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Parse Solution

In the “Parse Puzzle” I posted a couple of days ago I showed a couple of extracts from an AWR report that showed contradictory results about the time the instance spent in parsing and hard parsing, and also showed an amazing factor of 4 difference between the DB Time and the “SQL ordered by Elapsed Time”. My example was modelling a real world anomaly I had come across, but was engineered to exaggerate the effect to make it easy to see what was going on.

The key feature was VPD (virtual private database) a.k.a. FGAC (find grained access control) or RLS (row-level security). I’ve created a “policy function” (the thing that generates the “security predicate”) to execute an extremely expensive SQL query; then I’ve created a policy with policy_type = ‘DYNAMIC’ so that the function gets executed every time a query against a particular table is executed. In fact my example holds three tables, and each table has its own policy function, and each policy function calls the same very expensive piece of SQL.

To see the effect this has on the AWR report I’ll now supply the contents of the “SQL ordered by Elapsed Time” and work through the list (though not in the order shown) explaining what each statement represents:

SQL ordered by Elapsed Time               DB/Inst: OR18/or18  Snaps: 2059-2060
-> Resources reported for PL/SQL code includes the resources used by all SQL
   statements called by the code.
-> % Total DB Time is the Elapsed Time of the SQL statement divided
   into the Total Database Time multiplied by 100
-> %Total - Elapsed Time  as a percentage of Total DB time
-> %CPU   - CPU Time      as a percentage of Elapsed Time
-> %IO    - User I/O Time as a percentage of Elapsed Time
-> Captured SQL account for  302.6% of Total DB Time (s):             158
-> Captured PL/SQL account for  101.7% of Total DB Time (s):             158

        Elapsed                  Elapsed Time
        Time (s)    Executions  per Exec (s)  %Total   %CPU    %IO    SQL Id
---------------- -------------- ------------- ------ ------ ------ -------------
           156.8              1        156.84   99.4   99.8     .0 1ubpdythth4q1
Module: SQL*Plus
select id, f_rls(n1, n2, n3) from fgac_base where rownum .le. 10                   -- edited to avoid WP  format issue

           156.8             33          4.75   99.3   99.8     .0 9dhvggqtk2mxh
Module: SQL*Plus
 select count(*) X from waste_cpu connect by n .gt. prior n start with n = 1       -- edited to avoid WP  format issue

            53.2             10          5.32   33.7   99.8     .0 5531kmrvrzcxy
Module: SQL*Plus

            53.2             11          4.83   33.7   99.8     .0 8g2uv26waqm8g
Module: SQL*Plus
begin :con := "FGAC_PACK"."FGAC_PREDICATE3"(:sn, :on); end;

            52.7             10          5.27   33.4   99.7     .0 awk070fhzd4vs
Module: SQL*Plus

            52.7             11          4.79   33.4   99.7     .0 c8pwn9j11gw5s
Module: SQL*Plus
begin :con := "FGAC_PACK"."FGAC_PREDICATE1"(:sn, :on); end;

            50.9             10          5.09   32.3   99.9     .0 964u0zv0rwpw1
Module: SQL*Plus

            50.9             11          4.63   32.3   99.9     .0 bgqf405f34u4v
Module: SQL*Plus
begin :con := "FGAC_PACK"."FGAC_PREDICATE2"(:sn, :on); end;

             2.8              1          2.79    1.8   98.4     .0 fhf8upax5cxsz
BEGIN sys.dbms_auto_report_internal.i_save_report (:rep_ref, :snap_id, :pr_class
, :rep_id, :suc); END;

             2.6              1          2.64    1.7   98.4     .0 0w26sk6t6gq98

             2.4              1          2.43    1.5   98.3     .0 1q1spprb9m55h


The first statement is an SQL statement that calls a PL/SQL function f_rls() for 10 consecutive rows in an “ordinary table”. This is the query that actuallly takes 157 seconds to complete as far as the client SQL Plus session is concerned.

The function (called 10 times) passed in three values n1, n2, n3. The function uses n1 to query table FGAC_REF1, n2 to query table FGAC_REF2, and n3 to query FGAC_REF3 – and we can see those three queries appearing as statements 5, 7, and 3 (in that order) in the output. The main query takes 157 seconds to complete because each of those statements takes approximately 52 seconds to complete 10 executions each.

But each of those three statements references a table with a policy that causes a predicate function to be executed for each parse and execute of the statement (one parse, 10 executes) and we can see 11 executions each of calls to fgac_pack.fgac_predicateN (N in 1,2,3), which take roughly 4.8 seconds each, for a total of about 52 seconds across 11 executions.

But those calls to the functions (11 each) all execute the same “connect by” query that appears as statement 2 in the list – for a total off 33 calls of a SQL statement that averages 4.75 seconds – and almost all of the “real” database time is in that 33 calls (33 * 4.75 = 156.75).

So we count 157 seconds because that’s the time spent in the “connect by” queries”, but we count that time again (but under PL/SQL execution) because it’s called from the policy functions, then count it again (under SQL execution) because the functions are called by the “select count(*) from fgac_refN” queries, then count it one final time (under SQL execution) for the driving query. This gives us a total 300% of the actual database time apparently being spent in SQL and 100% apparently being spent in PL/SQL.

You’ll notice that “real” optimisation of the SQL that does run would have taken just fractions of a second (as we saw in the Instance Activity Statistics); but one execution of the “connect by” query would have been associated with the first parse call of each of the fgac_refN queries, so 15 seconds of policy function / connect by query time would have been accounted under the parse time elapsed / hard parse time elapsed we saw in the Time Model statistics.

One of the strangest things about the reporting showed up in the ASH figures – which only ever managed to sample three SQL_IDs, reporting them as “on CPU” in every single sample, and those three SQL_IDs were for the “select count(*) from fgac_refN” queries; the “connect by” queries – the real consumer of CPU resource – didn’t get into the ASH sample at all.


I did two things to make an important anomaly very obvious – I added a CPU intensive query to the policy function so that it was easy to see where the time was really going, and I made the VPD policy_type “dynamic” so that the policy function would execute on every parse and execute against the underlying table.

In real life the typcial SQL called within a policy function is very lightweight, and policies tend to be declared with type “context_sensitive”, and this combination minimises the number of calls to the function and the cost of each call. Unfortunately there are 3rd party applications on the market that include complex PL/SQL frameworks in their policy functions and then have the application server reset the session context for every call to the database.

And that’s where I came in – looking at a system where 10% of the CPU was being spent on parsing that apparently couldn’t possibly be happening.