell19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libskgxp19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libskjcx19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [librt.so.1]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libclsra19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libdbcfg19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libhasgen19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libskgxn2.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libocr19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libocrb19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libocrutl19.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libaio.so.1]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libons.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libmql1.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libipc1.so]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libdl.so.2]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libm.so.6]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libpthread.so.0]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libnsl.so.1]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libresolv.so.2]
 0x0000000000000001 (NEEDED)             Shared library: [libc.so.6]
 0x000000000000000f (RPATH)              Library rpath: [/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib]
 0x000000000000000c (INIT)               0xdb0d80
 0x000000000000000d (FINI)               0x12b54b90
 0x0000000000000019 (INIT_ARRAY)         0x17398c20
 0x000000000000001b (INIT_ARRAYSZ)       8 (bytes)
 0x000000006ffffef5 (GNU_HASH)           0x4002d0
 0x0000000000000005 (STRTAB)             0x9ddb10
 0x0000000000000006 (SYMTAB)             0x528128
 0x000000000000000a (STRSZ)              3567352 (bytes)
 0x000000000000000b (SYMENT)             24 (bytes)
 0x0000000000000015 (DEBUG)              0x0
 0x0000000000000003 (PLTGOT)             0x17504000
 0x0000000000000002 (PLTRELSZ)           26136 (bytes)
 0x0000000000000014 (PLTREL)             RELA
 0x0000000000000017 (JMPREL)             0xdaa768
 0x0000000000000007 (RELA)               0xda9328
 0x0000000000000008 (RELASZ)             5184 (bytes)
 0x0000000000000009 (RELAENT)            24 (bytes)
 0x000000006ffffffe (VERNEED)            0xda9188
 0x000000006fffffff (VERNEEDNUM)         7
 0x000000006ffffff0 (VERSYM)             0xd44a08
 0x0000000000000000 (NULL)               0x0

This shows the names of the needed shared libraries ‘(NEEDED)’. Some of the needed shared libraries are oracle shared libraries, such as libodm19.so, libofs.so, libcell19.so, libskgxp19.so and so on. Other libraries are operating system libraries, such as libc.so.6, libresolv.so.2, libnsl.so.1, libpthread.so.0, libm.so.6 and so on. The oracle libraries are found because an RPATH (runpath) is included in the header, in my case /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib. The operating system libraries are not included with the oracle installation, they are dynamically obtained from the operating system, for which the selection lies with the operating system.

So, we got the oracle executable, and we found out it’s a dynamically linked executable, which means that it’s using shared libraries for some of its functionality.

Now let’s take one step further. Whenever the oracle database software is installed or patched, it must be linked in order to build the executable with the current state of the software.
You might wonder the what I mean with the phrase ‘is installed’: you probably don’t execute a relink all. And that is sensible, because the installer does that for you, you can validate it in $ORACLE_HOME/install/make.log.
I’ll get to the manual linking in a bit.

The oracle database executable and compilation

The first thing to discuss now is compilation. Compilation is the process of turning text based code into a compiled form, for which a lot of compilers do not create an executable form, but an intermediary form, which is called an object. Turning an object or objects into an executable form is called linking. Compiling on linux is done using a compiler, and the default C compiler with Oracle and RedHat linux is gcc. Since Oracle 12.2, the compiler is not a requirement for installation anymore. It is documented, but I believe many may have missed this.

But isn’t there the $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/lib/config.c file, which is still there, and still used, and isn’t there the make target config.o (make -f ins_rdbms.mk config.o)? Yes, both of them are still there. And still gcc is not a requirement anymore. If you have a pressing need for changing the config.c file (which lists the dba,oper,asm,backup,dataguard,keymanagement and RAC group names), you can still change it, and when you remove the config.o file which USED to be generated with gcc, will now be generated by the ‘as’ executable (portable GNU assembler). This is visible in the oracle database executable make target (ioracle):

$ mv config.o config.O
$ make --dry-run -f ins_rdbms.mk ioracle
chmod 755 /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/bin
cd /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/; \
/usr/bin/as -o config.o `[ -f config.c ] && echo config.c || echo config.s`; \
/usr/bin/ar r /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libserver19.a /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/config.o
echo
echo " - Linking Oracle "
rm -f /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/oracle
/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/bin/orald  -o /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/oracle -m64 -z noexecstack -Wl,--disable-new-dtags -L/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/ -L/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/ -L/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/stubs/   -Wl,-E /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/opimai.o /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/ssoraed.o /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/ttcsoi.o -Wl,--whole-archive -lperfsrv19 -Wl,--no-whole-archive /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/nautab.o /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/naeet.o /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/naect.o /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/naedhs.o /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/config.o  -ldmext -lserver19 -lodm19 -lofs -lcell19 -lnnet19 -lskgxp19 -lsnls19 -lnls19  -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lxml19 -lcore19 -lunls19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lnls19 -lclient19  -lvsnst19 -lcommon19 -lgeneric19 -lknlopt -loraolap19 -lskjcx19 -lslax19 -lpls19  -lrt -lplp19 -ldmext -lserver19 -lclient19  -lvsnst19 -lcommon19 -lgeneric19 `if [ -f /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libavserver19.a ] ; then echo "-lavserver19" ; else echo "-lavstub19"; fi` `if [ -f /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/libavclient19.a ] ; then echo "-lavclient19" ; fi` -lknlopt -lslax19 -lpls19  -lrt -lplp19 -ljavavm19 -lserver19  -lwwg  `cat /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/ldflags`    -lncrypt19 -lnsgr19 -lnzjs19 -ln19 -lnl19 -lngsmshd19 -lnro19 `cat /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/ldflags`    -lncrypt19 -lnsgr19 -lnzjs19 -ln19 -lnl19 -lngsmshd19 -lnnzst19 -lzt19 -lztkg19 -lmm -lsnls19 -lnls19  -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lxml19 -lcore19 -lunls19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lnls19 -lztkg19 `cat /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/ldflags`    -lncrypt19 -lnsgr19 -lnzjs19 -ln19 -lnl19 -lngsmshd19 -lnro19 `cat /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/ldflags`    -lncrypt19 -lnsgr19 -lnzjs19 -ln19 -lnl19 -lngsmshd19 -lnnzst19 -lzt19 -lztkg19   -lsnls19 -lnls19  -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lxml19 -lcore19 -lunls19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lnls19 `if /usr/bin/ar tv /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/libknlopt.a | grep "kxmnsd.o" > /dev/null 2>&1 ; then echo " " ; else echo "-lordsdo19 -lserver19"; fi` -L/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/ctx/lib/ -lctxc19 -lctx19 -lzx19 -lgx19 -lctx19 -lzx19 -lgx19 -lclscest19 -loevm -lclsra19 -ldbcfg19 -lhasgen19 -lskgxn2 -lnnzst19 -lzt19 -lxml19 -lgeneric19 -locr19 -locrb19 -locrutl19 -lhasgen19 -lskgxn2 -lnnzst19 -lzt19 -lxml19 -lgeneric19  -lgeneric19 -lorazip -loraz -llzopro5 -lorabz2 -lorazstd -loralz4 -lipp_z -lipp_bz2 -lippdc -lipps -lippcore  -lippcp -lsnls19 -lnls19  -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lxml19 -lcore19 -lunls19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lnls19 -lsnls19 -lunls19  -lsnls19 -lnls19  -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lxml19 -lcore19 -lunls19 -lsnls19 -lnls19 -lcore19 -lnls19 -lasmclnt19 -lcommon19 -lcore19  -ledtn19 -laio -lons  -lmql1 -lipc1 -lfthread19    `cat /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/sysliblist` -Wl,-rpath,/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib -lm    `cat /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib/sysliblist` -ldl -lm   -L/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/lib `test -x /usr/bin/hugeedit -a -r /usr/lib64/libhugetlbfs.so && test -r /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/shugetlbfs.o && echo -Wl,-zcommon-page-size=2097152 -Wl,-zmax-page-size=2097152 -lhugetlbfs`
rm -f /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/bin/oracle
mv /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/rdbms/lib/oracle /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/bin/oracle
chmod 6751 /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/bin/oracle
(if [ ! -f /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/bin/crsd.bin ]; then \
    getcrshome="/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/srvm/admin/getcrshome" ; \
    if [ -f "$getcrshome" ]; then \
        crshome="`$getcrshome`"; \
        if [ -n "$crshome" ]; then \
            if [ $crshome != /u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1 ]; then \
                oracle="/u01/app/oracle/product/19/dbhome_1/bin/oracle"; \
                $crshome/bin/setasmgidwrap oracle_binary_path=$oracle; \
            fi \
        fi \
    fi \
fi\
);
$ mv config.O config.o

First of all, I am in the $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/lib directory already. I moved the config.o file to a different name, config.O (uppercase O). This will trigger the config.o file to be generated during linking via the the makefile, because the make macro for generating the oracle executable checks for the existence of config.o in $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/lib, and the generation of config.o is triggered by it not existing.
I used make with the ‘–dry-run’ option, which means it will list what it WOULD do, it doesn’t actually do it.
Now that the make macro doesn’t find the $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/lib/config.o file, it generates it, using ‘as’, the GNU assembler.
After the run, I move the config.O file back to config.o.
Please mind the make target config.o (make -f ins_rdbms.mk config.o) still exists, and this follows the traditional way, so using gcc, to create the object file config.o.

For anything else than config.c, Oracle provides objects (the compiled, intermediary form of C) in object files. This has several advantages. First of all, the server to install oracle on doesn’t require a compiler. That also means that there is no discussion about compiler versions, Oracle knows for a fact which version of a compiler is used. Second, Oracle can use a different compiler than the GNU compiler, as long as it does provide objects in Linux X86_64 (ELF) format. In fact, that is what oracle does: for Oracle 19.9, Oracle used a compiler from intel: Intel(R) C Intel(R) 64 Compiler for applications running on Intel(R) 64, Version 17.0.2.174 Build 20170213
You can obtain that information from the oracle executable using:

$ readelf -p .comment oracle | egrep 'Intel.*Build\ [0-9]*'

I hope that at this point I made it clear that no compiler is needed anymore for oracle installation and making changes to the oracle installation, like patching.

The oracle database executable and objects and object files

It’s probably a good idea to show how the oracle executable is build. The way this happens is using the make target ‘ioracle’, which is visible above (make -f ins_rdbms.mk ioracle).
The macro calls ‘orald’, which actually is a script in $ORACLE_HOME/bin, which calls the operating-system ‘ld’ executable, which is the GNU linker.
The arguments to ‘orald’ are arguments that mostly are put through to ‘ld’. ‘-o’ is the output flag, and that shows the executable to be build by the linker, and besides options being set, what you mainly see is -L (library path) and -l (library) switches adding libraries (=object files and archive files) to build the oracle executable.
There’s a couple of places that are used to get objects to build the oracle executable:
– $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/lib — oracle database rdbms specific libraries
– $ORACLE_HOME/lib — oracle database general libraries (objects are used by multiple “products” in the $ORACLE_HOME)
– $ORACLE_HOME/lib/stubs — this is a directory with ‘stub objects’, which are versions of operating system libraries that contain no code, but allow the oracle executable to be build, even if a operating system library is missing (see: https://docs.oracle.com/cd/E23824_01/html/819-0690/chapter2-22.html)
– $ORACLE_HOME/ctx/lib — oracle text (not sure why oracle text requires an explicit lookup to $ORACLE_HOME/ctx/lib, while other options are all in $ORACLE_HOME/lib
– /lib64 — operating system libraries

At this point it’s important to realise that the object files for linking oracle are visible in two forms: as plain object files (.o) and as archive files (.a). Archive files are exactly what the name suggests: these are archives of object files. You can look and manipulate an archive file using the ‘ar’ (archiver utility), for which the working strongly resembles how tar and jar work: t=list, x=extract, c=create.
If you take a look at one of the main archives, libserver19.a, you see that it contains 2852 object files:

$ ar -t $ORACLE_HOME/lib/libserver19.a | wc -l
2852

If you do wonder what’s inside, ‘ar -tv’ would be a good way to have an idea:

$ ar -tv $ORACLE_HOME/lib/libserver19.a
rw-r--r-- 54321/54321  11136 Oct 19 21:12 2020 kdr.o
rw-rw-r-- 94110/42424   8376 Apr 17 04:58 2019 upd.o
rw-rw-r-- 94110/42424  41968 Apr 17 04:58 2019 kd.o
...
rw-r--r-- 54321/54321  13248 Oct 19 21:11 2020 qjsntrans.o
rw-r--r-- 54321/54321  20296 Oct 19 21:11 2020 kubsd.o
rw-r--r-- 54321/54321  16720 Oct 19 21:12 2020 kqro.o

The conclusion here is that archive files are logical and sensible, otherwise the library directories would have been swamped with huge numbers of object files.

When object files are linked to an executable, it requires object files, and these are in ‘.o’ files, or grouped in ‘.a’ files. A third type of file is needed for linking linking an executable that is going to be a dynamically linked executable: the libraries (the ‘.so’ files) the executable is dynamically going to use. The linker will validate the libraries, which means it inspects the libraries to find the symbols that the objects that form the executable is calling. A library (‘.so’ file) is an already compiled form, in facts it’s pretty much similar to an executable, only the way it’s invoked is when it’s called by a dynamically linked executable that uses it, instead of directly.

The object files itself

This above text pretty much describe how executables, libraries, object files and archives sit together, and how the linking creates the oracle executable via the makefile. This description describes how this is configured by oracle for creating the oracle executable. However, this is really flexible, and can be done differently, so this is not how it always is or should be, this is how oracle chosen it to do.

We can look one level deeper into how this works. An object file in fact is already an archive, containing one or more compiled versions of functions:

$ nm -A opimai.o
opimai.o:                 U dbkc_free_bs_context
opimai.o:                 U dbkc_init
opimai.o:                 U dbktFlush
opimai.o:                 U __intel_new_feature_proc_init
opimai.o:                 U kgeasnmierr
opimai.o:                 U kge_pop_guard_fr
opimai.o:                 U kge_push_guard_fr
opimai.o:                 U kge_report_17099
opimai.o:                 U kgeresl
opimai.o:                 U kge_reuse_guard_fr
opimai.o:                 U ksdwrf
opimai.o:                 U kseini
opimai.o:                 U ksmdsg
opimai.o:                 U ksmgpg_
opimai.o:                 U ksmlsge_phaseone
opimai.o:                 U ksmsgaattached_
opimai.o:                 U kso_save_arg
opimai.o:                 U kso_spawn_ts_save
opimai.o:                 U ksosp_parse
opimai.o:                 U ksuginpr
opimai.o:                 U lfvinit
opimai.o:0000000000000010 T main
opimai.o:                 U opiinit
opimai.o:0000000000000300 t opimai_init
opimai.o:0000000000000140 T opimai_real
opimai.o:                 U opiterm
opimai.o:                 U sdterm
opimai.o:                 U _setjmp
opimai.o:                 U skge_sign_fr
opimai.o:                 U skgmstack
opimai.o:                 U skgp_done_args
opimai.o:                 U skgp_retrieve_args
opimai.o:                 U slgtds
opimai.o:                 U slgts
opimai.o:                 U slkbpi
opimai.o:                 U slkfpi
opimai.o:                 U sou2o
opimai.o:                 U spargs
opimai.o:                 U ssthrdmain

This example takes the object file $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/lib/opimai.o, and this object file contains 3 actual functions (shown by an address and the symbol type ‘T’ or ‘t’), and a whole bunch of functions without an address and symbol type ‘U’. The functions with symbol type ‘U’ are undefined functions, which means that these functions are not in this archive, but defined somewhere else.
The important thing to consider is that a single symbol can contain multiple functions.

I chosen this object file, because this is in fact the actual object file where the main function, the starting function, for the oracle executable is in. If you obtain a stack trace of an oracle database process, the first function (called ‘first frame’) in at least recent linux versions (some other operating systems or versions might show earlier functions) will show main as the first function. This is also what the linker uses to build the executable, it follows the symbol information together with the command line switches to resolve and obtain all the functions via the symbol information. The linker will generate an error and not build the executable if it can’t find or resolve the symbols and get all the information it needs.

Patching

At this point you should have an understanding what a dynamically linked executable, libraries, object files and archives are, and that the oracle executable is build using a makefile using the linker.

It might be handy and interesting to look at patching. This information, the information about archives and objects, should give you more background about the specifics of patching. Oracle patching has many forms, and actually can do and change a lot of things in a lot of ways. It is retraceable what a patch does by looking at the contents of the patch. But that is now what this post is about.

Especially with one-off patches, in the case of a patch to fix or change one or more functions in the oracle executable, what the patch provides is the fixed and thus changed versions of these functions. However, oracle does not provide sourcecode. In general what oracle provides, is the object or objects containing the changed functions. In order to get the changed function or functions into the oracle executable, what generally happens is that the current/old versions of the object file are removed from the archive they are in, and saved in $ORACLE_HOME/.patch_storage, and the patched versions of the object file are inserted into the archive.

But, we saw an object file generally contains more or much more functions. Well, this is why patches can be incompatible with other patches: if multiple patches change different (or the same) functions in the same objects, the patch applied latest will undo the changes of the previous patch(es). This is also why you must request merge patches if patches are incompatible.

Dealing with individual object files, extracting them from an archive and saving them in order to be able to restore it into the archive is tedious. Also, the archive itself doesn’t mind whatever you remove from it or insert to it, even if it will break linking the oracle executable. Therefore, oracle has created opatch to perform a great deal of validations and checks, and take the work of dependency checks from you and fully automate it. In fact, in general, you can take a (one-off) patch and try to apply it, if it does, it will allow oracle to be relinked, if there is a conflicting patch it will tell you. Also, if you want to revert your applied patch, you can simply rollback and get opatch to load the previous version into the archive. This is way better than letting us humans deal with it directly.

After the patching changed the archives to contain the updated versions of the objects which contain updated functions, these must make it into the oracle executable. This must be done by relinking the executable, which will take the objects including the changed objects from all the object files and archives, and create a new executable. The oracle executable is never directly touched on linux with recent versions, to my knowledge.

I hope this explanation made sense and made a lot of these things which we are dealing with as oracle DBAs more understandable. Any comments or updates are welcome!