Query tuning by waste minimization: a real-life example

Today I’d like to share another tuning example from a recent case at work, which in my opinion is good for illustrating typical steps involved in SQL optimization process.

I was handed a poorly performing query with a relatively verbose text, so I will only give the general structure here (it will also prevent me from accidentally disclosing some sensitive information from that application):

Continue reading “Query tuning by waste minimization: a real-life example”

Tuning very complex SQL

Troubleshooting relatively short plans is simple, once one gets a little practice, but the mere sight of a plan that has several tens or even hundred operations can be very initimidating. In this post I am describing a few tricks that make this task easier.

First of all, use V$SQL_PLAN/V$SQL_PLAN_STATISTICS instead of (or in addition to) the formatted plan produced by DBMS_XPLAN

For example, in DBMS_XPLAN output for a long plan it is hard to figure out relationships between operations, but it is very straightforward to figure them out by querying V$SQL_PLAN, e.g.:

select *
from v$sql_plan p
where sql_id = :sql_id
and id = :op_id
and P.PARENT_ID = :operation_id;

If the statement is a join of several views, and the optimizer doesn’t merge the views, then it is convenient to check which views are contributing to the performance problem the most, e.g.:

select  object_name, s.last_cr_buffer_gets
from v$sql_plan p,
     v$sql_plan_statistics s
where p.sql_id = s.sql_id
and p.child_number = s.child_number
and P.ID = s.operation_id
and p.sql_id = :sql_id
and p.child_number = :child_no
and p.operation = 'VIEW'
order by S.LAST_CR_BUFFER_GETS desc;

Continue reading “Tuning very complex SQL”

Efficiency-based SQL tuning


In order to tune a query, you need to know two things:
– can it be tuned, and if yes, then by how much
– which part of the query (which operation, or which data object) is most promising from the tuning point of view.

Currently existing tuning methods don’t really answer these questions. You either focus on the most expensive operation(s), and hope that you can eliminate them (or transform them into something less cosly), or you focus on the ones where you see a large discrepancy between actual rowcounts and optimizer predictions (cardinality feedback tuning). Either way, you can’t be sure that you’ve set your priorities right. It could well be the case that the cost of the most expensive operation cannot be reduced by much, but you can win back enough performance elsewhere. With the cardinality feedback tuning, you also don’t have any guarantee that improving accuracy of optimizer estimates would eventually transform into acceptable level of performance.

Of course, if the plan only contains a few operations, this is not a big issue, and after a few trials you will usually get to the bottom of the problem. However, when dealing with very complex plans, hundreds operations long, this is not really an option. When dealing with such plans a few months back, I developed for myself a simple tuning method that allows to evaluate with high accuracy potential tuning benefits of plan operations, using rowsource stats and optimizer as input. In this post, I’m sharing this method, as well as a script that implements it.

Continue reading “Efficiency-based SQL tuning”

SQL efficiency

Bad plan or something else?

The first step in any tuning activity is determining the scope of an issue — so if a query is not performing satisfactory, then the first question is whether it’s query’s execution plan or something else (e.g. a global database issue or even a problem external to the database). Full diagnostics may be time-consuming or even inaccessible, so it’s desirable to resolve this question by just looking at the query and its basic statistics. There is a method of doing that using SQL efficiency, and in this post I’m going to describe it.

The method is not my invention. I read about it in Christian Antognini’s book “Troubleshooting Oracle Performance”, but in fact I was using it in a slightly different form long before. Continue reading “SQL efficiency”


In this post, I continue on the topic of examining SQL plans. I will talk about one DBMS_XPLAN function, DISPLAY_CURSOR (because it’s probably the most useful one when troubleshooting ongoing performance issues, and also because other functions have a lot of similiarity to it). I will discuss frequently used options and some common problems.


As already mentioned in my previous post on the subject, using DBMS_XPLAN to display rowsource stats requires a bit of preparation. Namely, one needs to either set STATISTICS_LEVEL parameter to ALL (can be done on the session level), or use gather_plan_statistics hint in the query, and then run the query.

Usage DBMS_XPLAN.display_cursor

Once the statement is executed, the plan with row source statistics can be obtained in a convenient format using DBMS_XPLAN.display_cursor.

DBMS_XPLAN.display_cursor takes three parameters, all of which are optional:


Reading SQL plans

SQL tuning is the key to database performance tuning, and yet this seems to be a “blind spot” for many database specialists. I think it’s probably because it falls right on the boundary between DBA’s and developer’s responsibilities: so while a DBA expects database developers take care of performance while developing code, developers often neglect that, relying on a “develop first, let the DBA tune it later” approach. Also, until recently, there were surprisingly few good (and accessible to a newbie) descriptions of how to read a SQL plan.

Now that we have Chritian Antognini’s great book “Troubleshooting Oracle Performance”, the situation has improved dramatically. But still, I think that a blog post on that subject won’t hurt: after all, it’s free and it’s written by someone who still remembers difficulty his first analyzing SQL plans. :)

Continue reading “Reading SQL plans”