This is the first part of a series of posts that cover one of the fundamentals of the cost based optimizer in 9i and later. Understanding how the different system statistics modes work is crucial in making the most out of the cost based optimizer, therefore I'll attempt to provide some detailed explanations and samples about the formulas and arithmetics used. Finally I'll show (again) that using multiple block sizes for "tuning" purposes is a bad idea in general, along with detailed examples why I think this is so.
One of the deficiencies of the traditional I/O based costing was that it simply counted the number of I/O requests making no differentation between single-block I/O and multi-block I/O.
System statistics were introduced in Oracle 9i to allow the cost based optimizer to take into account that single-block I/Os and multi-block I/Os should be treated differently in terms of costing and to include a CPU component in the cost calculation.
The system statistics tell the cost based optimizer (CBO) among other things the time it takes to perform a single block read request and a multi-block read request. Given this information the optimizer ought to be able to come to estimates that better fit the particular environment where the database is running on and additionally use an appropriate costing for multi-block read requests that usually take longer than single block read requests. Given the information about the time it takes to perform the read requests the cost calculated can be turned into a time estimate.
The cost calculated with system statistics is still expressed in the same units as with traditional I/O based costing, which is in units of single-block read requests.