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Direct Path

This is a little addendum to a note I wrote a couple of days ago about serial direct path reads and KO (fast object checkpoint) enqueue waits.

The original note was prompted by a problem where someone had set the hidden parameter “_serial_direct_read” to ‘always’ because there were running 11g and wanted some “insert as select” statements to use direct path reads on the select portion and 11g wasn’t co-operating.

Serial direct path reads were introduced as a possibility in (at least) the 8.1.7.4 timeline, but the parameter was set to false until 11gR2 where it changed to auto. (Legal values are: false, true, never, auto, always.)

In 11.2, though, even though a simple select statement could use serial direct path reads for segment scans, Oracle would not use the mechanism for “insert as select”.

This note is just a little piece of code to demonstrate the point.  Run it on 11g and (unless your buffer cache is large enough to make the test table “small”) Oracle will use direct path reads on the select, but scattered reads to cache for the insert. Upgrade to 12.1 and Oracle will use direct path reads on both.

rem
rem     Script:         serial_fail.sql
rem     Author:         Jonathan Lewis
rem     Dated:          Oct 2020
rem

create table t1
as
select
        ao.*
from
        all_objects     ao,
        (select rownum from dual connect by level <= 16) mult
/

create table t2
as
select  *
from    t1
where   rownum = 0
/

alter system flush buffer_cache;

prompt  =============
prompt  Simple Select
prompt  =============

execute snap_events.start_snap
select * from t1 where object_id = 98765;
execute snap_events.end_snap

prompt  ================
prompt  Insert as select
prompt  ================

execute snap_events.start_snap
insert into t2
select * from t1 where object_id = 98765;
execute snap_events.end_snap

prompt  =====================
prompt  Insert as select with
prompt  _serial_direct=always
prompt  =====================

alter session set "_serial_direct_read"=always;

execute snap_events.start_snap
insert /* serial direct */ into t2
select * from t1 where object_id = 98765;
execute snap_events.end_snap

alter session set "_serial_direct_read"=auto;

The calls to the snap_events package are the to produce the change in v$session_event for my session during the SQL.

You’ll notice I’ve included three main SQL statements rather than two – the third statement (2nd execution of the insert) is to demonstrate that it is possible to get direct path reads on the insert by setting the hidden parameter to ‘always’.

One detail to remember when testing this particular feature (and the same guideline applies to some other features), the “direct / not direct” becomes an attribute of the cursor, it’s not an attribute of the execution plan. This is why I’ve added a comment to the 2nd insert; if I hadn’t done so Oracle would have reused the (identical text) cursor from the first insert, which would have resulted in scattered reads being used instead of direct path reads. This distinction between cursor and plan explains why there is not hint that will allow you to force direct path reads for a specific query (not even the infamous opt_param() hint).

Here are the three sets of results from a system running 11.2.0.4:

=============
Simple Select
=============

Event                                             Waits   Time_outs           Csec    Avg Csec    Max Csec
-----                                             -----   ---------           ----    --------    --------
db file sequential read                               1           0           0.10        .100           4
direct path read                                    114           0          20.86        .183           6
SQL*Net message to client                             4           0           0.00        .000           0
SQL*Net message from client                           4           0           0.11        .028     174,435

================
Insert as select
================

Event                                             Waits   Time_outs           Csec    Avg Csec    Max Csec
-----                                             -----   ---------           ----    --------    --------
db file sequential read                              22           0           0.60        .027           4
db file scattered read                              130           0          35.97        .277           5
SQL*Net message to client                             4           0           0.01        .002           0
SQL*Net message from client                           4           0           0.10        .025     174,435

=====================
Insert as select with
_serial_direct=always
=====================

Event                                             Waits   Time_outs           Csec    Avg Csec    Max Csec
-----                                             -----   ---------           ----    --------    --------
direct path read                                    108           0          17.44        .161           6
SQL*Net message to client                             4           0           0.00        .000           0
SQL*Net message from client                           4           0           0.09        .022     174,435


Note the db file scattered read waits in the mddle test. If you re-run the test on 12.1.0.x (or later) you’ll find that the middle set of results will change to direct path read waits.

For reference, this limitation is covered by MOS note13250070.8: Bug 13250070 – Enh: Serial direct reads not working in DML. The actual bug note is not public.

Footnote (a couple of hours later):

A response from Roger MacNicol to my publication tweet has told us that the bug note says only that direct path reads had been restricted unnecessarily and the restriction has been removed.