Explain the Explain Plan: Access Methods

At the end of last year, I began a blog series on reading and interpreting Oracle execution plans. In this week’s post, I will tackle the aspect of execution plans that I get the most questions about, Access Methods.

What are Oracle Access Paths or Methods?

Access Methods or Access Paths are the techniques used by Oracle to access the data needed to answer a query. Access Methods can be divided into two categories; data accessed via a table scan or index access. You can find the individual Access Methods chosen by the Optimizer are visible in the Operations column of an Execution table.

How Many Access Paths are available to the Optimizer?

Oracle supports nine different Access Methods today, as shown in the image below.

When will the Optimizer choose each of these methods, and what can I do to influence that decision?

To clearly explain how each of the Access Methods works and when it will be chosen, I’ve created a short video.

What if I don’t get the Access Method I want?

If the Access Method you see in an execution plan is not what you expect, check the cardinality estimates for that object are correct, and the join order allows the access method you desire. Remember, Optimizer transformations (the rewriting of your query to open up additional access methods) can also greatly impact the Access Method.

Wishing you all the very best this holiday season!

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. I hope wherever you are, you have an opportunity to relax and recharge as we head into the holiday season and I look forward to sharing more technical posts and videos in the New Year!

 

Oracle Database 21c is now available on the Oracle Cloud

It looks like the holidays have come early this year for those of you with an Oracle Cloud account because starting today you can now create an Oracle 21c database!

That’s right, Oracle Database 21c is now production in the Oracle Cloud on the Oracle Cloud Database Service and the Autonomous Database Free Tier Service in Ashburn (IAD), Phoenix (PHX), Frankfurt (FRA) and London (LHR) regions. General availability of Oracle Database 21c for on-prem platforms (including Exadata, Linux and Windows) will be in 2021.

Creating a 21c Oracle Autonomous Database on the Always Free Tier

New features in Oracle Database 21c include Blockchain tables, SQL Macros (checkout the LiveSQL lab), a Native JSON datatype, In-Memory Hybrid Scans (using the in-memory column store like an index) and the ability to execute JavaScript inside the Oracle Database!

More details on what to expect from Oracle Database 21c can be found on the main Oracle Database Blog or in the Oracle Database Documentation.

If you don’t have an Oracle Cloud account yet, you can always sign-up for an Oracle Always Free Tier account at https://www.oracle.com/cloud/free/

SQL Tuning Tips You Can’t Do Without

Last week I had the pleasure to present at the aioug Sangam 20 on one of my favorite topics, SQL Tuning.

Often we are lead to believe you need a degree in wizardry to be able to tune sub-optimal SQL statement but in reality, you usually just need to know where to look.

In the session, I look at four different SQL statements that have sub-optimal plans and share details on where I look for information to help me understand why. Once I know the root cause of a problem, it’s easy to apply the appropriate solution.

For those who couldn’t make the session in person, you can download the slides here.

Explain the Explain Plan: Cardinality Estimates

In last week’s post, I began a series on how to read and interpret Oracle execution plans by explaining what an execution plan is and how to generate one. This week I’m going to tackle the most important piece of information the Optimizer shares with you via the execution plan, it’s cardinality estimates.

What is a Cardinality Estimate?

A cardinality estimate is the estimated number of rows, the optimizer believes will be returned by a specific operation in the execution plan. The Optimizer determines the cardinality for each operation based on a complex set of formulas that use table and column level statistics as input (or the statistics derived by dynamic sampling). It’s considered the most important aspect of an execution plan because it strongly influences all of the other decisions the optimizer makes.

In part 4 of our series, I share some of the formulas used by the optimizer to estimate cardinalities, as well as showing you how to identify cardinalities in a plan. I also demonstrate multiple ways to determine if the cardinality estimates are accurate.

What can cause a Cardinality Misestimate and how do I fix it?

Several factors can lead to incorrect cardinality estimates even when the basic table and column statistics are up to date. In part 5 of our series, I explain the leading causes of cardinality misestimates and how you can address them.

Next weeks, instalment will be all about the different access methods available to the Optimizer and what you can do to encourage the optimizer to select the access method you want! Don’t forget more information on the Oracle Optimizer can always be found on the Optimizer blog.

Explaining the Explain Plan – How to Read and Interpret Execution Plans

 

Examining the different aspects of an execution plan, from cardinality estimates to parallel execution, and understanding what information you should glean from it can be overwhelming even for the most experienced DBA.

That’s why I’ve put together a series of short videos that will walk you through each aspect of the plan and explain what information you can find there and what to do if the plan isn’t what you were expecting.

What is an Execution Plan?

The series starts at the very beginning with a comprehensive overview of what an execution plan is and what information is displayed in each section. After all, you can’t learn to interpret what is happening in a plan, until you know what a plan actually is.

How to Generate an Execution Plan?

Although multiple different tools will display an Oracle Execution Plan for you, there really are only two ways to generate the plan. You can use the Explain Plan command, or you can view the execution plan of a SQL statement currently in the Cursor Cache using the dictionary view V$SQL_Plan. This session covers both techniques for you and provides insights into what additional information you can get the Optimizer to share with you when you generate a plan. It also explains why you don’t always get the same plan with each approach, as I discussed in an earlier post.

How to use DBMS_XPLAN to FORMAT an Execution Plan

The FORMAT parameter within the DBMS_XPLAN.DISPLAY_CURSOR function is the best tool to show you detailed information about a what’s happened in an execution plan including the bind variable values used, the actual number of rows returned by each step, and how much time was spent on each step.  I’ve also covered a lot of the content in this video in a previous post.

Part 2 of the series will cover Cardinality Estimates and what you can do to improve them!

Remember you can always get more information on the Oracle Optimizer on the Optimizer team’s blog.

How to read a Parallel Execution Plan in Oracle

The volume of data being stored in databases has grown exponentially in recent years. So too has the need to rapidly generate value or business insights from that data.

Parallel execution is the key to processing large volumes of diverse data quickly, as it subdivides complex tasks into a number of small tasks allowing multiple processes to accomplish a single complex task.

However, the use of parallelism can complicate the execution plan displayed. Oracle not only displays the operations needed to complete the SQL statement in the plan but all of the communication steps between the parallel server processes.

So, how should you go about interpreting a parallel execution plan?

In the video below, I give you a step by step guide on how to read parallel plans and what additional information you can glean from them!

How to setup VNCServer on an OCI VM?

Now we are all working from home, I’ve noticed that my MAC laptop is severely overloaded when I do live demos during webinars. After all, it’s running my camera, Zoom, PowerPoint, my Java app, and monitoring tools.

So, I decided it was time to move my demo environment to the Oracle Cloud, where I quickly provisioned a 2-OCPU VM running Linux following the instructions in my previous blog post.

Screen Shot 2020-08-11 at 12.56.23 PM

Once I had my VM up and running, I wanted a proper desktop experience, so I needed VNC.

After a quick google search, I found the video below, which provides a very easy to follow, step by step guide to installing and configuring TigerVNC VNCServer on OCI infrastructure. I followed all of these steps except for the final stage where they describe adding the VNCServer to your firewall.

I’m married to a security expert, who strongly advised against this approach. He told me it would be far more secure to use an SSH tunnel instead of opening the firewall for the VNC port.

Below the video are the full set of commands I used in my setup, including how to establish the ssh tunnel, so you can quickly cut and paste them.

Continue reading “How to setup VNCServer on an OCI VM?”

How to Provision a VM in the Oracle Cloud?

This blog post outlines the 10 simple steps necessary to provision, and connect to, a VM on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

          1. Confirm you have an SSH Public Key on your laptop or localhost.
            $ cd ~/.ssh
            — check if you have an existing if you have a key already
            $ ls
            id_rsa    id_rsa.pub    known_hosts

            You’re looking for a file named either id_dsa or id_rsa and a matching file with a .pub extension. The .pub file is your public key, and the other file is the corresponding private key. If you don’t have these files or you don’t remember your passphrase, you will need to complete the steps outlined here.NOTE: You can’t move on unless you have your SSH Public key.
          2. Connect to the OCI console to begin the provisioning process.
            From the hamburger menu in the upper left-hand corner select, the Compute menu item followed by the Instances option.
          3. On the Instances page, click the Create Instance button.
            Step3_begin_Create_instance_2
          4. Specify a unique name for your instance and accept the default Oracle Linux image.
            Step4_name_instance
          5. Scroll down and click on the Change Shape button.
            Step5_change_shape
          6. To run my demos I typically use Swingbench, which needs a minimum of 2 OCPUs (4 OCPUs if you use the JSON workload). So, I select a Virtual Machine with Intel Skylake processors and  2 OCPUs. Then click the Select Shape button.
            Step6_pick_shape
          7. I use the automatic defaults in the Configure Networking and Boot Volume sections and move on to the SSH Key section.Here I select Paste SSH Keys and cut and paste my public key from my .ssh directory into the window provided.
            Picture7_ssh_key
          8. Finally hit the Create button at the end of the page.
          9. Instantly you will see a new VM is being provisioned for you. Once available, you can connect to the machine using the public IP address and the user OPC. You will find the IP address, on the main Instance console page.Step9_connect
          10. Simply ssh into the machine from your laptop using the supplied OPC user.

            $ ssh opc@XXX.XXX.XX.XXX
            Enter passphrase for key '/Users/sqlmaria/.ssh/id_rsa':
            Last login: Tue Jul 28 16:39:35 2020 from XXXXX

How to use Oracle Database In-Memory for free!

Oracle recently announced a new free base level for the Oracle Database In-Memory Option, their real-time analytics capability. With the base level, you can allocate up to 16GB of memory to the In-Memory column store, per instance without having to have an addition In-Memory license. Larger column stores will still need the additional license. Continue reading “How to use Oracle Database In-Memory for free!”