In AWR analysis, what appears to be the root cause of the issue, can easily turn out to be just a symptom. Last week, Rajat sent me an AWR report which is a perfect illustration of this (thanks Rajat), I posted the key sections from this report below (sorry for less than perfect formatting — I had to manually re-format the HTML version of the report into text).
WORKLOAD REPOSITORY report for DB Name DB Id Instance Inst num Release RAC Host DSS 37220993 dss 1 10.2.0.4.0 NO dssdbnz Snap Id Snap Time Sessions Cursors/Session Begin Snap: 18471 12-Oct-12 08:30:28 131 1.5 End Snap: 18477 12-Oct-12 14:30:24 108 1.8 Elapsed: 359.93 (mins) DB Time: 25,730.14 (mins) Load Profile Per Second Per Transaction Redo size: 325,282.85 103,923.02 Logical reads: 33,390.52 10,667.77 Block changes: 1,307.95 417.87 Physical reads: 1,927.33 615.75 Physical writes: 244.65 78.16 User calls: 391.34 125.03 Parses: 68.14 21.77 Hard parses: 3.33 1.06 Sorts: 47.86 15.29 Logons: 3.15 1.01 Executes: 234.32 74.86 Transactions: 3.13 % Blocks changed per Read: 3.92 Recursive Call %: 61.11 Rollback per transaction %: 24.71 Rows per Sort: 3325.52 Top 5 Timed Events Event Waits Time(s) Avg Wait(ms) % Total Call Time Wait Class free buffer waits 10,726,838 344,377 32 22.3 Configuration db file sequential read 6,122,262 335,366 55 21.7 User I/O db file scattered read 3,597,607 305,576 85 19.8 User I/O CPU time 161,491 10.5 read by other session 2,572,875 156,821 61 10.2 User I/O Operating System Statistics Statistic Total AVG_BUSY_TIME 2,093,109 AVG_IDLE_TIME 63,212 AVG_IOWAIT_TIME 18,463 AVG_SYS_TIME 87,749 AVG_USER_TIME 2,004,722 BUSY_TIME 16,749,988 IDLE_TIME 510,692 IOWAIT_TIME 152,594 SYS_TIME 707,137 USER_TIME 16,042,851 LOAD 4 OS_CPU_WAIT_TIME ############### RSRC_MGR_CPU_WAIT_TIME 0 VM_IN_BYTES 5,503,492,096 VM_OUT_BYTES 2,054,414,336 PHYSICAL_MEMORY_BYTES 34,288,209,920 NUM_CPUS 8 NUM_CPU_SOCKETS 8
The first thing that leaps into the eye is the I/O problem which manifests itself via free buffer waits and abnormally high average times for I/O-related events: 55 ms for sequential file read (!) and 85 ms for scattered file reads (!!) is 10-20 times more than normal. That alone should be enough to bring any application to its knees.
So the next question is what could have caused all this. It’s possible that this abnormality stems from a hardware failure or a misconfiguration in the I/O subsystem, so it would make sense to contact the SA and ask him to check the I/O stats from his angle. However, if we look a bit further in the AWR report, we will find yet another problem:
BUSY_TIME 16,749,988 IDLE_TIME 510,692
i.e. the CPU was 97% busy (!!) during an 6-hour interval (!!!). Now that we have established that both I/O and CPUs were bottlenecks, it’s quite unlikely that the two problems are unrelated to each other. Most probably, there is a causality link between them, but what is the cause and what is the consequence? An I/O problem is unlikely to affect the CPU, but the inverse is possible. If all CPUs on the system are busy, then it can take forever for the OS to complete an O/S request, and eventually the entire system virtually comes to a standstill.
But that’s not yet the end of the story; it would be also nice to know why the CPU usage went up so dramatically, so let’s take at “SQL ordered by CPU time” section of the report (column names and sql id’s have been obfuscated upon the sender’s request):
CPU Time (s)Elapsed Time (s) Executions CPU per Exec (s) % Total DB TimeSQL Id SQL Module SQL Text 78,629 390,095 6 13104.92 25.27 b3p2r2asdfyf SQL*Plus SELECT ABC_XYZ || '#'|| ZO... 5,302 21,053 0 1.36 0vpp40n6p6zq5 SQL*Plus SELECT ABC_XYZ || '#'|| ZO... 5,238 21,042 0 1.36 2y03w8vc4uz4c SQL*Plus SELECT ABC_XYZ || '#'|| ZO... 5,230 21,053 0 1.36 8pcz31gc88vba SQL*Plus SELECT ABC_XYZ || '#'|| ZO... 4,976 18,853 1 4975.57 1.22 asd0tw7sj5pxv SQL*Plus SELECT ABC_XYZ || '#'|| ZO... 4,928 18,863 1 4928.05 1.22 4fdsaj175f4jk SQL*Plus SELECT ABC_XYZ || '#'|| ZO... 4,356 21,049 0 1.36 1w1fasdff0av SQL*Plus SELECT ABC_XYZ || '#'|| ZO...
We can see that one statement is responsible for about 50% of the CPU utilization during the analyzed period, and a bunch of very similar statements (which probably only differ by values of literals) is responsible for at least yet another 15%.
So everything is pointing to the top statement as the sole culprit of the entire issue — and indeed, after I was provided additional information about that statement, I saw that its plan flipped right around the time of the incident. If I had access to the database, I would’ve pursued the matter further — e.g. by using dbms_xplan.display_awr to see the different plans and dbms_stats.diff_table_stats_in_history to see what changes in statistics may have provoked this change.
This post hopefully illustrates following points:
1) CPU starvation has many different appearance, among other things, it can look like an I/O issue
2) Don’t jump to conclusions. After finding a symptom, resist the temptation to pronounce it the root cause of the problem. Note that in this specific case if we decided that the I/O problem was the root cause, then we most likely would have proceeded to “SQL ordered by reads” section of the report rather than “SQL ordered by CPU time”, which doesn’t point in the right direction (the culprit query isn’t anywhere near the top in that list)
3) Oracle databases contain tons of diagnostic information which allow to identify the root cause of almost any performance problem in great detail. You don’t have to settle for a vague answer like “something’s wrong with the I/O subsystem” or “the workload was probably higher”.
Update: I spotted an error in my CPU time calculation: 6 hours is not 216,000 s, but 21,6000. With this taken into account, busy_time is almost exactly equal to NUM_CPUS x elapsed_time, and we don’t even to refer to os_cpu_wait_time to know that there was CPU starvation — so I’ve removed that part from my post.