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Sequence Smackdown

A short post where I kick myself for forgetting something basic…

In recent engagement, I come across a "smelly" construct (database smells) that looks like this:

Select max(errorid)+1 into newerrorid from errorlog;

"Why aren’t they using a sequence?", I wondered.

The reason, of course, is that the PL/SQL developers need to request the creation of each and every object from the production support DBAs, and since such requests require review by the central data architects for correctness before being approved for creation in development, the process can take 4-5 days. As a result, they took this "shortcut". (Reason #392 of why I don’t think production support DBAs should have any place in the development process, but that’s another story).

The good news is that they recognized this was bad after I pointed it out, and they went ahead and requested the sequence.

One week later, we get the sequence, correct the code and promote it to the integration environment.

Where we promptly get uniqueness violations when attempting to insert rows into the table because the sequence number was less than the max(errorid) already in the table.

"No problem!", I said – I didn’t want to re-create the sequence with a larger "start with" (due to the turnaround time), so I take a lazy shortcut:

I number;
J number;
select erroridseq.nextval into I from dual;
select max(error
id) into J from errorlog;
while I <= J loop
select error
id_seq.nextval into I from dual;
end loop;

Yes – I know this is all kinds of horrible, but I was in a hurry and didn’t think.

And the worst part is that it didn’t even work.

They still got uniqueness violations and came to me later saying that there were problems with the sequence – that when they selected maxval from the sequence in TOAD they got one value (1000), and when they selected maxval from the sequence via SQL Developer, they got another value (300).

What did I forget / do wrong?  What should I have done?

I eventually figured it out and "fixed" it.

There’s a coda to this – after I smacked the palm of my hand to my forehead and then explained the problem to the PL/SQL developers I thought they understood it. But later in the day they came to me and said they were having the same problem with a different sequence (getting different – and much smaller – values when selecting maxval from different tools)…

I should have done a better job of explaining it.J