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Session-level statspack

Statspack is a useful tool for easily gathering and reporting some Oracle’s historical workload statistics. However it has its limitations and problems:

One of them that in past it used to record only Oracle statistics, measured from inside Oracle. This made Oracle and people using Oracle ignore other crucial statistics like OS workload below Oracle. For example statspack may show you heavy latch contention as the performance problem, while looking at vmstat output one would see that the server just has been heavily overloaded with numerous other jobs (like multiple backup, export and compress jobs overrunning their run-window) and the latch contention is just a symptom of CPU starvation.

This has been somewhat addressed by adding V$OSSTAT to Oracle 10g and statspack now gathers this info as well. Now we need people to start looking into those stats.

Another problem with statspack is which is described in Dan Fink’s blog, about cursor-level CPU accounting limitations before 10gR2.

However neither of those problems are the main limitations of statspack. The main problem is that statspack samples it’s statistic snapshots from system level views like V$SYSSTAT and V$SYSTEM_EVENT. If every single session in your database is performing exactly the same (kind) of operation, then system level aggregates might be quite OK to get an overview what’s going on in the database. But from the moment you start having different kind of sessions (e.g. OLTP vs batch vs data feed vs report) in your database, then system level aggregates used by statspack do heavily distort what the reality looks like for specific sessions.

There’s another gotcha – by default statspack excludes the “SQL*Net message from client” wait event from main report section, stating that it is not important to look into idle events. However by that we will throw away an important piece of information when diagnosing end-to-end performance, the end user experience. The bad thing is that even if we did include the SQL*Net wait event in our reports (by deleting the corresponding row from STATS$IDLE_EVENT), then we would still have no idea how many of those gazillions of system-wide SQL*Net client wait seconds do belong to our specific session or user.

Statspack doesn’t measure session-experience, it just gives you a system-wide aggregate, which cannot be translated back to individual session statistics (just as you can not convert a hash value back to original value – most of the information is just lost!).

How to get session-level detailed overview of database performance, with historical reporting capability then?

Oracle 10g addresses this partially with ASH and AWR and DBMS_MONITOR’s selective statistic sampling (Search for V$SERV_MOD_ACT_STATS).

While ASH and AWR are both awesome products, they are not usable in Standard Edition nor before 10g ( you may want to check out Kyle Hailey’s ASH simulator instead ) and for using them you need to pay a separate license fee.

So let me introduce my attempt to solve those problems ( NB! Free stuff!!! ;):

  • The poor-man’s version of Automatic Workload Repository: It’s called… um… Semi-Automatic Workload Repository :)
  • The clever-man’s addition to statspack, which takes session-level snapshots: In other words, Sesspack.

The idea is very simple, just take snapshots of V$SESSION_EVENT and some V$SESSTAT (and V$SESS_TIME_MODEL in 10g) statistics and store those in a repository just like statspack does. Snapshots are taken using sesspack.snap_xyz procedures. As a parameter to these procedures I can pass a specific SID, a group of SIDs, a Oracle db username a OS-username or whatever filtering fields can be found from V$SESSION.

Once you have taken your snapshots when running the workload, you can run a report which calculates statistic and wait event deltas between snapshots and that it.

A demo?