Saturday, 23 May 2009

Single Table Hash Clusters: Size Matters.

OK, so we know that in certain situations, with the right design, the right size-assumption, and the correct usage, a Single Table Hash Cluster seens to be the most efficient way to get to a row, using a single block get.

I'll have to ask Richard Foote for confirmation on "the fastest way" as I still think that Index Organized Tables are very efficient indeed, and have less downsides. But since IOTs are B-tree indexes, they will result in 2 or more block-gets when the blevel increases.
IOTs are an old hobby of me, but they also nearly ended my career once. Complicated story. Some of you know it. Better not divulge.

I now want to know what happens if we get outside the "comfort zone" of an STHC. What if the well-intended design-assumptions about the number and the size of the records grow wrong.
In both cases, I expect the hash-mechanism to become less efficient.

Caveat: I can only test a limited number of cases, and will focus on the overflow-case. The case where too-many records end up in one block is harder to prove, as it will probably involve hash-collisions and extra CPU effort to retrieve a record. I'm lazy, and will focus on stuff I can prove with just simple queries and the odd autotrace.


Our initial STHC was created as a table with 64K records and an average recordsize of aporox 75 bytes. The original script to create it is still here (demo_sthc.sql). It was developed on (winXP) with an 8k blocksize.

To play with sizing, and get a feeling for the storage-efficiency, I'll first do some sizing-reports to compare STHC to other options. I'm not worried about disk-storage (disk is cheap, innit?). But blocks in memory still take up valuable cache, and the reading, getting and scanning of blocks is still "work". Effort that can be avoided. Hence I always assume small (and Simple) is beautiful.

To view sizes of objects, I use an auxiliary script segsize

In the original demo, the segements for heap, iot and cluster had the following sizes:

---------- ----------- -------- ------- ------ ------ ----------- -------
HEAP 65,535 720 47 855 0 77 DISABLED
IOTB 65,535 0 79 DISABLED
CLUT 65,535 1,014 9 2,886 0 78 DISABLED

-------------------- --------- -------- -------
HEAP 6144 768 21
HEAP_PK 4096 512 19
------- --------- -------- -------
Total for HEAP 10240 1,280 40

IOTB_PK 11264 1,408 26
-------- --------- -------- -------
Total for IOT 11264 1,408 26

CLU 8192 1,024 23
CLUT_PK 6144 768 21
-------- --------- -------- -------
Total for Cluster 14336 1,792 44

The cluster I created for my first demo seems relatively large and inefficient compared to the heap-table with the same data, as it takes up roughly 30% more space. That was probably because I didnt care for the size- and hashkey parameters yet.

All indexes are relatively large compared to their tables, due to the long and rather funny VC2 field that is the PK.

If we replace the key-values with, say, 'abcd'||to_char(rownum) or a sequenced number(n) field instead of the spelled-out numbers, all segments and notably the indexes turn out much smaller. But my original "Business Case" has long-ish strings of format AAAAnnnnnnnnn in a VC2 field as the PK (and search-criteria). GUID-strings of 64 hex-chars stored in a VC2 would be a comparable case.
And now I'm stuck with this demo...

btw: bad practice to store numbers in VC2 if you already _know_ they will be numbers, please dont.

Setting the SIZE

My initial errors were to not specify SIZE and to specify the wrong nr of HASHKEYS, supposedly also leading to hash-collisions. I'm a bit surprised nobody spotted it. But I guess there are not that many readers eh ?

I had already created the cluster with HASHKEYS 100, 200, 500, 1200 and 2000 and I still did not specify size (it is not mandatory, and I'm lazeeee).

Go on, run the script (demo_sthc_hashkeys.sql) for yourself
(At your own risk! Please dont sue me if it F***s Cleans up your data...)

SQL > @

(you did not have a table called CLU01 out there did you ?)

From this, I found that Oracle allocated the storage (in extents of 64KB) such that the nr of blocks in the cluster was just higher then the nr of specified hashkeys. It seems to assume that one hashkey per blocks will be required
(Question: Is this default behaviour when you omit the SIZE parameter? Consistent over all versions? Does this hold for all blocksizes? I dont know yet...).

I now decided to do it by-the-book and specified SIZE and HASHKEYS. And my next script (demo_sthc_75x64k.sql) would, I hoped, create a proper cluster ready to hold 64K records of 75 bytes each:

Oh come on, run it! (at your own risk etc...)

SQL > @ 

For those of you too lazy or too scared, part of it looks like this:
CREATE CLUSTER clu ( key varchar2(78 byte) ) 

key VARCHAR2(78 BYTE),
num_key NUMBER,
date_modified DATE,
padding VARCHAR2(300 BYTE)
, constraint clut_pk primary key ( key)
CLUSTER clu ( key );

And the allocated storage for the resulting (still-empty) cluster is ....:

-------------------- --------- -------- -------
CLU 5120 640 20
CLUT_PK 64 8 1
--------- --------- -------- -------
Total 5184 648 21

That 5 MB (in my case) is surprisingly close to that of the original heap-table (6 MB in my case).
But also surprisingly close to 65535 x 75 = 4.8 MB.

Will this pre-created cluster-segment contain sufficient free-space?
And will it be able to cater for contingencies ?

Let me insert the data...

(if you had run the script at your own SQL-prompt, you would know all the answers by now...)
SYSTEM @ DB10  > insert into clut select * from heap ;

65535 rows created.

SYSTEM @ DB10 > commit ;

Commit complete.

SYSTEM @ DB10 > analyze table clut compute statistics ;

Table analyzed.

SYSTEM @ DB10 > set echo off

-------------------- ---------- --------
CLU 8192 1,024
CLUT_PK 6144 768

After I inserted the same 64K rows, the cluster has increased in size to the same 8M size of my previously created cluster.

Next time, I might as well create my STHC with a bit of contingency. And for further experimenting I will aim to create this particular cluster with SIZE 100 and HASHKEYS 80000 to end up with the correct size straight away (demo_sthc_100x80k.sql):

One more time I will try to tempt you to run one of my scritps...
(at your own risk, of course...)

SQL > @

This cluster is now finally created at the right size (space allocated) and if you ran the script (did you? on 8k blocks?) you can verify that it absorbed all the rows without growing.
Supposedly, every row now really IS accessible by a single block get, and hash-collisions should be avoided.

I did verify a few selects, similar to the ones in the previous episode and I did find the 1(one) consistent get again - At least that still worked ...

Lessons from this so far:
- Pay attention to SIZE and HASHKEYS, and dont run with defaults here.
- Even properly(?) specified parameters dont seem to suffice. Always Verify!
- And (minor issue but...) my STHC still takes up more space then my heap-table.

PS: I will not be surprised or offended if someone comes out and says:
That is all wrong, and it is very much different on this other system... Please do!
Such is life with Oracle.
And we may be able to learn something still.

In the next experiment, I will try to overfill the STCH with data to see if any problems arise from that.

It takes some bloody long train-journeys, and a significant follow-up to investigate all this obscure stuff. And all the searching leaves you with a feeling you know even less.
Arcane stuff that nobody uses anyway.

Oh, btw, For those of you who want to set up a so-called mission-critical system where my demo-scripts would "accidentally" delete the data owned by your boss:
You Do Run this stuff AT YOUR OWN RISK. Period.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Oracle Single Table Hash Clusters are Faster.

This post is about Single Table Hash Clusters.

It is also about The Fastest way to get to 1 single Record of data.
I will try to prove that with a demo.

This post (a bit of a rant, as usual) is prompted by several things:
Prompted by Richard Foote (Recommended reading), who justly argues that Every Block Get counts and who is on a mission to Educate us on the correct use of Indexes.
Prompted by a few reactions to my Endinburgh Presentation about (cost based-) optimized access to data. It all starts with good access-paths to your data.
Prompted by a client with 24 CPUs in a database-server, trying to squeeze the last milliseconds out of 25 million (business-)transactions per hour. (how many app-servers, JVMs and CPU's does it take to process 25 Million items per hour....?? - I don't want to divulge, but the numbers on the "estate" are multiples of 24...).
Prompted by a good lunch-discussion with same client on IOTs and other nerdy but sometimes crucial optimizations (more material for posts and demos, thx J)

In this particular case, the client had a requirement to (repeatedly??) check existence and/or content of a record based on PK-access. This particular data was relatively static (lookup-type data) and apparently only modified overnight.

There is also the need to check on certain values for de-duplication, and that is a different and more challenging matter. Such de-dup-data is modified (inserted) constantly, and needs to be purged based on time, hence "needs" another index. I might eleborate on that some other time.

For the moment, I will also deliberately discard the possibilities of using SQL-resultset-caching by Oracle, or the option of Hash-map tables or other (indexed-)arrays cached by some Java component, or Oracle Coherence. All of those I consider usable, but much more complex and intrusive then a Simple, well-designed database-solution.
I am a data-beast after all.

Why (not) clusters...

Single Table Hash Clusters can fetch a row with a Single Block Get. That beats any other method of access.

Of course, those who have read and understood the manuals, metalink, and various books on the subject already know all of this, and dont need to waste their time on here. But I see surprisingly few implementations of Clusters and IOTs ...

Normally, I shy away from using clusters because you need to know up front:
1) How many records go into your tables (parents and children for multi-table clusters), and
2) How big those records will be and
3) For Hash-clusters, Critical access is on the clusterkey.
Those three conditions are rarely met, and even more difficult to enforce over the lifetime of a system. But sometimes you get lucky.
And if any of the Oracle Cluster-constructions is useful, my vote goes to Single Table Hash Clusters. Simple, Elegant and ... Fast!

If you already know your theory about Single-Table-Hash-clusters, you dont need to read on. You know we will end up showing 1 single consistent get...

The DIY Demo

The rest of the post will allow you yourself to demonstrate on your database how Fast Single Table Hash Clusters can be.

Copy this into your SQL*Plus:

SQL> @

Press enter a few times, and you can re-read the output in your own spool file...

The script creates 3 tables; a heaptable, an IOT and a Single-Table-Hash-Clustered one. All tables are filled with the same 64K records. The Key is deliberately chosen to be a Varchar2 with funny distribution to resemble client case. And as it uses the Julian date 'JSP' format to generate spelled-out-numbers, your results may vary depending on your NLS settings. Any quirks or issues: send me a comment or a postcard.

If anyone spots flaws in the demo: let us know in a comment or an email. My knowledge is only skindeep and errors are easily made. Nor am I as skilled in education as Jonathan Lewis or Tom Kyte. My original demo was only whipped up to show to an Architect. Getting stuff out ready for the dba-community-at-large is more work then I anticipated, and my knowlege on the subject of Clusters is not as deep as I wished.

And if my demo-script fails you, check out the only other mention of STHC-with-demo that I recall seeing, by Joze Senegacnik here.

The demo uses on only 64k records as that was an amount I could test and re-test on my laptop in reasonable timeframes (10 seconds, I'm an impatient person). But it will work on Any size table, as long as the same conditions are met: knowing your data (numbers and size of records), and accessing on (PK-)equal condtion. Single Table Hash Clusters scale nicely.

The demo script can be found Here: demo_sthc.sql. It can be run with no modification in just about any schema able to create tables, indexes and clusters (of course, I always log on as system, but I have tested on, and

The Single table Has cluster is created like this:

create cluster clu
( key varchar2(78 byte)
single table
hashkeys 1000;

( key VARCHAR2(78 BYTE),
num_key NUMBER,
date_modified DATE,
padding VARCHAR2(300 BYTE),
constraint clut_pk primary key ( key)
CLUSTER clu ( key );

Note that the 1000 hashkeys I use is based on the fact that I cold fit approx 64 records in my 8K blocks, your results will vary if you use different blocksize or different size records. All those nitty-gritty details are part of why this is a rather nerdy and underused concept. Material for a follow-up here...

When the table is filled, I then fire some selects with a Key=value condition at the tables, and I use Autotrace to examine the 2nd execute of each query, like this:

select * from heap
where key = 'FIVE HUNDRED'
set autotrace on
set autotrace off

So, How Fast is this thing ... ?

(Did you run the demo in your own database yet... ?)

For a Single Table Hash Cluster, the result is 1 (one) Consistent get.

The result for a conventional heap table is 4 consistent gets. For an IOT it is 3 consistent gets (same index, but no table-access). And these numbers risk to increase by 1 if the blevel of the indexes goes from 2 to 3.

That may not seem like a big improvement, but it happens to be 3 or 4 times less Logical IO then the alternatives. And if executed at 25-million/hr, that is still a significant saving in LIO.

Of course, there is more to it. Such as the additional CPU-usage, chooseing the hash-key and guesstimating the size-value. And how does it perform when your data-volume unexpectedly explodes and it all goes horribly wrong....
I might re-run the demo a bit and experiment. I see a follow-up coming on the next long train journey.