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Where does the log writer spend its time on?

The Oracle database log writer is the process that fundamentally influences database change performance. Under normal circumstances the log writer must persist the changes made to the blocks before the actual change is committed. Therefore, it’s vitally important to understand what the log writer is exactly doing. This is widely known by the Oracle database community.

The traditional method for looking at log writer performance is looking at the wait event ‘log file parallel write’ and the CPU time, and comparing that to the ‘log file sync’ alias “commit wait time”. If ‘log file parallel write’ and ‘log file sync’ roughly match, a commit is waiting on the log writer IO latency, if it isn’t then it’s unclear, and things get vague.

Now we get to the gist of this blogpost: since Oracle 12, there are additional statistics in V$SESSTAT and v$SYSSTAT that describe where the log writer spending it’s time on. However, and sadly, these are not documented by Oracle. The statistics are:

– redo write gather time
– redo write schedule time
– redo write finish time
– redo write time (usec)
– redo write total time

Probably ‘redo write time (usec)’ doesn’t belong to these statistics because the timing is as good as the same as ‘redo write finish time’. Also the statistic ‘redo write time (usec)’ is updated by ‘kcrfw_postprocess_write’ right after the main writing function (kcrfw_do_write), whilst the other redo write timing statistics are updated/made visible by ksu_dispatch_tac outside of the actual writing functions, at the approximate rate of every 3 seconds.

All these statistics contain cumulative timing figure in microseconds (usec).

All these timings start at the start of the function kcrfw_redo_write_driver. This is the main function that handles all the redo writing, including investigating the fixed area structure (kcrfs_) and the shared pool structures (made visible using X$KCRFSTRAND) to see if there are changes.

1. redo write gather time.
This times reading the structures that control allocation of the redo structures, validating foreground processes are done writing the change vectors and applying these to the blocks, updating the LWN SCN. Part of this also happens when there is nothing to write, but then the time is not added to this statistic, only if it found something to write.

2. redo write schedule time.
This includes the time of 1, but now it found something to write, entered the writing function (kcrfw_do_write), and updated the ksfd IO related structures for writing.

3. redo write finish time.
This includes the time of 1 and 2, but this additionally times all the IO related functions for writing the changes it found in the public redo strands, as indicated by the shared pool and fixed area structures.

4. redo write time (usec).
This probably is not part of this group of statistics, but it works in exactly the same way: it’s a cumulative figure, it counts time since the start of the kcrfw_redo_write_driver and includes a tiny bit more code, it times until it has left the kcrfw_do_write function and enters the kcrfw_postprocess_write function.

5. redo write total time.
This includes the time of 1, 2 and 3, but additionally times the kcrfw_post function, which performs the signalling of the foreground processes that have committed and wait for a semop() signal.

This means that the Oracle database since Oracle 12 provides the timing information to see where the log writer is spending it’s time on. This can prevent a lot of guesswork.