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Free Webinar – How Oracle Works!

Next Tuesday (19th September) I am doing a free webinar for ProHuddle. It lasts under an hour and is an introduction to how some of the core parts of the Oracle RDBMS work, I call it “The Heart of Oracle: How the Core RDBMS Works”. Yes, I try and explain all of the core Oracle RDBMS in under an hour! I’m told I just about manage it. You can see details of the event and register for it here. I’ve done this talk a few times at conferences now and I really like doing it, partly as it seems to go down so well and people give me good feedback about it (and occasionally bad feedback, but I’ll get on to that).

The full table scan direct path read decision for version 12.2

This post is about the decision the Oracle database engine makes when it is using a full segment scan approach. The choices the engine has is to store the blocks that are physically read in the buffercache, or read the blocks into the process’ PGA. The first choice is what I refer to as a ‘buffered read’, which places the block in the database buffercache so the process itself and other processes can bypass the physical read and use the block from the cache, until the block is evicted from the cache. The second choice is what is commonly referred to as ‘direct path read’, which places the blocks physically read into the process’ PGA, which means the read blocks are stored for only a short duration and is not shared with other processes.

Friday Philosophy – Sometime The Solution Has To Not Only Match The Problem But Also…

…The People!

When you design a system for end users, a good designer/developer considers the “UX” – User eXperience. The system has to be acceptable to the end user. This is often expressed as “easy to use” or “fun” or “Quick”. But in reality, the system can fail in all sort of ways but still be a success if the end user gets something out of using it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again until I give up on this career. In my opinion:

User Acceptance is the number one aim of any I.T. system.

Postgresql block internals

This blogpost is the result of me looking into how postgres works, and specifically the database blocks. The inspiration and essence of this blogpost comes from two blogs from Jeremiah Peschka: and
I am using Oracle Linux 7u3 and postgres 9.6 (current versions when this blogpost was written).

Postgres is already installed, and a database cluster is already running. Let’s create a database ‘test’ for the sake of our tests:

$ createdb test

Once the database is created, logging on is done with ‘psql’:

It’s just bad code or bad design … most of the time

Some years ago I wrote an article for the UKOUG magazine called “Want a faster database – Take a drive on the M25”.  For those not familiar with the United Kingdom, the M25 is one of its busiest roads (M = “motorway”) and because it moves so much traffic, and runs so close to capacity, it has often been referred to as “the world’s largest car park”.  Many people have probably spent a good part of their lives on the M25 Smile  I used the M25 as a metaphor for how database professionals can focus on the wrong things when trying to solve a performance problem, such as:

“I’m stuck in traffic…perhaps a faster car will help”

ie, throwing CPU at a problem that is not CPU bound will not help things, or

“I’m stuck in traffic…it must be the width of the paint on the lane markings”


An interesting observation appeared recently as a side-channel on a question on the OTN database forum – how does Oracle execute an unpivot() operation. Here’s an example of such a query:

Instrumentation … not just for debugging

Yeah I know.  You’re probably thinking “Here’s another blog post from someone telling us how important it is to instrument our code, so we can get better debugging, better performance, blah blah blah”.

Quiz Night

If this is the closing section of thetkprof output from the trace file of a single end-user session that has a performance problem, what’s the most obvious deduction you can make about the cause of the problem, and what sort of action would you take next ?

SUM is better than DISTINCT

There is a good chance that (based on this blog post title) that you’re expecting a post on SQL, and that’s understandable. But I’ll come clean nice and early – that was just to lure you in Smile

The post is about SUM and DISTINCT, but not in the technical sense.


A recent posting on the OTN database forum described a problem with an insert (as select) statement that sometimes ran extremely slowly: nothing interesting yet, there could be plenty of boring reasons for that to happen. The same SQL statement (by SQL_ID) might take 6 hours to insert 300K rows one night while taking just a few minutes to insert 900K another night (still nothing terribly interesting).