Execution plans

Jonathan Lewis's picture

Hint Reports

Nigel Bayliss has posted a note about a frequently requested feature that has now appeared in Oracle 19c – a mechanism to help people understand what has happened to their hints.  It’s very easy to use, it’s just another format option to the “display_xxx()” calls in dbms_xplan; so I thought I’d run up a little demonstration (using an example I first generated 18 years and 11 versions ago) to make three points: first, to show the sort of report you get, second to show you that the report may tell you what has happened, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you why it has happened, and third to remind you that you should have stopped using the /*+ ordered */ hint 18 years ago.

I’ve run the following code on livesql:

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Transitive Closure

This is a follow-up to a note I wrote nearly 12 years ago, looking at the problems of transitive closure (or absence thereof) from the opposite direction. Transitive closure gives the optimizer one way of generating new predicates from the predicates you supply in your where clause (or, in some cases, your constraints); but it’s a mechanism with some limitations. Consider the following pairs of predicates:

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NULL predicate

People ask me from time to time if I’m going to write another book on the Cost Based Optimizer – and I think the answer has to be no because the product keeps growing so fast it’s not possible to keep up and because there are always more and more little details that might have been around for years and finally show up when someone asks me a question about some little oddity I’ve never noticed before.

The difficult with the “little oddities” is the amount of time you could spend trying to work out whether or not they matter and if it’s worth writing about them. Here’s a little example to show what I mean – first the data set:

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Case Study

A recent thread on the ODC database forum highlighted a case where the optimizer was estimating 83,000 for a particular index full scan when the SQL Monitor output for the operation showed that it was returning 11,000,000 rows.

Apart from the minor detail that the OP didn’t specifically ask a question, the information supplied was pretty good. The OP had given us a list of bind variables, with values, and the SQL statement, followed by the text output of the Monitor’ed SQL and, to get the predicate section of the plan, the output from a call to dbms_xplan. This was followed by the DDL for the critical index and a list of the stats for all the columns in the index.

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Shrink Space

I have never been keen on the option to “shrink space” for a table because of the negative impact it can have on performance.

I don’t seem to have written about it in the blog but I think there’s something in one of my books pointing out that the command moves data from the “end” of the table (high extent ids) to the “start” of the table (low extent ids) by scanning the table backwards to find data that can be moved and scanning forwards to find space to put it. This strategy can have the effect of increasing the scattering of the data that you’re interested in querying if most of your queries are about “recent” data, and you have a pattern of slowing deleting aging data. (You may end up doing a range scan through a couple of hundred table blocks for data at the start of the table that was once packed into a few blocks near the end of the table.)

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Table order

Over the last few days I’ve highlighted on Twitter a couple of older posts showing how a change in the order that tables appear in the from clause could affect the execution plan of a query. In one case the note was purely theoretical describing a feature of the way the optimizer works with simple query blocks, in the other case the note was about an anomaly with table elimination that could appear with both “ANSI” and “traditional” Oracle syntax.

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The title is the name of an Oracle hint that came into existence in Oracle and made an appearance recently in a question on the rarely used “My Oracle Support” Community forum (you’ll need a MOS account to be able to read the original). I wouldn’t have found it but the author also emailed me the link asking if I could take a look at it.  (If you want to ask me for help – without paying me, that is – then posting a public question in the Oracle (ODC) General Database or SQL forums and emailing me a private link is the strategy most likely to get an answer, by the way.)

The question was about a very simple query using a straightforward index – with a quirky change of plan after upgrading from to Setting the optimizer_features_enable to ‘’ in the system re-introduced the 10g execution plan. Here’s the query:

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Where / Having

There’s a very old mantra about the use of the “having” clause that tells us that if it’s valid (i.e. will always give the same results) then any predicate that could be moved from the having clause to the where clause should be moved. In recent versions of Oracle the optimizer will do this for itself in some cases but (for reasons that I’m not going to mention) I came across a silly example recently where a little manual editing produced a massive performance improvement.

Here’s a quick demo:

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Case Study

A question about reading execution plans and optimising queries arrived on the ODC database forum a little while ago; the owner says the following statement is taking 14 minutes to return 30,000 rows and wants some help understanding why.

If you look at the original posting you’ll see that we’ve been given the text of the query and the execution plan including rowsource execution stats. There’s an inconsistency between the supplied information and the question asked, and I’ll get back to that shortly, but to keep this note fairly short I’ve excluded the 2nd half of the query (which is a UNION ALL) because the plan says the first part of the query took 13 minutes and 20 second and the user is worried about a total of 14 minutes.

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Subquery Order

From time to time I’ve wanted to optimize a query by forcing Oracle to execute existence (or non-existence) subqueries in the correct order because I know which subquery will eliminate most data most efficiently, and it’s always a good idea to look for ways to eliminate early. I’ve only just discovered (which doing some tests on 18c) that Oracle introduced the /*+ order_subq() */ hint that seems to be engineered to do exactly that.

Here’s a very simple (and completely artificial) demonstration of use.

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