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Oracle database 12c performance tuning recipes

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Contents at a Glance
About the Authors�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� xlv
About the Technical Reviewers��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� xlvii
Acknowledgments������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ xlix
Introduction��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������li
■■Chapter 1: Optimizing Table Performance�������������������������������������������������������������������������1
■■Chapter 2: Choosing and Optimizing Indexes������������������������������������������������������������������51
■■Chapter 3: Optimizing Instance Memory�������������������������������������������������������������������������95
■■Chapter 4: Monitoring System Performance�����������������������������������������������������������������125
■■Chapter 5: Minimizing System Contention��������������������������������������������������������������������157
■■Chapter 6: Analyzing Operating System Performance��������������������������������������������������193

■■Chapter 7: Troubleshooting the Database����������������������������������������������������������������������217
■■Chapter 8: Creating Efficient SQL����������������������������������������������������������������������������������259
■■Chapter 9: Manually Tuning SQL������������������������������������������������������������������������������������307
■■Chapter 10: Tracing SQL Execution��������������������������������������������������������������������������������335
■■Chapter 11: Automated SQL Tuning�������������������������������������������������������������������������������375
■■Chapter 12: Execution Plan Optimization and Consistency�������������������������������������������415
■■Chapter 13: Configuring the Optimizer��������������������������������������������������������������������������457
■■Chapter 14: Implementing Query Hints�������������������������������������������������������������������������501
■■Chapter 15: Executing SQL in Parallel���������������������������������������������������������������������������537
Index���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������569
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Introduction
Oracle Database 12c Performance Tuning Recipes is a book of solutions—a crib sheet of sorts. Database performance
problems often rear themselves suddenly, and with that suddenness comes great pressure from management and
users to somehow work magic and get response time back under control. Everyone is in a panic. Everyone is upset
(except idealy you!). Such is no time for a leisurely read of a book. This book is written with that pressure in mind. It is
chock-full of prewritten queries and other solutions that you can immediately apply and get results.
Of course, you should not wait until the last minute. Take the time now when you’re not in crisis mode to get
familiar with the content in this book. Try the solutions for monitoring and analyzing. See what you can learn about
your current database performance levels. Then take action to set some benchmarks and work on improvements so as
to become practiced for when a crisis eventually hits. Or better yet, maybe you can avoid a crisis altogether.

Who This Book Is For
Oracle Database 12c Performance Tuning Recipes was written primarily for database administrators who manage
Oracle Database environments. The book is especially useful to those administrators involved in tackling performance
optimization problems. Serious SQL developers will also find the book useful, especially the chapters on aspects of SQL.

How This Book Is Structured
Solutions in this book are grouped into categories by chapter. Each chapter is composed of a number of recipes
relating to the chapter’s topic. Each recipe takes the following form:
Problem: A succinct description of the problem solved by the recipe
Solution: A terse and to-the-point presentation of queries and commands to execute in
order to accomplish the task described in the recipe’s problem statement
How It Works: A longer discourse on the solution and how and why it works, for those who
are interested in a deeper understanding of the material
The book’s structure allows you to open it to a chapter relating to a problem you are trying to solve. Then find a
recipe in the chapter that solves the problem or that can be adapted to solve the problem. Read the solution. Read the


“How It Works” description to fully understand the solution. Then apply the solution to your real-world problem.

Downloading the Code
The authors have made a zip file available with the queries and scripts from the recipe solutions. To download the
zip file, first visit the book’s catalog page on the Apress.com web site. The URL is as follows:
http://www.apress.com/9781430261872
Then scroll down the page and look for a tabbed section. Click the Source Code/Downloads tab, and download
the zip file of examples using the provided link.

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Chapter 1

Optimizing Table Performance
This chapter details database features that impact the performance of storing and retrieving data within a table.
Table performance is partially determined by database characteristics implemented prior to creating tables.
For example, the physical storage features implemented when first creating a database and associated tablespaces
subsequently influence the performance of tables. Similarly, performance is also impacted by your choice of initial
physical features such as table types and data types. Therefore implementing practical database, tablespace, and table
creation standards (with performance in mind) forms the foundation for optimizing data availability and scalability.
An Oracle database is comprised of the physical structures used to store, manage, secure, and retrieve data.
When first building a database, there are several performance-related features that you can implement at the time of
database creation. For example, the initial layout of the datafiles and the type of tablespace management are specified
upon creation. Architectural decisions taken at this point often have long-lasting implications.

■■Tip  An Oracle instance is defined to be the memory structures and background processes. Whereas an Oracle database
consists of physical files—namely, data files, control files, and online redo log files.
As depicted in Figure 1-1, a tablespace is the logical structure that allows you to manage a group of datafiles.
Datafiles are the physical datafiles on disk. When configuring tablespaces, there are several features to be aware of
that can have far-reaching performance implications, namely locally managed tablespaces and automatic segment
storage managed (ASSM) tablespaces. When you reasonably implement these features, you maximize your ability to
obtain acceptable future table performance.

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Chapter 1 ■ Optimizing Table Performance
physical storage
database

users
(owners)

data files

OS blocks

extents

database
blocks

logical storage
tablespaces

schemas

segments:
- tables
- indexes
- partitions
- rollback
- and so on...

Figure 1-1.  Relationships of logical and physical storage
The table is the object that stores data in a database. One measure of database performance is the speed at which
an application is able to insert, update, delete, and select data. Therefore it’s appropriate that we begin this book with
recipes that provide solutions regarding problems related to table performance.
We start by describing aspects of database and tablespace creation that impact table performance. We next move
on to topics such as choosing table types and data types that meet performance-related business requirements. Later
topics include managing the physical implementation of tablespace usage. We detail issues such as detecting table
fragmentation, dealing with free space under the high-water mark, row migration/chaining, and compressing data.
Also described is the Oracle Segment Advisor. This handy tool helps you with automating the detection and resolution
of table fragmentation and unused space.

1-1. Building a Database That Maximizes Performance
Problem
You realize when initially creating a database that some features (when enabled) have long-lasting implications for
table performance and availability. Specifically, when creating the database, you want to do the following:


Enforce that every tablespace ever created in the database must be locally managed. Locally
managed tablespaces deliver better performance than the obsolete dictionary-managed
technology.



Ensure users are automatically assigned a default permanent tablespace. This guarantees
that when users are created they are assigned a default tablespace other than SYSTEM. With
the deferred segment feature (more on this later), if a user has the CREATE TABLE privilege,
then it is possible for that user to create objects in the SYSTEM tablespace even without having
a space quota on the SYSTEM tablespace. This is undesirable. It’s true they won’t be able to
insert data into tables without appropriate space quotas, but they can create objects, and thus
inadvertently clutter up the SYSTEM tablespace.



Ensure users are automatically assigned a default temporary tablespace. This guarantees that
when users are created they are assigned the correct temporary tablespace when no default is
explicitly provided.

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Chapter 1 ■ Optimizing Table Performance

Solution
There are two different tools that you can use to create an Oracle database:


SQL*Plus using the CREATE DATABASE statement



Database Configuration Assistant (dbca)

These techniques are described in the following subsections.

SQL*Plus
Use a script such as the following to create a database that adheres to reasonable standards that set the foundation for
a well-performing database:

CREATE DATABASE O12C
MAXLOGFILES 16
MAXLOGMEMBERS 4
MAXDATAFILES 1024
MAXINSTANCES 1
MAXLOGHISTORY 680
CHARACTER SET AL32UTF8
DATAFILE
'/u01/dbfile/O12C/system01.dbf'
SIZE 500M REUSE
EXTENT MANAGEMENT LOCAL
UNDO TABLESPACE undotbs1 DATAFILE
'/u02/dbfile/O12C/undotbs01.dbf'
SIZE 800M
SYSAUX DATAFILE
'/u01/dbfile/O12C/sysaux01.dbf'
SIZE 500M
DEFAULT TEMPORARY TABLESPACE TEMP TEMPFILE
'/u02/dbfile/O12C/temp01.dbf'
SIZE 500M
DEFAULT TABLESPACE USERS DATAFILE
'/u01/dbfile/O12C/users01.dbf'
SIZE 50M
LOGFILE GROUP 1
('/u01/oraredo/O12C/redo01a.rdo',
'/u02/oraredo/O12C/redo01b.rdo') SIZE 200M,
GROUP 2
('/u01/oraredo/O12C/redo02a.rdo',
'/u02/oraredo/O12C/redo02b.rdo') SIZE 200M,
GROUP 3
('/u01/oraredo/O12C/redo03a.rdo',
'/u02/oraredo/O12C/redo03b.rdo') SIZE 200M
USER sys
IDENTIFIED BY f0obar
USER system IDENTIFIED BY f0obar;


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The prior CREATE DATABASE script helps establish a good foundation for performance by enabling features such
as the following:


Defines the SYSTEM tablespace as locally managed via the EXTENT MANAGEMENT LOCAL clause;
this ensures that all tablespaces ever created in database are locally managed. Starting with
Oracle Database 12c, the SYSTEM tablespace is always created as locally managed.



Defines a default tablespace named USERS for any user created without an explicitly defined default
tablespace; this helps prevent users from being assigned the SYSTEM tablespace as the default.



Defines a default temporary tablespace named TEMP for all users; this helps prevent users from
being assigned the SYSTEM tablespace as the default temporary tablespace. Users created with
a default temporary tablespace of SYSTEM can have an adverse impact on performance, as this
will cause contention for resources in the SYSTEM tablespace.

Solid performance starts with a correctly configured database. The prior recommendations help you create
a reliable infrastructure for your table data.

dbca
Oracle’s dbca utility has a graphical interface and a command line mode from which you can configure and create
databases. The visual tool is easy to use and has a very intuitive interface. In Linux/Unix environments to use the dbca
in graphical mode, ensure you have the proper X software installed, then issue the xhost + command, and make
certain your DISPLAY variable is set; for example:

$ xhost +
$ echo $DISPLAY
:0.0
  
$ xhost +
$ echo $DISPLAY
:0.0

The dbca is invoked from the operating system as follows:

$ dbca

You’ll be presented with a series of screens that allow you to make choices on the configuration. You can choose
the “Advanced Mode” option which gives you more control on aspects such as file placement and multiplexing of the
online redo logs.
By default, the dbca creates a database with the following characteristics:


Defines the SYSTEM tablespace as locally managed.



Defines a default tablespace named USERS for any user created without an explicitly defined
default tablespace.



Defines a default temporary tablespace named TEMP for all users.

Like the SQL*Plus approach, these are all desirable features that provide a good foundation to build
applications on.
The dbca utility also allows you to create a database in silent mode, without the graphical component.
Using dbca in silent mode with a response file is an efficient way to create databases in a consistent and repeatable
manner. This approach also works well when you’re installing on remote servers, which could have a slow network
connection or not have the appropriate X software installed.

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Chapter 1 ■ Optimizing Table Performance

You can also run the dbca in silent mode with a response file. In some situations, using dbca in graphical mode
isn’t feasible. This may be due to slow networks or the unavailability of X software. To create a database, using dbca in
silent mode, perform the following steps:


1.

Locate the dbca.rsp file.



2.

Make a copy of the dbca.rsp file.



3.

Modify the copy of the dbca.rsp file for your environment.



4.

Run the dbca utility in silent mode.

First, navigate to the location in which you copied the Oracle database installation software, and use the find
command to locate dbca.rsp:

$ find . -name dbca.rsp
./12.1.0.1/database/response/dbca.rsp

Copy the file so that you’re not modifying the original (in this way, you’ll always have a good, original file):

$ cp dbca.rsp mydb.rsp

Now, edit the mydb.rsp file. Minimally, you need to modify the following parameters: GDBNAME, SID, SYSPASSWORD,
SYSTEMPASSWORD, SYSMANPASSWORD, DBSNMPPASSWORD, DATAFILEDESTINATION, STORAGETYPE, CHARACTERSET, and
NATIONALCHARACTERSET. Following is an example of modified values in the mydb.rsp file:

[CREATEDATABASE]
GDBNAME = "O12C"
SID = "O12C"
TEMPLATENAME = "General_Purpose.dbc"
SYSPASSWORD = "f00bar"
SYSTEMPASSWORD = "f00bar"
SYSMANPASSWORD = "f00bar"
DBSNMPPASSWORD = "f00bar"
DATAFILEDESTINATION ="/u01/dbfile"
STORAGETYPE="FS"
CHARACTERSET = "AL32UTF8"
NATIONALCHARACTERSET= "UTF8"

Next, run the dbca utility in silent mode, using a response file:

$ dbca -silent -responseFile /home/oracle/orainst/mydb.rsp

You should see output such as

Copying database files
1% complete
...
Creating and starting Oracle instance
...
62% complete
Completing Database Creation
...
100% complete
Look at the log file ... for further details.


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If you look in the log files, note that the dbca utility uses the rman utility to restore the data files used for the
database. Then, it creates the instance and performs post-installation steps. On a Linux server you should also have
an entry in the /etc/oratab file for your new database.
Many DBAs launch dbca and configure databases in the graphical mode, but a few exploit the options available to
them using the response file. With effective utilization of the response file, you can consistently automate the database
creation process. You can modify the response file to build databases on ASM and even create RAC databases. In addition,
you can control just about every aspect of the response file, similar to launching the dbca in graphical mode.

■■Tip  You can view all options of the dbca via the help parameter: dbca -help

How It Works
A properly configured and created database will help ensure that your database performs well. It is true that you
can modify features after the database is created. However, often a poorly crafted CREATE DATABASE script leads
to a permanent handicap on performance. In production database environments, it’s sometimes difficult to get
the downtime that might be required to reconfigure an improperly configured database. If possible, think about
performance at every step in creating an environment, starting with how you create the database.
When creating a database, you should also consider features that affect maintainability. A sustainable database
results in more uptime, which is part of the overall performance equation. The CREATE DATABASE statement in the
“Solution” section also factors in the following sustainability features:


Creates an automatic UNDO tablespace (automatic undo management is enabled by setting
the UNDO_MANAGEMENT and UNDO_TABLESPACE initialization parameters); this allows Oracle to
automatically manage the rollback segments. This relieves you of having to regularly monitor
and tweak.



Places datafiles in directories that follow standards for the environment; this helps with
maintenance and manageability, which results in better long-term availability and thus better
performance.



Sets passwords to non-default values for DBA-related users; this ensures the database is more
secure, which in the long run can also affect performance (e.g., if a malcontent hacks into the
database and deletes data, then performance will suffer).



Establishes three groups of online redo logs, with two members each, sized appropriately
for the transaction load; the size of the redo log directly affects the rate at which they switch.
When redo logs switch too often, this can degrade performance. Keep in mind that when you
create a new database that you may not know the appropriate size and will have to adjust
this later.

You should take the time to ensure that each database you build adheres to commonly accepted standards that
help ensure you start on a firm performance foundation.
If you’ve inherited a database and want to verify the default permanent tablespace setting, use a query such as this:

SELECT *
FROM database_properties
WHERE property_name = 'DEFAULT_PERMANENT_TABLESPACE';

If you need to modify the default permanent tablespace, do so as follows:

SQL> alter database default tablespace users;


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To verify the setting of the default temporary tablespace, use this query:

SELECT *
FROM database_properties
WHERE property_name = 'DEFAULT_TEMP_TABLESPACE';

To change the setting of the temporary tablespace, you can do so as follows:

SQL> alter database default temporary tablespace temp;

You can verify the UNDO tablespace settings via this query:

SELECT name, value
FROM v$parameter
WHERE name IN ('undo_management','undo_tablespace');

If you need to change the undo tablespace, first create a new undo tablespace and then use the ALTER SYSTEM
SET UNDO_TABLESPACE statement.

1-2. Creating Tablespaces to Maximize Performance
Problem
You realize that tablespaces are the logical containers for database objects such as tables and indexes. Furthermore,
you’re aware that if you don’t specify storage attributes when creating objects, then the tables and indexes
automatically inherit the storage characteristics of the tablespaces (that the tables and indexes are created within).
Therefore you want to create tablespaces in a manner that maximizes table performance and maintainability.

Solution
We recommend that you create your tablespaces with the locally managed and automatic segment space
management features (ASSM) enabled. This is the default behavior starting with Oracle Database 12c:

create tablespace tools
datafile '/u01/dbfile/O12C/tools01.dbf' size 100m;

You can verify that the tablespace was created locally managed and is using ASSM via this query:

select tablespace_name, extent_management, segment_space_management
from dba_tablespaces
where tablespace_name='TOOLS';

Here is some sample output:

TABLESPACE_NAME EXTENT_MANAGEMENT
SEGMENT_SPACE_MANAGEMENT
---------------- ----------------------- ------------------------TOOLS
LOCAL
AUTO


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How It Works
To be clear, this recipe discusses two separate desirable tablespace features:


Locally managed tablespaces



Automatic Segment Space Management (ASSM)

Starting with Oracle Database 12c, all tablespaces are created as locally managed. In prior versions of Oracle
you had the choice of either locally managed or dictionary managed. Going forward you should always use locally
managed tablespaces.
The tablespace segment space management feature can be set to either AUTO (the default) or MANUAL. Oracle
strongly recommends that you use AUTO (referred to as ASSM). This allows Oracle to automatically manage many
physical space characteristics that the DBA had to previously manually adjust. In most scenarios, an ASSM managed
tablespace will process transactions more efficiently than a MANUAL segment space management enabled tablespace.
There are a few corner cases where this may not be true. We recommend that you use ASSM unless you have a proven
test case where MANUAL is better.

■■Note  You cannot create the SYSTEM tablespace with the ASSM feature. Also, the ASSM feature is valid only for
permanent, locally managed tablespaces.
When creating a tablespace, if you don’t specify a uniform extent size, then Oracle will automatically allocate
extents is sizes of 64 KB, 1 MB, 8 MB, and 64 MB. Use the auto-allocation behavior if the objects in the tablespace
typically are of varying size. You can explicitly tell Oracle to automatically determine the extent size via the EXTENT
MANAGEMENT LOCAL AUTOALLOCATE clause.
You can choose to have the extent size be consistently the same for every extent within the tablespace via the
UNIFORM SIZE clause. This example uses a uniform extent size of 128k:

create tablespace tools
datafile '/u01/dbfile/O12C/tools01.dbf' size 100m
extent management local uniform size 128k;

If you have a good reason to set the extent size to a uniform size, then by all means do that. However, if you don’t
have justification, take the default of AUTOALLOCATE.
You can also specify that a datafile automatically grow when it becomes full. This is set through the AUTOEXTEND
ON clause. If you use this feature, we recommend that you set an overall maximum size for the datafile. This will
prevent runaway or erroneous SQL from accidentally consuming all available disk space (think about what could
happen with a cloud service that automatically adds disk space as required for a database). Here’s an example:

create tablespace tools
datafile '/u01/dbfile/O12C/tools01.dbf' size 100m
autoextend on maxsize 10G; 

1-3. Matching Table Types to Business Requirements
Problem
You’re new to Oracle and have read about the various table types available. For example, you can choose between
heap-organized tables, index-organized tables, and so forth. You want to build a database application and need to
decide which table type to use.

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Chapter 1 ■ Optimizing Table Performance

Solution
Oracle provides a wide variety of table types. The default table type is heap-organized. For most applications, a
heap-organized table is an effective structure for storing and retrieving data. However, there are other table types that
you should be aware of, and you should know the situations under which each table type should be implemented.
Table 1-1 describes each table type and its appropriate use.
Table 1-1.  Oracle Table Types and Typical Uses

Table Type/Feature

Description

Benefit/Use

Heap-organized

The default Oracle table type
and the most commonly used.

Use this table type unless you have a
specific reason to use a different type.

Temporary

Session private data, stored for the
duration of a session or transaction;
space is allocated in temporary segments.

Program needs a temporary table structure
to store and modify data. Table data isn’t
required after the session terminates.

Index-organized (IOT)

Data stored in a B-tree index
structure sorted by primary key.

Table is queried mainly on primary
key columns; good for range scans,
provides fast random access.

Partitioned

A logical table that consists
of separate physical segments.

Type used with large tables with tens
of millions of rows; dramatically affects
performance scalability of large tables
and indexes.

External

Tables that use data stored in operating
system files outside of the database.

This type lets you efficiently access data in
a file outside of the database (like a CSV or
text file). External tables also provide an
efficient mechanism for transporting
data between databases.

Materialized view (MV)

A table that stores the output
of a SQL query; periodically
refreshed when you want the MV
table updated with a current
snapshot of the SQL result set.

Aggregating data for faster reporting or
replicating data to offload performance to
a reporting database.

Clustered

A group of tables that share
the same data blocks.

Type used to reduce I/O for tables that
are often joined on the same columns.
Rarely used.

Nested

A table with a column with
a data type that is another table.

Seldom used.

Object

A table with a column with
a data type that is an object type.

Seldom used.

How It Works
In most scenarios, a heap-organized table is sufficient to meet your requirements. This Oracle table type is a proven
structure used in a wide variety of database environments. If you properly design your database (normalized
structure) and combine that with the appropriate indexes and constraints, the result should be a well-performing and
maintainable system.

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Chapter 1 ■ Optimizing Table Performance

Normally most of your tables will be heap-organized. However, if you need to take advantage of a non-heap feature
(and are certain of its benefits), then certainly do so. For example, Oracle partitioning is a scalable way to build very
large tables and indexes. Materialized views are a solid feature for aggregating and replicating data. Index-organized
tables are efficient structures when most of the columns are part of the primary key (like an intersection table in a
many-to-many relationship). And so forth.

■■Caution  You shouldn’t choose a table type simply because you think it’s a cool feature that you recently heard about.
Sometimes folks read about a feature and decide to implement it without first knowing what the performance benefits or
maintenance costs will be. You should first be able to test and prove that a feature has solid performance benefits.

1-4. Choosing Table Features for Performance
Problem
When creating tables, you want to implement the appropriate table features that maximize performance, scalability,
and maintainability.

Solution
There are several performance and sustainability issues that you should consider when creating tables. Table 1-2
describes features specific to table performance.
Table 1-2.  Table Features That Impact Performance

Recommendation

Reasoning

Consider setting the physical attribute
PCTFREE to a value higher than the default
of 10% if the table initially has rows inserted
with null values that are later updated with
large values. If there are never any updates,
considering setting PCTFREE to a lower value.

As Oracle inserts records into a block, PCTFREE specifies what
percentage of the block should be reserved (kept free) for future
updates. Appropriately set, can help prevent row
migration/chaining, which can impact I/O performance if
a large percent of rows in a table are migrated/chained.

All tables should be created with
a primary key (with possibly the exception
of tables that store information like logs).

Enforces a business rule and allows you to uniquely identify
each row; ensures that an index is created on primary key
column(s), which allows for efficient access to primary
key values.

Consider creating a numeric surrogate
key to be the primary key for a table when
the real-life primary key is a large character
column or multiple columns.

Makes joins easier (only one column to join) and one single
numeric key results in faster joins than large character-based
columns or composites.

Consider using auto-incrementing
columns (12c) to populate PK columns.

Saves having to manually write code and/or maintain triggers
and sequences to populate PK and FK columns. However, one
possible downside is potential contention with concurrent
inserts.
(continued)

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Chapter 1 ■ Optimizing Table Performance

Table 1-2.  (continued)

Recommendation

Reasoning

Create a unique key for the logical
business key—a recognizable
combination of columns that
makes a row unique.

Enforces a business rule and keeps the data cleaner;
allows for efficient retrieval of the logical key columns that
may be frequently used in WHERE clauses. If the PK is a
surrogate key, there will usually be at least one unique
key that identifies the logical business key.

Define foreign keys where appropriate.

Enforces a business rule and keeps the data cleaner;
helps optimizer choose efficient paths to data.

Consider creating indexes on foreign key
columns.

Can speed up queries that often join on FK and
PK columns and also helps prevent certain locking issues.

Consider special features such as virtual
columns, invisible columns (12c), read-only,
parallel, compression, no logging, and so on.

Features such as parallel DML, compression, or no logging can
have a performance impact on reading and writing of data.

How It Works
The “Solution” section describes aspects of tables that relate to performance. When creating a table, you should also
consider features that enhance scalability and availability. Often DBAs and developers don’t think of these features as
methods for improving performance. However, building a stable and supportable database goes hand in hand with
good performance. Table 1-3 describes best practices features that promote ease of table management.
Table 1-3.  Table Features That Impact Scalability and Maintainability

Recommendation

Reasoning

Use standards when naming tables, columns, views,
constraints, triggers, indexes, and so on.

Helps document the application and simplifies
maintenance.

Specify a separate tablespace for different schemas.

Provides some flexibility for different backup and
availability requirements.

Let tables and indexes inherit storage attributes from
the tablespaces (especially if you use ASSM created
tablespaces).

Simplifies administration and maintenance.

Create primary-key constraints out of line
(as a table constraint).

Allows you more flexibility when creating the primary
key, especially if you have a situation where the primary
key consists of multiple columns.

Use check constraints where appropriate.

Enforces a business rule and keeps the data cleaner;
use this to enforce fairly small and static lists of values.

If a column should always have a value,
then enforce it with a NOT NULL constraint.

Enforces a business rule and keeps the data cleaner.

Create comments for the tables and columns.

Helps document the application and eases maintenance.

If you use LOBs in Oracle Database 11g or higher,
use the new SecureFiles architecture.

SecureFiles is the recommended LOB architecture;
provides access to features such as compression,
encryption, and deduplication.

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1-5. Selecting Data Types Appropriately
Problem
When creating tables, you want to implement appropriate data types so as to maximize performance, scalability, and
maintainability.

Solution
There are several performance and sustainability issues that you should consider when determining which data types
to use in tables. Table 1-4 describes features specific to performance.
Table 1-4.  Data Type Features That Impact Performance

Recommendation

Reasoning

If a column always contains numeric data and
can be used in numeric computations, then make
it a number data type. Keep in mind you may not
want to make some columns that only contain digits
as numbers (such as U.S. zip code or SSN).

Enforces a business rule and allows for the greatest
flexibility, performance, and consistent results when
using Oracle SQL math functions (which may behave
differently for a “01” character vs. a 1 number); correct
data types prevent unnecessary conversion of data types.

If you have a business rule that defines the length and
precision of a number field, then enforce it—for example,
NUMBER(7,2). If you don’t have a business rule, make
it NUMBER.

Enforces a business rule and keeps the data cleaner;
numbers with a precision defined won’t unnecessarily
store digits beyond the required precision. This can
affect the row length, which in turn can have an impact
on I/O performance.

For most character data (even fixed length)
use VARCHAR2 (and not CHAR).

The VARCHAR2 data type is more flexible and space
efficient than CHAR. Having said that, you may want
to use a fixed length CHAR for some data, such as a
country iso-code.

If you have a business rule that specifies the
maximum length of a column, then use that length,
as opposed to making all columns VARCHAR2(4000).

Enforces a business rule and keeps the data cleaner.

Appropriately use date/time-related
data types such as DATE, TIMESTAMP, and INTERVAL.

Enforces a business rule, ensures that the data is of the
appropriate format, and allows for the greatest flexibility
and performance when using SQL date functions and
date arithmetic.

Avoid large object (LOB) data types if possible.

Prevents maintenance issues associated with LOB
columns, like unexpected growth, performance issues
when copying, and so on.

■■Note Prior to Oracle Database 12c the maximum length for a VARCHAR2 and NVARCHAR2 was 4,000, and the
maximum length of a RAW column was 2,000. Starting with Oracle Database 12c, these data types have been extended
to accommodate a length of 32,767.

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How It Works
When creating a table, you must specify the columns names and corresponding data types. As a developer or a DBA,
you should understand the appropriate use of each data type. We’ve seen many application issues (performance and
accuracy of data) caused by the wrong choice of data type. For instance, if a character string is used when a date data
type should have been used, this causes needless conversions and headaches when attempting to do date math and
reporting. Compounding the problem, after an incorrect data type is implemented in a production environment, it can
be very difficult to modify data types, as this introduces a change that might possibly break existing code. Once you go
wrong, it’s extremely tough to recant and backtrack and choose the right course. It’s more likely you will end up with
hack upon hack as you attempt to find ways to force the ill-chosen data type to do the job it was never intended to do.
Having said that, Oracle supports the following groups of data types:


Character



Numeric



Date/Time



RAW



ROWID



LOB

■■Tip The LONG and LONG RAW data types are deprecated and should not be used.
The data types in the prior bulleted list are briefly discussed in the following subsections.

Character
There are four character data types available in Oracle: VARCHAR2, CHAR, NVARCHAR2, and NCHAR. The VARCHAR2 data
type is what you should use in most scenarios to hold character/string data. A VARCHAR2 only allocates space based on
the number of characters in the string. If you insert a one-character string into a column defined to be VARCHAR2(30),
Oracle will only consume space for the one character.
When you define a VARCHAR2 column, you must specify a length. There are two ways to do this: BYTE and CHAR.
BYTE specifies the maximum length of the string in bytes, whereas CHAR specifies the maximum number of characters.
For example, to specify a string that contains at the most 30 bytes, you define it as follows:

varchar2(30 byte)
  
To specify a character string that can contain at most 30 characters, you define it as follows:

varchar2(30 char)

In almost all situations you’re safer specifying the length using CHAR. When working with multibyte character sets,
if you specified the length to be VARCHAR2(30 byte), you may not get predictable results, because some characters
require more than 1 byte of storage. In contrast, if you specify VARCHAR2(30 char), you can always store 30 characters
in the string, regardless of whether some characters require more than 1 byte.

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The NVARCHAR2 and NCHAR data types are useful if you have a database that was originally created with a single-byte,
fixed-width character set, but sometime later you need to store multibyte character set data in the same database.

■■Tip  Oracle does have another data type named VARCHAR. Oracle currently defines VARCHAR as synonymous with
VARCHAR2. Oracle strongly recommends that you use VARCHAR2 (and not VARCHAR), as Oracle’s documentation states that
VARCHAR might serve a different purpose in the future.

Numeric
Use a numeric data type to store data that you’ll potentially need to use with mathematic functions, such as SUM, AVG,
MAX, and MIN. Never store numeric information in a character data type. When you use a VARCHAR2 to store data that
are inherently numeric, you’re introducing future failures into your system. Eventually, you’ll want to report or run
calculations on numeric data, and if they’re not a numeric data type, you’ll get unpredictable and often wrong results.
Oracle supports three numeric data types:


NUMBER



BINARY_DOUBLE



BINARY_FLOAT

For most situations, you’ll use the NUMBER data type for any type of number data. Its syntax is
NUMBER(scale, precision)
where scale is the total number of digits, and precision is the number of digits to the right of the decimal point.
So, with a number defined as NUMBER(5, 2) you can store values +/–999.99. That’s a total of five digits, with two used
for precision to the right of the decimal point.

■■Tip  Oracle allows a maximum of 38 digits for a NUMBER data type. This is almost always sufficient for any type of
numeric application.
What sometimes confuses developers and DBAs is that you can create a table with columns defined as INT,
INTEGER, REAL, DECIMAL, and so on. These data types are all implemented by Oracle with a NUMBER data type.
For example, a column specified as INTEGER is implemented as a NUMBER(38).
The BINARY_DOUBLE and BINARY_FLOAT data types are used for scientific calculations. These map to the DOUBLE
and FLOAT Java data types. Unless your application is performing rocket science calculations, then use the NUMBER
data type for all your numeric requirements.

■■Note The BINARY data types can lead to rounding errors that you won't have with NUMBER and also the behavior
may vary depending on the operating system and hardware.

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Date/Time
When capturing and reporting on date-related information, you should always use a DATE or TIMESTAMP data type
(and not VARCHAR2 or NUMBER). Using the correct date-related data type allows you to perform accurate Oracle date
calculations and aggregations and dependable sorting for reporting. If you use a VARCHAR2 for a field that contains
date information, you are guaranteeing future reporting inconsistencies and needless conversion functions
(such as TO_DATE and TO_CHAR).
The DATE data type contains a date component as well as a time component that is granular to the second.
If you don’t specify a time component when inserting data, then the time value defaults to midnight (0 hour at the
0 second). If you need to track time at a more granular level than the second, then use TIMESTAMP; otherwise, feel free
to use DATE.
The TIMESTAMP data type contains a date component and a time component that is granular to fractions of a
second. When you define a TIMESTAMP, you can specify the fractional second precision component. For instance,
if you wanted five digits of fractional precision to the right of the decimal point, you would specify that as:

TIMESTAMP(5)

The maximum fractional precision is 9; the default is 6. If you specify 0 fractional precision, then you have the
equivalent of the DATE data type.

RAW
The RAW data type allows you to store binary data in a column. This type of data is sometimes used for storing globally
unique identifiers or small amounts of encrypted data. If you need to store large amounts (over 2000 bytes) of binary
data then use a BLOB instead.
If you select data from a RAW column, SQL*Plus implicitly applies the built-in RAWTOHEX function to the data
retrieved. The data are displayed in hexadecimal format, using characters 0–9 and A–F. When inserting data into
a RAW column, the built-in HEXTORAW is implicitly applied.
This is important because if you create an index on a RAW column, the optimizer may ignore the index, as
SQL*Plus is implicitly applying functions where the RAW column is referenced in the SQL. A normal index may be of no
use, whereas a function-based index using RAWTOHEX may result in a substantial performance improvement.

ROWID
Sometimes when developers/DBAs hear the word ROWID (row identifier), they often think of a pseudocolumn
provided with every table row that contains the physical location of the row on disk; that is correct. However, many
people do not realize that Oracle supports an actual ROWID data type, meaning that you can create a table with a
column defined as the type ROWID.
There are a few practical uses for the ROWID data type. One valid application would be if you’re having problems
when trying to enable a referential integrity constraint and want to capture the ROWID of rows that violate a constraint.
In this scenario, you could create a table with a column of the type ROWID and store in it the ROWIDs of offending
records within the table. This affords you an efficient way to capture and resolve issues with the offending data.
Never be tempted to use a ROWID data type and the associated ROWID of a row within the table for the primary key
value. This is because the ROWID of a row in a table can change. For example, an ALTER TABLE...MOVE command will
potentially change every ROWID within a table. Normally, the primary key values of rows within a table should never
change. For this reason, instead of using ROWID for a primary key value, use a sequence-generated non-meaningful
number (or in 12c, use an auto-incrementing column to populate a primary key column).

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LOB
Oracle supports storing large amounts of data in a column via a LOB data type. Oracle supports the following types
of LOBs:


CLOB



NCLOB



BLOB



BFILE

If you have textual data that don’t fit within the confines of a VARCHAR2, then you should use a CLOB to store these
data. A CLOB is useful for storing large amounts of character data, such as text from articles (blog entries) and log files.
An NCLOB is similar to a CLOB but allows for information encoded in the national character set of the database.
BLOBs store large amounts of binary data that usually aren’t meant to be human readable. Typical BLOB data
include images, audio, word processing documents, pdf, spread sheets, and video files.
CLOBs, NCLOBs, and BLOBs are known as internal LOBs. This is because they are stored inside the Oracle database.
These data types reside within data files associated with the database.
BFILEs are known as external LOBs. BFILE columns store a pointer to a file on the OS that is outside the database.
When it’s not feasible to store a large binary file within the database, then use a BFILE. BFILEs don’t participate in
database transactions and aren’t covered by Oracle security or backup and recovery. If you need those features, then
use a BLOB and not a BFILE.

1-6. Avoiding Extent Allocation Delays When Creating Tables
Problem
You’re installing an application that has thousands of tables and indexes. Each table and index are configured to
initially allocate an initial extent of 10 MB. When deploying the installation DDL to your production environment, you
want install the database objects as fast as possible. You realize it will take some time to deploy the DDL if each object
allocates 10 MB of disk space as it is created. You wonder if you can somehow instruct Oracle to defer the initial extent
allocation for each object until data is actually inserted into a table.

Solution
The only way to defer the initial segment generation is to use the Enterprise Edition of Oracle Database 11g R2 or higher.
With the Enterprise Edition of Oracle, by default the physical allocation of the extent for a table (and associated indexes)
is deferred until a record is first inserted into the table. A small example will help illustrate this concept. First a table
is created:

create table emp(
emp_id number
,first_name varchar2(30)
,last_name varchar2(30));

Now query USER_SEGMENTS and USER_EXTENTS to verify that no physical space has been allocated:

SQL> select count(*) from user_segments where segment_name='EMP';
COUNT(*)
---------0


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SQL> select count(*) from user_extents where segment_name='EMP';
COUNT(*)
---------0

Next a record is inserted, and the prior queries are run again:

SQL> insert into emp values(1,'John','Smith');

1 row created.

SQL> select count(*) from user_segments where segment_name='EMP';
COUNT(*)
---------1

SQL> select count(*) from user_extents where segment_name='EMP';
COUNT(*)
---------1

The prior behavior is quite different from previous versions of Oracle. In prior versions, as soon as you create
an object, the segment and associated extent are allocated.

■■Note  Deferred segment creation also applies to partitioned tables and indexes. An extent will not be allocated until
the initial record is inserted into a given segment.

How It Works
Starting with the Enterprise Edition of Oracle Database 11g R2 (and not any other editions, like the Standard Edition),
with non-partitioned heap-organized tables created in locally managed tablespaces, the initial segment creation is
deferred until a record is inserted into the table. You need to be aware of Oracle’s deferred segment creation feature
for several reasons:


Allows for a faster installation of applications that have a large number of tables and indexes;
this improves installation speed, especially when you have thousands of objects.



As a DBA, your space usage reports may initially confuse you when you notice that there is no
space allocated for objects.



The creation of the first row will take a slightly longer time than in previous versions
(because now Oracle allocates the first extent based on the creation of the first row). For most
applications, this performance degradation is not noticeable.



There may be unforeseen side effects from using this feature (more on this in a few
paragraphs).

We realize that to take advantage of this feature the only “solution” is to upgrade to Oracle Database 11g R2
(Enterprise Edition), which is often not an option. However, we felt it was important to discuss this feature because
you’ll eventually encounter the aforementioned characteristics.

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You can disable the deferred segment creation feature by setting the database initialization parameter
DEFERRED_SEGMENT_CREATION to FALSE. The default for this parameter is TRUE.
You can also control the deferred segment creation behavior when you create the table. The CREATE TABLE
statement has two clauses: SEGMENT CREATION IMMEDIATE and SEGMENT CREATION DEFERRED—for example:

create table emp(
emp_id number
,first_name varchar2(30)
,last_name varchar2(30))
segment creation immediate;

It should be noted that there are some potential unforeseen side effects of the deferred segment creation.
For example, MOS note 1050193.1 describes the potential for sequences that have been defined to start with the
number 1, to actually start with the number 2.
Also, since the deferred segment creation feature is supported only in the Enterprise Edition of Oracle, if you
attempt to export objects (that have no segments created yet) and attempt to import into a Standard Edition of Oracle,
you may receive an error: ORA-00439: feature not enabled. Potential workarounds include setting ALTER SYSTEM
SET DEFERRED_SEGMENT_CREATION=FALSE or creating the table with SEGMENT CREATION IMMEDIATE. See MOS note
1087325.1 for further details with this issue.

■■Note The COMPATIBLE initialization parameter needs to be 11.2.0.0.0 or greater before using the SEGMENT CREATION
DEFERRED clause.

1-7. Maximizing Data-Loading Speeds
Problem
You’re loading a large amount of data into a table and want to insert new records as quickly as possible.

Solution
First, set the table’s logging attribute to NOLOGGING; this minimizes the generation redo for direct path operations
(this feature has no effect on regular DML operations). Then use a direct path loading feature, such as the following:


INSERT /*+ APPEND */ on queries that use a subquery for determining which records are
inserted



INSERT /*+ APPEND_VALUES */ on queries that use a VALUES clause



CREATE TABLE...AS SELECT

Here’s an example to illustrate NOLOGGING and direct path loading. First, run the following query to verify the
logging status of a table:

select table_name, logging
from user_tables
where table_name = 'EMP';


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Here is some sample output:

TABLE_NAME LOG
---------- --EMP
YES

The prior output verifies that the table was created with LOGGING enabled (the default). To enable NOLOGGING,
use the ALTER TABLE statement as follows:

SQL> alter table emp nologging;

Now that NOLOGGING has been enabled, there should be a minimal amount of redo generated for direct path
operations. The following example uses a direct path INSERT statement to load data into the table:

SQL> insert /*+APPEND */ into emp (first_name) select username from all_users;

The prior statement is an efficient method for loading data because direct path operations such as INSERT
/*+APPEND */ combined with NOLOGGING generate a minimal amount of redo.
Also, make sure you commit the data loaded via direct path, otherwise you won’t be able to view it as Oracle will
throw an ORA-12838 error indicating that direct path loaded data must be committed before it is selected.

■■Note  When you direct path insert into a table, Oracle will insert the new rows above the high-water mark. Even if
there is ample space freed up via a DELETE statement, when direct path inserting, Oracle will always load data above the
high-water mark. This can result in a table consuming a large amount of disk space but not necessarily containing that
much data.

How It Works
Direct path inserts have two performance advantages over regular insert statements:


If NOLOGGING is specified, then a minimal amount of redo is generated.



The buffer cache is bypassed and data is loaded directly into the datafiles. This can
significantly improve the loading performance.

The NOLOGGING feature minimizes the generation of redo for direct path operations only. For direct path inserts,
the NOLOGGING option can significantly increase the loading speed. One perception is that NOLOGGING eliminates redo
generation for the table for all DML operations. That isn’t correct. The NOLOGGING feature never affects redo generation
for regular INSERT, UPDATE, MERGE, and DELETE statements.
One downside to reducing redo generation is that you can’t recover the data created via NOLOGGING in the event
a failure occurs after the data is loaded (and before you back up the table). If you can tolerate some risk of data
loss, then use NOLOGGING but back up the table soon after the data is loaded. If your data is critical, then don’t use
NOLOGGING with direct path operations. If your data can be easily recreated, then NOLOGGING is desirable when you’re
trying to improve performance of large data loads.
What happens if you have a media failure after you’ve populated a table in NOLOGGING mode (and before you’ve
made a backup of the table)? After a restore and recovery operation, it will appear that the table has been restored:

SQL> desc emp;


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However, when executing a query that scans every block in the table, an error is thrown.

SQL> select * from emp;

This indicates that there is logical corruption in the datafile:

ORA-01578: ORACLE data block corrupted (file # 4, block # 147)
ORA-01110: data file 4: '/u01/dbfile/O12C/users01.dbf'
ORA-26040: Data block was loaded using the NOLOGGING option

As the prior output indicates, the data in the table is unrecoverable. Use NOLOGGING only in situations where the
data isn’t critical or in scenarios where you can back up the data soon after it was created.

■■Tip If you’re using RMAN to back up your database, you can report on unrecoverable datafiles via the REPORT
UNRECOVERABLE command.

There are some quirks of NOLOGGING that need some explanation. You can specify logging characteristics at the
database, tablespace, and object levels. If your database has been enabled to force logging, then this overrides any
NOLOGGING specified for a table. If you specify a logging clause at the tablespace level, it sets the default logging for
any CREATE TABLE statements that don’t explicitly use a logging clause.
You can verify the logging mode of the database as follows:

SQL> select name, log_mode, force_logging from v$database;

The next statement verifies the logging mode of a tablespace:

SQL> select tablespace_name, logging from dba_tablespaces;

And this example verifies the logging mode of a table:

SQL> select owner, table_name, logging from dba_tables where logging = 'NO';

How do you tell whether Oracle logged redo for an operation? One way is to measure the amount of redo
generated for an operation with logging enabled vs. operating in NOLOGGING mode. If you have a development
environment for testing, you can monitor how often the redo logs switch while the transactions are taking place.
Another simple test is to measure how long the operation takes with and without logging. The operation performed
in NOLOGGING mode should occur faster because a minimal amount of redo is generated during the load.

1-8. Efficiently Removing Table Data
Problem
You’re experiencing performance issues when deleting data from a table. You want to remove data as efficiently as possible.

Solution
You can use either the TRUNCATE statement or the DELETE statement to remove records from a table. TRUNCATE is usually
more efficient but has some side effects that you must be aware of. For example, TRUNCATE is a DDL statement. This means
Oracle automatically commits the statement (and the current transaction) after it runs, so there is no way to roll back a
TRUNCATE statement. Because a TRUNCATE statement is DDL, you can’t truncate two separate tables as one transaction.

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This example uses a TRUNCATE statement to remove all data from a table:

SQL> truncate table emp;

When truncating a table, by default all space is de-allocated for the table except the space defined by the
MINEXTENTS table-storage parameter. If you don’t want the TRUNCATE statement to de-allocate the currently allocated
extents, then use the REUSE STORAGE clause:

SQL> truncate table emp reuse storage;

You can query the DBA/ALL/USER_EXTENTS views to verify if the extents have been de-allocated (or not)—for example:

SQL> select count(*) from user_extents where segment_name = 'EMP';

It’s also worth mentioning here that the TRUNCATE statement is often used when working with partitioned
tables. Especially when archiving obsolete data and therefore no longer need information in a particular partition.
For example, the following efficiently removes data from a particular partition without impacting other partitions
within the table:

SQL> alter table f_sales truncate partition p_2012; 

How It Works
If you need the option of choosing to roll back (instead of committing) when removing data, then you should use the
DELETE statement. However, the DELETE statement has the disadvantage that it generates a great deal of undo and redo
information. Thus for large tables, a TRUNCATE statement is usually the most efficient way to remove data.
Another characteristic of the TRUNCATE statement is that it sets the high-water mark of a table back to zero.
Oracle defines the high-water mark of a table as the boundary between used and unused space in a segment.
When you create a table, Oracle allocates a number of extents to the table, defined by the MINEXTENTS table-storage
parameter. Each extent contains a number of blocks. Before data are inserted into the table, none of the blocks have
been used, and the high-water mark is zero. As data are inserted into a table, and extents are allocated, the high-water
mark boundary is raised.
When you use a DELETE statement to remove data from a table, the high-water mark doesn’t change. One advantage
of using a TRUNCATE statement and resetting the high-water mark is that full table scan queries search only for rows in
blocks below the high-water mark. This can have significant performance implications for queries that perform full
table scans.
Another side effect of the TRUNCATE statement is that you can’t truncate a parent table that has a primary key
defined that is referenced by an enabled foreign-key constraint in a child table—even if the child table contains zero
rows. In this scenario, Oracle will throw this error when attempting to truncate the parent table:

ORA-02266: unique/primary keys in table referenced by enabled foreign keys

Oracle prevents you from truncating the parent table because in a multiuser system, there is a possibility that
another session can populate the child table with rows in between the time you truncate the child table and the time
you subsequently truncate the parent table. In this situation, you must temporarily disable the child table–referenced
foreign-key constraints, issue the TRUNCATE statement, and then re-enable the constraints.
Compare the TRUNCATE behavior to that of the DELETE statement. Oracle does allow you to use the DELETE
statement to remove rows from a parent table while the constraints are enabled that reference a child table
(assuming there are zero rows in the child table). This is because DELETE generates undo, is read-consistent,
and can be rolled back. Table 1-5 summarizes the differences between DELETE and TRUNCATE.

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