direct path read behavior in Oracle 11.2

Prior to 11g, whenever optimizer goes for full table scan, Oracle used to show “db file scattered read” as wait event. But starting from 11g, a full table scan can show (depending on certain conditions) “direct path read” wait event.

db file scattered read – happens when blocks for a table is read from datafile into buffer cache in SGA

direct path read – happens when blocks for a table is read from datafile into PGA

Problem with fetching data in db cache was, if table is big enough it will use many blocks in db cache causing performance issue. And if multiple SQLs are doing FTS (full table scan) then every session will try to use those blocks in buffer cache by acquiring the latch and can cause “cache buffer chain: latch” contention. This will spike CPU on the host.

With direct path read, block read from datafile goes to PGA and every session has its own chunk of memory allocated in PGA. So multiple sessions doing FTS on same table does not make situation as bad as it used to be with “db file scattered read”

There are certain conditions based on which oracle decides whether to go for direct path read or use buffer cache.
In the reference section, I have mentioned many good blog articles which discusses one or more of these behaviors.

_small_table_threshold

_small_table_threshold : This is a hidden parameter which helps server process decide whether to go for direct path read or buffer cache. Unit of this parameter is number of blocks and default value is 2% of buffer cache size.

DEO>@param
Enter Parameter name: _small_table

Parameter			                  Description						                           Session Va Instance V
------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ ---------- ----------
_small_table_threshold		          lower threshold level of table size for direct reads	       27107      27107

In my case this is set to 27107 blocks which is approximately 2% of my db_cache_size blocks (you need to convert db_cache_size in terms of Oracle blocks and take 2% of that value to arrive at default value).

If size of table (blocks below high water mark) is > _small_table_threshold then Oracle chooses to go for direct path read.
In many blog articles, its stated that if size of table is > 5 times _small_table_threshold then it goes for direct path read.

During my testing, I was not able to verify 5 times _small_table_threshold. Because as soon as table size if more than _small_table_threshold, it goes for direct path read. I have checked this behavior in 11.2.0.3 as well as in 11.2.0.4

Lets test the dependency of direct path read on this hidden parameter for partitioned as well as non-partitioned table

Non-Partitoned table

My Oracle version is 11.2.0.4. I have a non-partitioned table T1 created from DBA_OBJECTS. You can create any test table of significant size using any view in database or by using “CONNECT BY rownum<=” clause from dual. Gather stats on table.


DEO>select table_name, num_rows, blocks from dba_tables where table_name = 'T1';

TABLE_NAME			           NUM_ROWS   BLOCKS
------------------------------ ---------- ----------
T1				               91200	    3214

My table has 3214 blocks.

Setting _small_table_threshold to 5000


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold" = 5000;

Session altered.

Since table size is < _small_table_threshold, it should not go for direct path read. Instead we should see blocks going into db cache.
We can check which object’s blocks are placed in buffer cache using X$KCBOQH table. So when full table scan goes into db cache, we should be able to see the same using this table.

Lets flush the buffer cache to make sure nothing is present in buffer cache.


DEO>alter system flush buffer_cache;

System altered.

DEO>select count(*) from T1;

  COUNT(*)
----------
     91200

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93840	   3209

As shown above FTS has read all buffers in db cache.

Now, lets reduce _small_table_threshold to 3000 and flush buffer cache again.

DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=3000;

Session altered.

DEO>alter system flush buffer_cache;

System altered.

Since table size > _small_table_threshold, we should see direct path read.
We can verify if a session has done direct path read using statistics “physical reads direct” from v$sesstat
Following query shows the same. In this case my SID is 6531.

DEO>r
  1* select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    2

So current value of direct path read stats is 2 before reading from table. Lets read data from table


DEO>select count(*) from T1;

  COUNT(*)
----------
     91200

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    3210

We see that if table size is more than _small_table_threshold it has gone for direct path read.
We can also confirm if db cache has anything related to our table T1. Remember than we flushed buffer cache before running last query on T1 table.

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93840	      1

We can see 1 block in db cache which is the header block. Header block is always read in buffer cache.

Partitioned Table

In case of partitioned table same behavior was observed but _small_table_threshold is compared with partitions we are selecting instead of entire table.

I have created similar partitioned table with 4 partitions


CREATE TABLE T1_PART
(
    col1 NUMBER,
    col2 VARCHAR2(100)
 )
 PARTITION BY LIST (col1)
 (
    PARTITION PART_1  VALUES (1)
  , PARTITION PART_2  VALUES (2)
  , PARTITION PART_3  VALUES (3)
  , PARTITION PART_4  VALUES (4)
 ) ;

INSERT INTO T1_PART (SELECT mod(rownum,4)+1, rpad('X',100,'X') FROM dual CONNECT BY rownum<=896000);

DEO>select table_name, partition_name, num_rows, blocks, avg_row_len from user_tab_partitions where table_name='T1_PART';

TABLE_NAME		       PARTITION_NAME			              NUM_ROWS   BLOCKS     AVG_ROW_LEN
-------------------    -------------------------------------- ---------- ---------- -----------
T1_PART 		       PART_1				                  128000      1948	    104
T1_PART 		       PART_2				                  128000      1948	    104
T1_PART 		       PART_3				                  128000      1948	    104
T1_PART 		       PART_4				                  128000      1948	    104

4 rows selected.

Each partition is 1948 blocks.
Lets change _small_table_threshold to 1800 and select values from single partition. Since partition size we are selecting > _small_table_threshold, it should go for direct path read


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=1800;

Session altered.

DEO>select count(1) from T1_PART where col1 = 1;

  COUNT(1)
----------
    128000

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME = 'PART_1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	      1

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    5166

We are seeing “physical reads direct” stats value as 5166. This is a cumulative value. Previous value was 3210.
So it has read 5166 – 3210 = 1956 blocks which is approx same as number of blocks for 1 partition.

Also, we are see 1 block is read in buffer cache which is header block

To verify that _small_table_threshold is checked at partitions we are selecting and not at table level, lets increase _small_table_threshold to 3600 and continue to select single partition


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=3600;

Session altered.

DEO>select count(1) from T1_PART where col1 = 1;

  COUNT(1)
----------
    128000

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    5168

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME = 'PART_1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1949

So no increase in “physical reads direct”, but we can see blocks are read in buffer as sum(NUM_BUF) is showing same as number of blocks for that partition.

If we select 2 partitions, it will again go for direct path read because sum of blocks of 2 partitions > _small_table_threshold (3600)


DEO>select count(1) from T1_PART where col1 in (1,2);

  COUNT(1)
----------
    256000

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    9064

Both partitions went for direct path read even though 1 partition was in buffer cache.
Above stat value if cumulative. It has increased by (9064 – 5168) 3896 blocks which is size of 2 partitions.

We can change this behavior using _direct_read_decision_statistics_driven parameter. Check later in this article.

What happens when the blocks are cached in buffer cache ?

If we have atleast 50% of blocks cached in buffer cache, Oracle will choose to use db cache instead of direct path read when using FTS. ALEX FATKULIN has published a very nice article http://afatkulin.blogspot.ie/2009/01/11g-adaptive-direct-path-reads-what-is.html about this behavior and he has provided a function to test this behavior.

But I am seeing different behavior in my instance. In my tests, Oracle is not going for db cache unless 98% blocks are in buffer cache.

In my case for table T1, we can select half the records from table to have approx 50% blocks cached in buffer cache and check the behavior.

Non-Partitioned Table

Lets increased _small_table_threshold to 5000 so that Oracle does not go for direct path read and read approx half the blocks in buffer cache. We are also flushing buffer cache to make sure nothing is present.


DEO>alter system flush buffer_cache;

System altered.

DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=5000;

Session altered.

DEO>select count(1) from T1 where rownum < 50000;

  COUNT(1)
----------
     49999

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93840	   1753

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                     5168

From above output we can see that more than 50% blocks are cached in buffer cache.
Now, lets change _small_table_threshold to 3000 again to check if FTS goes for direct path read or buffer cache.


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=3000;

Session altered.

DEO>select count(1) from T1;

  COUNT(1)
----------
     91200

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93840	   1753

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct					                        8376

So even when we had more than 50% of blocks in buffer cache, its still going for direct path read. SUM(NUM_BUF) didnt change from 1753 to 3209 (all blocks on T1 table).
I increased number of blocks cached in buffer cache to 90% and it will still going for direct path read.

Only when approx 98% of blocks are cached then Oracle goes for db cache. I validated same behavior in 11.2.0.3 as well.

Partitioned Table

I repeated the same process for partitioned table and found same behavior. In this case Oracle checks for each partition instead of table.

Each partition has 1948 blocks. So lets put 90% of blocks in db cache and check behavior.
Lets increase _small_table_threshold to 3000 deliberately so that Oracle uses db cache.


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=3000;

Session altered.

DEO>alter system flush buffer_cache;

System altered.

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME = 'PART_1') group by obj#;

no rows selected

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    2

DEO>--selecting 90% of records from PART_1
DEO>select count(*) from T1_PART where col1 = 1 and rownum < (128000*0.9);

  COUNT(*)
----------
    115199

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    2

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME = 'PART_1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1753

We have 90% of blocks of partition PART_1 in buffer cache.
Now we can reduce _small_table_threshold to 1800 and try selecting.


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=1800;

Session altered.

DEO>--selecting complete PART_1
DEO>select count(*) from T1_PART where col1 = 1;

  COUNT(*)
----------
    128000

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME = 'PART_1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1753

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    1950

DEO>

As seen above, even with 90% of blocks in db cache, it goes for direct path read.
Lets repeat the same by putting 98% of blocks


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=3000;

Session altered.

DEO>alter system flush buffer_cache;

System altered.

DEO>select count(*) from T1_PART where col1 = 1 and rownum < (128000*0.98);

  COUNT(*)
----------
    125439

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME = 'PART_1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1910

DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=1800;

Session altered.

DEO>select count(*) from T1_PART where col1 = 1;

  COUNT(*)
----------
    128000

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# = (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME = 'PART_1') group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1949

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                     1950

So with 98% of rows/blocks in db cache, Oracle does NOT go for direct path read.

What if we have 1 partition in cache and we select 2 partitions. Will it go for direct path read ?

I have kept _small_table_threshold=3000 which is more than 1 partition size but less than 2 partitions size


DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold"=3000;

Session altered.

DEO>select count(*) from T1_PART where col1 = 1;

  COUNT(*)
----------
    128000

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# in (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME in ('PART_1','PART_2')) group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1949

We have above PART_1 in db cache and nothing on PART_2. Lets select 2 partitions


DEO>select count(*) from T1_PART where col1 in (1,2);

  COUNT(*)
----------
    256000

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# in (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME in ('PART_1','PART_2')) group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1949
     93846	      1

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    5848

So even when 1 partition was in db cache, if we select 2 partitions, it will go for direct path read for both partitions.
Above stats value of 5848 is cumulative value from previous value of 1950. Difference comes out to be 3898 which is size in blocks of 2 partitions.

_direct_read_decision_statistics_driven

This parameter mainly affect the behavior of partition table.

We have seen above that if we have a partition cached in db cache and if we select 2 partitions, both partitions will go for direct path read. This happens when _direct_read_decision_statistics_driven is set to true (default).

When _direct_read_decision_statistics_driven parameter is true, Oracle uses table statistics to decide whether to go for direct path read or db cache (using db file scattered read).
When _direct_read_decision_statistics_driven parameter is false, Oracle uses the segment header block (the one which always gets selected in db cache) to decide whehter to go for direct path read or db cache. It means that value of _small_table_threshold will be compared with every segment(partition) and not as a whole with partitions we are selecting.

In all the above excercise _direct_read_decision_statistics_driven was set to true. So Oracle server process used table stats to decide the fetch method.

Let set _direct_read_decision_statistics_driven to false to check behavior.


DEO>alter session set "_direct_read_decision_statistics_driven"=false;

Session altered.

We have 1 partition cached entirely in db cache.


DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# in (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME in ('PART_1','PART_2')) group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1949
     93846	      1

Current value of physical reads direct stats is as below and _small_table_threshold is set to 1800 which is less than size of single partition


DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    3896

DEO>alter session set "_small_table_threshold" = 1800;

Session altered.

Lets select 2 partitions


DEO>select count(1) from T1_PART where col1 in (1,2);

  COUNT(1)
----------
    256000

1 row selected.

DEO>select a.sid, b.name, a.value from v$sesstat a, v$statname b where a.statistic# = b.statistic# and a.statistic# in (97) and a.sid = 6531;

       SID NAME 								                            VALUE
---------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
      6531 physical reads direct						                    5846

1 row selected.

DEO>select obj#, sum(num_buf) from X$KCBOQH where obj# in (select object_id from dba_objects where object_name = 'T1_PART' and SUBOBJECT_NAME in ('PART_1','PART_2')) group by obj#;

      OBJ# SUM(NUM_BUF)
---------- ------------
     93845	   1949
     93846	      1

2 rows selected.

If we check carefully, we have direct path read done for only 1 partition (5846 – 3896 = 1950). 1950 is size of single partition.
So Oracle has gone for direct path read for 2nd partition and it has used blocks cached in buffer cache for 1st partition.
Since we have set _direct_read_decision_statistics_driven to false, Oracle reads header block of individual segment to decide fetch method to be used for that segment.
Since 1st segment PART_1 was present entirely in db cache, it decided to use that. PART_2 was not present in db cache, only header block was present so it compared PART_2 size with _small_table_threshold and since PART_2 size > _small_table_threshold, it went with direct path read.

In above exercise (_direct_read_decision_statistics_driven = true), when we set _small_table_threshold to 3600 for partition table and tried selecting 2 partitions, both went for direct path read. Now if we do that, both partitions will go to db cache because size of individual partitions (from header block of each segment) will be compared individually and not as sum of blocks we are selecting.

_serial_direct_read

If you want to disable direct path read on FTS, you can make use of _serial_direct_read parameter. Many DBA are increasing value of _small_table_threshold to very high value (higher than any table in database) and prevents direct path reads. But Oracle has provided this hidden parameter _serial_direct_read, which if set to false will disable direct path reads.

Default value of this parameter is true, which means allow direct path reads.

You can also set event 10949 which can also be used to disable direct path reads. Setting this event is like setting _serial_direct_read=false.

alter session set events '10949 trace name context forever, level 1';

Hope this helps !!

References

https://dioncho.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/disabling-direct-path-read-for-the-serial-full-table-scan-11g/
http://afatkulin.blogspot.ie/2009/01/11g-adaptive-direct-path-reads-what-is.html

Optimizer statistics-driven direct path read decision for full table scans (_direct_read_decision_statistics_driven)

http://oracle-tech.blogspot.com.tr/2014/04/smalltablethreshold-and-direct-path.html
http://oracle-tech.blogspot.com.tr/2014/04/directreaddecisionstatistcsdriven.html

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5 thoughts on “direct path read behavior in Oracle 11.2

  1. You forgot to mention “_very_large_object_threshold” (percentage of _db_block_buffers).
    I’d say in short:

    >=11.2.0.3:
    1) if number of [ blocks (_very_large_object_threshold/100) * _db_block_buffers ] – always with direct path reads
    3) between “_small_table_threshold” and “(_very_large_object_threshold/100) * _db_block_buffers” – it depends on number of object blocks in buffer cache and buffer cache state(fullness and occupancy)

    Best regards,
    Sayan Malakshinov
    http://orasql.org

    1. Thanks Sayan for stopping by.
      Yes, I missed affect of _very_large_object_threshold parameter on direct path read.

      So if [(table blocks/_db_block_buffer)*100] is less than _very_large_object_threshold, “direct path read” depends on above parameters that I discussed in this article.
      But if [(table blocks/_db_block_buffer)*100] is more than _very_large_object_threshold, it will always go for “direct path read” irrespective

      I also checked your article http://orasql.org/2013/03/18/example-of-controlling-direct-path-reads-decision-through-sql-profile-hints/ about direct path read and reference to test case performed on _very_large_object_threshold – https://igorusoltsev.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/_very_large_object_threshold/

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