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Comparing Columns Containing NULL Values

Prompted by a (not really that) recent discussion on the OTN forum I've decided to publish this note.Sometimes you have the task of comparing column values and handling the NULL value cases correctly makes this rather cumbersome for columns that are allowed to be NULL.The "official" SQL way of comparing two column values and to find out whether they are equal or not - under the assumption that having NULL in both columns should be treated as equal (a point that can be argued) would read in SQL something like the following for the "unequal" case:

column1 != column2 or (column1 is null and column2 is not null) or (column1 is not null and column2 is null)


New Version Of XPLAN_ASH Utility

A new version 4.23 of the XPLAN_ASH utility is available for download.

As usual the latest version can be downloaded here.

This version comes only with minor changes, see the change log below.

Here are the notes from the change log:

- Finally corrected the very old and wrong description of "wait times" in the script comments, where it was talking about "in-flight" wait events but that is not correct. ASH performs a "fix-up" of the last 255 samples or so and updates them with the time waited, so these wait events are not "in-flight"

- Removed some of the clean up code added in 4.22 to the beginning of the script, because it doesn't really help much but spooled script output always contained these error messages about non-existent column definitions being cleared

DML Operations On Partitioned Tables Can Restart On Invalidation

It's probably not that well known that Oracle can actually rollback / re-start the execution of a DML statement should the cursor become invalidated. By rollback / re-start I mean that Oracle actually performs a statement level rollback (so any modification already performed by that statement until that point gets rolled back), performs another optimization phase of the statement on re-start (due to the invalidation) and begins the execution of the statement from scratch.

New Version Of XPLAN_ASH Utility

A new version 4.22 of the XPLAN_ASH utility is available for download.

As usual the latest version can be downloaded here.

This version primarily addresses an issue with 12c - if the HIST mode got used to pull ASH information from AWR in 12c it turned out that Oracle forgot to add the new "DELTA_READ_MEM_BYTES" columns to DBA_HIST_ACTIVE_SESS_HISTORY - although it got officially added to V$ACTIVE_SESSION_HISTORY in 12c. So now I had to implement several additional if/then/else constructs to the script to handle this inconsistency. It's the first time that the HIST view doesn't seem to reflect all columns from the V$ view - very likely an oversight rather than by design I assume.

Auto SGA Management Impacts the Default Value of DB_FILE_MULTIBLOCK_READ_COUNT

The database engine determines the maximum disk I/O size used during multiblock reads (for example, full table scans or index fast full scans) by multiplying the values of the db_block_size and db_file_multiblock_read_count initialization parameters. The db_file_multiblock_read_count initialization parameter can be set explicitly, or, as of version 10.2, it’s also possible to instruct the database engine to automatically configure it. For the latter, simply don’t set it.

About the value which is automatically determined by the database engine the Oracle Database 12c Reference Guide gives us the following information:

Foreign Keys and Library Cache Locks

In this post I would like to describe a behavior of Oracle Database that, at least for me, isn’t obvious at all. Actually, it’s something that I can’t explain why it works in that way.

Let’s start by setting the scene by describing the schema I’m using for the following tests. As you can see from the image, there are three tables: one table (PARENT) that is referenced by two other tables (CHILD1 and CHILD2). Schema used for the tests In my case every table is owned by a different schema (P, C1 and C2 respectively). But, the behavior I describe is independent from that fact (i.e. it works in the same way if all tables are owned by the same schema). If you are interested, here is the SQL*Plus script I used to create them.

Parallel Projection

A recent case at a client reminded me of something that isn't really new but not so well known - Oracle by default performs evaluation at the latest possible point in the execution plan.So if you happen to have expressions in the projection of a simple SQL statement that runs parallel it might be counter-intuitive that by default Oracle won't evaluate the projection in the Parallel Slaves but in the Query Coordinator - even if it was technically possible - because the latest possible point is the SELECT operation with the ID = 0 of the plan, which is always performed by the Query Coordinator.Of course, if you make use of expressions that can't be evaluated in parallel or aren't implemented for parallel evaluation, then there is no other choice than doing this in the Query Coordinator.The specific case in question was a generic expo

Temp Table Transformation Cardinality Estimates - 2

Continuing from the previous part - which was about the Temp Table Transformation and join cardinality estimates - using the same simple table setup here is a slight variation of the previously used query to demonstrate the potential impact on single table cardinality estimates:

explain plan for
cte as (
select /* inline */ id from t1 t
where 1 = 1
select /*+
no_merge(a) no_merge(b)
*/ * from cte a, cte b
where =
and > 990 and > 990

-- 11.2.0.x Plan with TEMP transformation

Temp Table Transformation Cardinality Estimates - 1

Having published recently two notes about the Temp Table Transformation highlighting the heuristics based decision and other weaknesses, for example regarding the projection of columns, it's time to publish some more notes about it.The transformation can also have significant impact on cardinality estimates, both join and single table cardinality.Looking at the difference in the join cardinality estimates of following simple example:

create table t1
rownum as id
, mod(rownum, 10) + 1 as id2
, rpad('x', 100) as filler
connect by
level <= 1000

Heuristic Temp Table Transformation - 2

Some time ago I've demonstrated the non-cost based decision for applying the temp table transformation when using CTEs (Common Table/Subquery Expressions). In this note I want to highlight another aspect of this behaviour.Consider the following data creating a table with delibrately wide columns:

create table a
rownum as id
, rownum as id2
, rpad('x', 4000) as large_vc1
, rpad('x', 4000) as large_vc2
, rpad('x', 4000) as large_vc3
connect by
level <= 1000

exec dbms_stats.gather_table_stats(null, 'a')