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Skip Scan

A recent question on OTN asked how you could model a case where Oracle had the choice between a “perfect” index for a range scan and an index that could be used for an index skip scan and choose the latter path even though it was clearly (to the human eye) the less sensible choice. There have been a number of wierd and wonderful anomalies with the index skip scan and bad choice over the years, and this particular case is just one of many oddities I have seen in the past – so I didn’t think it would be hard to model one (in fact, I thought I already had at least two examples somewhere in my library – but I couldn’t find them).

Xplan: now with “self” measures for row source operations

One of the most useful information that the Oracle kernel attaches to plans in the library cache are measures of various resource consumption figures, such as elapsed time, consistent and current gets, disk reads, etcetera. These can be made available for each plan line (aka "row source operation").

These figures are always cumulative, that is, include both the resource consumed by the line itself and all of its progeny. It is very often extremely useful to exclude the progeny from the measure, to get what we could name the "self" figure (following, of course, the terminology introduced by Cary Millsap and Jeff Holt in their famous book Optimizing Oracle Performance).

Compression Units – 5

The Enkitec Extreme Exadata Expo (E4) event is over, but I still have plenty to say about the technology. The event was a great success, with plenty of interesting speakers and presentations. As I said in a previous note, I was particularly keen to hear  Frits Hoogland’s comments  on Exadata and OLTP, Richard Foote on Indexes, and Maria Colgan’s comments on how Oracle is making changes to the optimizer to understand Exadata a little better.

All three presentations were interesting – but Maria’s was possiby the most important (and entertaining). In particular she told us about two patches for, one current and one that is yet to be released (unfortunately I forgot to take  note of the patch numbers).

Compression Units – 2

When I arrived in Edinburgh for the UKOUG Scotland conference a little while ago Thomas Presslie, one of the organisers and chairman of the committee, asked me if I’d sign up on the “unconference” timetable to give a ten-minute talk on something. So I decided to use Hybrid Columnar Compression to make a general point about choosing and testing features. For those of you who missed this excellent conference, here’s a brief note of what I said.

Free Webinar

In a couple of days, on Wednesday, 1st of August, I'll be presenting another free webinar hosted at

Although it is called "Oracle Cost-Based Optimizer Advanced Session", don't be mislead by the title.

It is not a truly "advanced" session, but rather I'll try to delve into various topics that I could only mention briefly or had to omit completely during the first webinar on the Cost-Based Optimizer.

In principle it's going to be a selection of the most recurring issues that I come across during my consultancy work:

- I'm going to spend some time on statistics and histograms in particular and what I believe are the most important aspects to understand regarding them

ANSI Outer 2

A comment on a recent post of mine pointed me to a question on the OTN SQL and PL/SQL Forum where someone had presented a well-written test case of an odd pattern of behaviour in ANSI SQL. I made a couple of brief comments on the thread, but thought it worth highlighting here as well. The scripts to create the required tables (plus a few extras) are all available on OTN. If you create only the four tables needed and all their indexes you will need about 1.3GB of space.

Random Plans

Have you ever felt that the optimizer was persecuting you by picking plans at random ? Perhaps you’re not paranoid, perhaps it’s part of Oracle Corp’s. master plan to take over the world. If you look closely at the list of hidden parameters you’ll find that some details of this cunning plan have leaked. In Oracle created a new parameter _optimizer_random_plan with the description “optimizer seed value for random plans”. Who knows what terrible effects we may see when the default value of this parameter changes.

Forced Cursor Sharing And Virtual Columns

So you have that application that cannot be changed but makes use of some weird expressions that screw up the cardinality estimates of the optimizer.

Consider this simple example:

create table t as select rownum as id , case when mod(rownum, 100000) = 0 then 'y' else 'n' end as flag , rpad('x', 100) as filler from dual connect by level <= 1000000 ; exec dbms_stats.gather_table_stats(null, 't', method_opt => 'for all columns size 1 for columns flag size 2', estimate_percent => 30) select flag, count(*) from t group by flag; explain plan for select count(*) from t where flag = 'y' ; set linesize 200 tab off pagesize 0 select * from table(dbms_xplan.display);


I have a permanent job at the NetCracker‘s System Performance group. Recently I was offered to do one day job outside, on-site in another company, which coincidentally has an office close to NetCracker’s Moscow office. It was an opportunity to apply my skills in a completely different situation which I couldn’t miss; plus I’ve never done public presentations before and this was a good occasion to practice that. Here I’d like to write down some notes how the event went.

Report Generators And Query Transformations

Usually the Cost-Based Optimizer arrives at a reasonable execution plan if it gets the estimates regarding cardinality and data scattering / clustering right (if you want to learn more about that why not watch my Webinar available at ""?).

Here is an example I've recently come across where this wasn't case - the optimizer obviously preferred plans with a significantly higher cost.

The setup to reproduce the issue is simple: