Memory Configuration and Use

Proper sizing and effective use of the Oracle memory caches greatly improves database performance. This chapter explains how to allocate memory to Oracle memory caches, and how to use those caches.
This chapter contains the following sections:

Understanding Memory Allocation Issues

Oracle stores information in memory caches and on disk. A performance goal is to reduce the physical I/O overhead as much as possible, either by making it more likely that the required data is in memory or by making the process of retrieving the required data more efficient.

Oracle Memory Caches

The main Oracle memory caches that affect performance are: The size of these memory caches is configurable using initialization configuration parameters. The values for these parameters are also dynamically configurable using the ALTER SYSTEM statement (except for the log buffer and java pool, which are static after startup).

Dynamically Changing Cache Sizes

You can dynamically reconfigure the sizes of the shared pool, the large pool, the buffer cache, and the process-private memory. Memory for the shared pool, large pool, java pool, and buffer cache is allocated in units of granules. Generally speaking, on most platforms, the size of a granule is 4 MB if the total SGA size is less than 128 MB, and it is 16 MB for larger SGAs. There may be some platform dependency; for example, on 32-bit Windows NT, the granule size is 8 MB for SGAs larger than 128 MB. The granule size that is currently being used for SGA can be viewed in the view V$SGA_DYNAMIC_COMPONENTS. The same granule size is used for all dynamic components in the SGA.

You can, if necessary, decrease the size of one cache and reallocate that memory to another cache. You can expand the total SGA size to a value equal to the SGA_MAX_SIZE parameter.

The maximum amount of memory usable by the instance is determined at instance startup by the initialization parameter SGA_MAX_SIZE. You can specify SGA_MAX_SIZE to be larger than the sum of all of the memory components (such as buffer cache and shared pool); otherwise, SGA_MAX_SIZE defaults to the actual size used by those components. Setting SGA_MAX_SIZE larger than the sum of memory used by all of the components lets you dynamically increase a cache size without needing to decrease the size of another cache.

Fit the SGA into main memory

Because the purpose of the SGA is to store data in memory for fast access, the SGA should be within main memory. If pages of the SGA are swapped to disk, then the data is no longer quickly accessible. On most operating systems, the disadvantage of paging significantly outweighs the advantage of a large SGA.


The LOCK_SGA parameter can be used to lock the SGA into physical memory and prevent it from being paged out.

To see how much memory is allocated to the SGA and each of its internal structures, enter the following SQL*Plus statement:

The output of this statement will look similar to the following:

Total System Global Area  840205000 bytes
Fixed Size 279240 bytes
Variable Size 520093696 bytes
Database Buffers 318767104 bytes
Redo Buffers 1064960 bytes

Configuring and Using the Buffer Cache

For many types of operations, Oracle uses the buffer cache to store blocks read from disk. Oracle bypasses the buffer cache for particular operations, such as sorting and parallel reads. For operations that use the buffer cache, this section explains the following:

Sizing the Buffer Cache

When configuring a new instance, it is impossible to know the correct size for the buffer cache. Typically, a database administrator makes a first estimate for the cache size, then runs a representative workload on the instance and examines the relevant statistics to see whether the cache is under or over configured.

Buffer Cache Advisory Statistics

A number of statistics can be used to examine buffer cache activity. These include the following:


This view is populated when the DB_CACHE_ADVICE parameter is set to ON. This view shows the simulated miss rates for a range of potential buffer cache sizes.
Each cache size simulated has its own row in this view, with the predicted physical I/O activity that would take place for that size. The DB_CACHE_ADVICE parameter is dynamic, so the advisory can be enabled and disabled dynamically to allow you to collect advisory data for a specific workload.
Two minor overheads are associated with this advisory:

The following SQL statement returns the predicted I/O requirement for the default buffer pool for various cache sizes:

COLUMN size_for_estimate FORMAT 999,999,999,999 heading 'Cache Size (MB)'
COLUMN buffers_for_estimate FORMAT 999,999,999 heading 'Buffers'
COLUMN estd_physical_read_factor FORMAT 999.90 heading 'Estd Phys|Read Factor'
COLUMN estd_physical_reads FORMAT 999,999,999 heading 'Estd Phys| Reads'
SELECT size_for_estimate, buffers_for_estimate, estd_physical_read_factor, estd_physical_reads
  WHERE name = 'DEFAULT'
    AND block_size = (SELECT value FROM V$PARAMETER WHERE name = 'db_block_size')
    AND advice_status = 'ON';

The following output shows that if the cache was 212 MB, rather than the current size of 304 MB, the estimated additional number of physical reads would be over 17 million (17,850,847). Increasing the cache size beyond its current size would not provide a significant benefit.
                                Estd Phys    Estd Phys
Cache Size (MB) Buffers Read Factor Reads
---------------- ------------ ----------- ------------
30 3,802 18.70 192,317,943 10% of Current Size
60 7,604 12.83 131,949,536
91 11,406 7.38 75,865,861
121 15,208 4.97 51,111,658
152 19,010 3.64 37,460,786
182 22,812 2.50 25,668,196
212 26,614 1.74 17,850,847
243 30,416 1.33 13,720,149
273 34,218 1.13 11,583,180
304 38,020 1.00 10,282,475 Current Size
334 41,822 .93 9,515,878
364 45,624 .87 8,909,026
395 49,426 .83 8,495,039
424 53,228 .79 8,116,496
456 57,030 .76 7,824,764
486 60,832 .74 7,563,180
517 64,634 .71 7,311,729
547 68,436 .69 7,104,280
577 72,238 .67 6,895,122
608 76,040 .66 6,739,731 200% of Current Size

This view assists in cache sizing by providing information that predicts the number of physical reads for each potential cache size. The data also includes a physical read factor, which is a factor by which the current number of physical reads is estimated to change if the buffer cache is resized to a given value.


With Oracle, physical reads do not necessarily indicate disk reads; physical reads may well be satisfied from the file system cache.

Calculating the Buffer Cache Hit Ratio

The buffer cache hit ratio calculates how often a requested block has been found in the buffer cache without requiring disk access. This ratio is computed using data selected from the dynamic performance view V$SYSSTAT. The buffer cache hit ratio can be used to verify the physical I/O as predicted by V$DB_CACHE_ADVICE.

The statistics in Table 14-1 are used to calculate the hit ratio.
Table 14-1  Statistics for Calculating the Hit Ratio
Statistic Description

session logical reads

The total number of requests to access a block, whether in memory or on disk.

physical reads

The total number of requests to access a data block that resulted in access to datafiles on disk. The block could have been read into the cache or read into local memory by a direct read.

physical reads direct

The number of blocks read, bypassing the buffer cache, excluding direct reads for large objects (LOBs).

physical reads direct (lob)

The number of blocks read while reading LOBs, bypassing the buffer cache.

Example 14-1 has been simplified by using values selected directly from the V$SYSSTAT table, rather than over an interval. It is best to calculate the delta of these statistics over an interval while your application is running, then use them to determine the hit ratio.

Example 14-1 Calculating the Buffer Cache Hit Ratio

 WHERE NAME IN ('session logical reads','physical reads',
                'physical reads direct','physical reads direct (lob)');

The output of this query will look similar to the following:
NAME                                                                  VALUE
---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
session logical reads 464905358
physical reads 10380487
physical reads direct 86850
physical reads direct (lob) 0

Calculate the hit ratio for the buffer cache with the following formula:
Hit Ratio = 1 - ((physical reads - physical reads direct - physical reads direct (lob)) / 
(db block gets + consistent gets - physical reads direct - physical reads direct (lob))

Based on the sample statistics in the example, the buffer cache hit ratio is equal to .978 or 97.8%.

Interpreting and Using the Buffer Cache Advisory Statistics

There are many factors to examine before considering whether to increase or decrease the buffer cache size. For example, you should examine V$DB_CACHE_ADVICE data and the buffer cache hit ratio.

A low cache hit ratio does not imply that increasing the size of the cache would be beneficial for performance. A good cache hit ratio could wrongly indicate that the cache is adequately sized for the workload. To interpret the buffer cache hit ratio, you should consider the following:

Increasing Memory Allocated to the Buffer Cache

As a general rule, investigate increasing the size of the cache if the cache hit ratio is low and your application has been tuned to avoid performing full table scans.

To increase cache size, first set the DB_CACHE_ADVICE parameter to ON, and let the cache statistics stabilize. Examine the advisory data in the V$DB_CACHE_ADVICE view to determine the next increment required to significantly decrease the amount of physical I/O performed. If it is possible to allocate the required extra memory to the buffer cache without causing the host operating system to page, then allocate this memory. To increase the amount of memory allocated to the buffer cache, increase the value of the parameter DB_CACHE_SIZE.

If required, resize the buffer pools dynamically, rather than shutting down the instance to perform this change.


When the cache is resized, DB_CACHE_ADVICE is set to OFF. Also, V$DB_CACHE_ADVICE shows the advisory for the old value of the cache. This value remains until DB_CACHE_ADVICE is explicitly set back to READY or ON.

The DB_CACHE_SIZE parameter specifies the size of the default cache for the database's standard block size. To create and use tablespaces with block sizes different than the database's standard block sizes (such as to support transportable tablespaces), you must configure a separate cache for each block size used. The DB_nK_CACHE_SIZE parameter can be used to configure the nonstandard block size needed (where n is 2, 4, 8, 16 or 32 and n is not the standard block size).


The process of choosing a cache size is the same, regardless of whether the cache is the default standard block size cache, the KEEP or RECYCLE cache, or a nonstandard block size cache.

Reducing Memory Allocated to the Buffer Cache

If the cache hit ratio is high, then the cache is probably large enough to hold the most frequently accessed data. Check V$DB_CACHE_ADVICE data to see whether decreasing the cache size significantly causes the number of physical I/Os to increase. If not, and if you require memory for another memory structure, then you might be able to reduce the cache size and still maintain good performance. To make the buffer cache smaller, reduce the size of the cache by changing the value for the parameter DB_CACHE_SIZE.

Considering Multiple Buffer Pools

A single default buffer pool is generally adequate for most systems. However, users with detailed knowledge of an application's buffer pool might benefit from configuring multiple buffer pools.
With segments that have atypical access patterns, store blocks from those segments in two different buffer pools: the KEEP pool and the RECYCLE pool. A segment's access pattern may be atypical if it is constantly accessed (that is, hot) or infrequently accessed (for example, a large segment accessed by a batch job only once a day).
Multiple buffer pools let you address these differences. You can use a KEEP buffer pool to maintain frequently accessed segments in the buffer cache, and a RECYCLE buffer pool to prevent objects from consuming unnecessary space in the cache. When an object is associated with a cache, all blocks from that object are placed in that cache. Oracle maintains a DEFAULT buffer pool for objects that have not been assigned to a specific buffer pool. The default buffer pool is of size DB_CACHE_SIZE. Each buffer pool uses the same LRU replacement policy (for example, if the KEEP pool is not large enough to store all of the segments allocated to it, then the oldest blocks age out of the cache).
By allocating objects to appropriate buffer pools, you can:

Random Access to Large Segments

A problem can occur with an LRU aging method when a very large segment is accessed with a large or unbounded index range scan. Here, very large means large compared to the size of the cache. Any single segment that accounts for a substantial portion (more than 10%) of nonsequential physical reads can be considered very large. Random reads to a large segment can cause buffers that contain data for other segments to be aged out of the cache. The large segment ends up consuming a large percentage of the cache, but it does not benefit from the cache.

Very frequently accessed segments are not affected by large segment reads because their buffers are warmed frequently enough that they do not age out of the cache. However, the problem affects warm segments that are not accessed frequently enough to survive the buffer aging caused by the large segment reads. There are three options for solving this problem:

  1. If the object accessed is an index, find out whether the index is selective. If not, tune the SQL statement to use a more selective index.
  2. If the SQL statement is tuned, you can move the large segment into a separate RECYCLE cache so that it does not affect the other segments. The RECYCLE cache should be smaller than the DEFAULT buffer pool, and it should reuse buffers more quickly than the DEFAULT buffer pool.
  3. Alternatively, you can move the small warm segments into a separate KEEP cache that is not used at all for large segments. The KEEP cache can be sized to minimize misses in the cache. You can make the response times for specific queries more predictable by putting the segments accessed by the queries in the KEEP cache to ensure that they do not age out.

Using Multiple Buffer Pools

To define a default buffer pool for an object, use the BUFFER_POOL keyword of the STORAGE clause. This clause is valid for CREATE and ALTER TABLE, CLUSTER, and INDEX SQL statements. After a buffer pool has been specified, all subsequent blocks read for the object are placed in that pool.
If a buffer pool is defined for a partitioned table or index, then each partition of the object inherits the buffer pool from the table or index definition, unless you override it with a specific buffer pool.
When the buffer pool of an object is changed using the ALTER statement, all buffers currently containing blocks of the altered segment remain in the buffer pool they were in before the ALTER statement. Newly loaded blocks and any blocks that have aged out and are reloaded go into the new buffer pool.

See Also:

Oracle9i SQL Reference for information on specifying BUFFER_POOL in the STORAGE clause

Determining Which Segments Have Many Buffers in the Pool

The V$BH view shows the data object ID of all blocks that currently reside in the SGA. To determine which segments have many buffers in the pool, you can use one of the two methods described in this section. You can either look at the buffer cache usage pattern for all segments (Method 1) or examine the usage pattern of a specific segment, (Method 2).

Method 1

The following query counts the number of blocks for all segments that reside in the buffer cache at that point in time. Depending on buffer cache size, this might require a lot of sort space.

COLUMN object_name FORMAT a40
COLUMN number_of_blocks FORMAT 999,999,999,999
SELECT o.object_name, COUNT(1) number_of_blocks
WHERE o.object_id = bh.objd
AND o.owner != 'SYS'
GROUP BY o.object_name
ORDER BY count(1);
---------------------------------------- ----------------
SYS_C002651 1
OM_SHELL 1,765
Method 2

Use the following steps to determine the percentage of the cache used by an individual object at a given point in time:

  1. Find the Oracle internal object number of the segment by entering the following query:

    Because two objects can have the same name (if they are different types of objects), use the OBJECT_TYPE column to identify the object of interest.

  2. Find the number of buffers in the buffer cache for SEGMENT_NAME:
    WHERE objd = data_object_id_value;

    where data_object_id_value is from step 1.

  3. Find the number of buffers in the instance:
  4. Calculate the ratio of buffers to total buffers to obtain the percentage of the cache currently used by SEGMENT_NAME:
    % cache used by segment_name = [buffers(Step2)/total buffers(Step3)] 


    This technique works only for a single segment. You must run the query for each partition for a partitioned object.


If there are certain segments in your application that are referenced frequently, then store the blocks from those segments in a separate cache called the KEEP buffer pool. Memory is allocated to the KEEP buffer pool by setting the parameter DB_KEEP_CACHE_SIZE to the required size. The memory for the KEEP pool is not a subset of the default pool. Typical segments that can be kept are small reference tables that are used frequently. Application developers and DBAs can determine which tables are candidates.

You can check the number of blocks from candidate tables by querying V$BH, as described in "Determining Which Segments Have Many Buffers in the Pool".


The NOCACHE clause has no effect on a table in the KEEP cache.

The goal of the KEEP buffer pool is to retain objects in memory, thus avoiding I/O operations. The size of the KEEP buffer pool, therefore, depends on the objects that you want to keep in the buffer cache. You can compute an approximate size for the KEEP buffer pool by adding together the blocks used by all objects assigned to this pool. If you gather statistics on the segments, you can query DBA_TABLES.BLOCKS and DBA_TABLES.EMPTY_BLOCKS to determine the number of blocks used.

Calculate the hit ratio by taking two snapshots of system performance at different times, using the previous query. Subtract the more recent values for physical reads, block gets, and consistent gets from the older values, and use the results to compute the hit ratio.

A buffer pool hit ratio of 100% might not be optimal. Often, you can decrease the size of your KEEP buffer pool and still maintain a sufficiently high hit ratio. Allocate blocks removed from the KEEP buffer pool to other buffer pools.


If an object grows in size, then it might no longer fit in the KEEP buffer pool. You will begin to lose blocks out of the cache.

Each object kept in memory results in a trade-off. It is beneficial to keep frequently-accessed blocks in the cache, but retaining infrequently-used blocks results in less space for other, more active blocks.


It is possible to configure a RECYCLE buffer pool for blocks belonging to those segments that you do not want to remain in memory. The RECYCLE pool is good for segments that are scanned rarely or are not referenced frequently. If an application accesses the blocks of a very large object in a random fashion, then there is little chance of reusing a block stored in the buffer pool before it is aged out. This is true regardless of the size of the buffer pool (given the constraint of the amount of available physical memory). Consequently, the object's blocks need not be cached; those cache buffers can be allocated to other objects.

Memory is allocated to the RECYCLE buffer pool by setting the parameter DB_RECYCLE_CACHE_SIZE to the required size. This memory for the RECYCLE buffer pool is not a subset of the default pool.

Do not discard blocks from memory too quickly. If the buffer pool is too small, then blocks can age out of the cache before the transaction or SQL statement has completed execution. For example, an application might select a value from a table, use the value to process some data, and then update the record. If the block is removed from the cache after the SELECT statement, then it must be read from disk again to perform the update. The block should be retained for the duration of the user transaction.

Configuring and Using the Shared Pool and Large Pool

Oracle uses the shared pool to cache many different types of data. Cached data includes the textual and executable forms of PL/SQL blocks and SQL statements, dictionary cache data, and other data.

Proper use and sizing of the shared pool can reduce resource consumption in at least four ways:

  1. Parse overhead is avoided if the SQL statement is already in the shared pool. This saves CPU resources on the host and elapsed time for the end user.
  2. Latching resource usage is significantly reduced, which results in greater scalability.
  3. Shared pool memory requirements are reduced, because all applications use the same pool of SQL statements and dictionary resources.
  4. I/O resources are saved, because dictionary elements that are in the shared pool do not require disk access.

This section covers the following:

Shared Pool Concepts

The main components of the shared pool are the library cache and the dictionary cache. The library cache stores the executable (parsed or compiled) form of recently referenced SQL and PL/SQL code. The dictionary cache stores data referenced from the data dictionary. Many of the caches in the shared pool automatically increase or decrease in size, as needed, including the library cache and the dictionary cache. Old entries are aged out of these caches to accommodate new entries when the shared pool does not have free space.

A cache miss on the data dictionary cache or library cache is more expensive than a miss on the buffer cache. For this reason, the shared pool should be sized to ensure that frequently used data is cached.

A number of features make large memory allocations in the shared pool: for example, the shared server, parallel query, or Recovery Manager. Oracle recommends segregating the SGA memory used by these features by configuring a distinct memory area, called the large pool.

Dictionary Cache Concepts

Information stored in the data dictionary cache includes usernames, segment information, profile data, tablespace information, and sequence numbers. The dictionary cache also stores descriptive information, or metadata, about schema objects. Oracle uses this metadata when parsing SQL cursors or during the compilation of PL/SQL programs.

Library Cache Concepts

The library cache holds executable forms of SQL cursors, PL/SQL programs, and Java classes. This section focuses on tuning as it relates to cursors, PL/SQL programs, and Java classes. These are collectively referred to as application code.

When application code is run, Oracle attempts to reuse existing code if it has been executed previously and can be shared. If the parsed representation of the statement does exist in the library cache and it can be shared, then Oracle reuses the existing code. This is known as a soft parse, or a library cache hit.

If Oracle is unable to use existing code, then a new executable version of the application code must be built. This is known as a hard parse, or a library cache miss.

Library cache misses can occur on either the parse step or the execute step when processing a SQL statement.

When an application makes a parse call for a SQL statement, if the parsed representation of the statement does not already exist in the library cache, then Oracle parses the statement and stores the parsed form in the shared pool. This is a hard parse. You might be able to reduce library cache misses on parse calls by ensuring that all shareable SQL statements are in the shared pool whenever possible.

If an application makes an execute call for a SQL statement, and if the executable portion of the previously built SQL statement has been aged out (that is, deallocated) from the library cache to make room for another statement, then Oracle implicitly reparses the statement, creating a new shared SQL area for it, and executes it. This also results in a hard parse. Usually, you can reduce library cache misses on execution calls by allocating more memory to the library cache.

In order to perform a hard parse, Oracle uses more resources than during a soft parse. Resources used for a soft parse include CPU and library cache latch gets. Resources required for a hard parse include additional CPU, library cache latch gets, and shared pool latch gets.

Using the Shared Pool Effectively

An important purpose of the shared pool is to cache the executable versions of SQL and PL/SQL statements. This allows multiple executions of the same SQL or PL/SQL code to be performed without the resources required for a hard parse, which results in significant reductions in CPU, memory, and latch usage.

The shared pool is also able to support unshared SQL in data warehousing applications, which execute low-concurrency, high-resource SQL statements. In this situation, using unshared SQL with literal values is recommended. Using literal values rather than bind variables allows the optimizer to make good column selectivity estimates, thus providing an optimal data access plan.

In an OLTP system, there are a number of ways to ensure efficient use of the shared pool and related resources. Discuss the following items with application developers and agree on strategies to ensure that the shared pool is used effectively:

Efficient use of the shared pool in high-concurrency OLTP systems significantly reduces the probability of parse-related application scalability issues.

Shared Cursors

Reuse of shared SQL for multiple users running the same application, avoids hard parsing. Soft parses provide a significant reduction in the use of resources such as the shared pool and library cache latches. To share cursors, do the following:

Maintaining Connections

Large OLTP applications with middle tiers should maintain connections, rather than connecting and disconnecting for each database request. Maintaining connections saves CPU resources and database resources, such as latches.

Single-User Logon and Qualified Table Reference

Large OLTP systems where users log in to the database as their own user ID can benefit from explicitly qualifying the segment owner, rather than using public synonyms. This significantly reduces the number of entries in the dictionary cache. For example:

SELECT employee_id FROM hr.employees WHERE department_id = :dept_id;

An alternative to qualifying table names is to connect to the database through a single user ID, rather than individual user IDs. User-level validation can take place locally on the middle tier. Reducing the number of distinct userIDs also reduces the load on the dictionary cache.

Use of PL/SQL

Using stored PL/SQL packages can overcome many of the scalability issues for systems with thousands of users, each with individual user sign-on and public synonyms. This is because a package is executed as the owner, rather than the caller, which reduces the dictionary cache load considerably.

Cache Sequence Numbers

Allocating sufficient cache space for frequently updated sequence numbers significantly reduces the frequency of dictionary cache locks, which improves scalability. The CACHE keyword on the CREATE SEQUENCE or ALTER SEQUENCE statement lets you configure the number of cached entries for each sequence.

Cursor Access and Management

Depending on the Oracle application tool you are using, it is possible to control how frequently your application performs parse calls.

The frequency with which your application either closes cursors or reuses existing cursors for new SQL statements affects the amount of memory used by a session and often the amount of parsing performed by that session.

An application that closes cursors or reuses cursors (for a different SQL statement), does not need as much session memory as an application that keeps cursors open. Conversely, that same application may need to perform more parse calls, using extra CPU and Oracle resources.

Cursors associated with SQL statements that are not executed frequently can be closed or reused for other statements, because the likelihood of reexecuting (and reparsing) that statement is low.

Extra parse calls are required when a cursor containing a SQL statement that will be reexecuted is closed or reused for another statement. Had the cursor remained open, it could have been reused without the overhead of issuing a parse call.

Sizing the Shared Pool

For most OLTP applications, shared pool size is an important factor in application performance. Shared pool size is less important for applications that issue a very limited number of discrete SQL statements, such as data support systems (DSS).

If the shared pool is too small, then extra resources are used to manage the limited amount of available space. This consumes CPU and latching resources, and causes contention.

Optimally, the shared pool should be just large enough to cache frequently accessed objects. Having a significant amount of free memory in the shared pool is a waste of memory.

Shared Pool: Library Cache Statistics

When sizing the shared pool, the goal is to ensure that SQL statements that will be executed multiple times are cached in the library cache, without allocating too much memory.

The statistic that shows the amount of reloading (that is, reparsing) of a previously cached SQL statement that was aged out of the cache is the RELOADS column in the V$LIBRARYCACHE view. In an application that reuses SQL effectively, on a system with an optimal shared pool size, the RELOADS statistic will have a value near zero.

The INVALIDATIONS column in V$LIBRARYCACHE view shows the number of times library cache data was invalidated and had to be reparsed. INVALIDATIONS should be near zero. This means SQL statements that could have been shared were invalidated by some operation (for example, a DDL). This statistic should be near zero on OLTP systems during peak loads.

Another key statistic is the amount of free memory in the shared pool at peak times. The amount of free memory can be queried from V$SGASTAT, looking at the free memory for the shared pool. Optimally, free memory should be as low as possible, without causing any reloads on the system.

Lastly, a broad indicator of library cache health is the library cache hit ratio. This value should be considered along with the other statistics discussed in this section and other data, such as the rate of hard parsing and whether there is any shared pool or library cache latch contention.

These statistics are discussed in more detail in the following section.


You can monitor statistics reflecting library cache activity by examining the dynamic performance view V$LIBRARYCACHE. These statistics reflect all library cache activity since the most recent instance startup.

Each row in this view contains statistics for one type of item kept in the library cache. The item described by each row is identified by the value of the NAMESPACE column. Rows with the following NAMESPACE values reflect library cache activity for SQL statements and PL/SQL blocks:

Rows with other NAMESPACE values reflect library cache activity for object definitions that Oracle uses for dependency maintenance.

To examine each namespace individually, use the following query:

SELECT namespace
, pins
, pinhits
, reloads
, invalidations
ORDER BY namespace;

The output of this query could look like the following:

--------------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -------------
BODY 8870 8819 0 0
CLUSTER 393 380 0 0
INDEX 29 0 0 0
OBJECT 0 0 0 0
PIPE 55265 55263 0 0
SQL AREA 21536413 21520516 11204 2
TABLE/PROCEDURE 10775684 10774401 0 0
TRIGGER 1852 1844 0 0

To calculate the library cache hit ratio, use the following formula:

Library Cache Hit Ratio = sum(pinhits) / sum(pins)

Using the library cache hit ratio formula, the cache hit ratio is the following:


Examining the returned data leads to the following observations:

The amount of free memory in the shared pool is reported in V$SGASTAT. Report the current value from this view using the following query:

WHERE NAME = 'free memory'
AND POOL = 'shared pool';
The output will be similar to the following:
----------- -------------------------- ----------
shared pool free memory 4928280

If free memory is always available in the shared pool, then increasing the size of the pool offers little or no benefit. However, just because the shared pool is full does not necessarily mean there is a problem. It may be indicative of a well-configured system.

Shared Pool Advisory Statistics

The amount of memory available for the library cache can drastically affect the parse rate of an Oracle instance. With Oracle9i, Release 2 (9.2) or higher, the shared pool advisory statistics provide a database administrator with information about library cache memory and predict how changes in the size of the shared pool can affect the parse rate.

Use the following query to monitor the statistics in the V$ROWCACHE view over a period of time while your application is running. The derived column PCT_SUCC_GETS can be considered the item-specific hit ratio:

column parameter format a21
column pct_succ_gets format 999.9
column updates format 999,999,999
SELECT parameter
, sum(gets)
, sum(getmisses)
, 100*sum(gets - getmisses) / sum(gets) pct_succ_gets
, sum(modifications) updates
WHERE gets > 0
GROUP BY parameter;

The output of this query will be similar to the following:

--------------------- ---------- -------------- ------------- ------------
dc_database_links 81 1 98.8 0
dc_free_extents 44876 20301 54.8 40,453
dc_global_oids 42 9 78.6 0
dc_histogram_defs 9419 651 93.1 0
dc_object_ids 29854 239 99.2 52
dc_objects 33600 590 98.2 53
dc_profiles 19001 1 100.0 0
dc_rollback_segments 47244 16 100.0 19
dc_segments 100467 19042 81.0 40,272
dc_sequence_grants 119 16 86.6 0
dc_sequences 26973 16 99.9 26,811
dc_synonyms 6617 168 97.5 0
dc_tablespace_quotas 120 7 94.2 51
dc_tablespaces 581248 10 100.0 0
dc_used_extents 51418 20249 60.6 42,811
dc_user_grants 76082 18 100.0 0
dc_usernames 216860 12 100.0 0
dc_users 376895 22 100.0 0

Examining the data returned by the sample query leads to these observations:

It is also possible to calculate an overall dictionary cache hit ratio using the following formula; however, summing up the data over all the caches will lose the finer granularity of data:


Interpreting Shared Pool Statistics

Shared pool statistics indicate adjustments that can be made. The following sections describe some of your choices.

Increasing Memory Allocation

Increasing the amount of memory for the shared pool increases the amount of memory available to both the library cache and the dictionary cache.

Allocating Additional Memory for the Library Cache

To ensure that shared SQL areas remain in the cache after their SQL statements are parsed, increase the amount of memory available to the library cache until the V$LIBRARYCACHE.RELOADS value is near zero. To increase the amount of memory available to the library cache, increase the value of the initialization parameter SHARED_POOL_SIZE. The maximum value for this parameter depends on your operating system. This measure reduces implicit reparsing of SQL statements and PL/SQL blocks on execution.

To take advantage of additional memory available for shared SQL areas, you might also need to increase the number of cursors permitted for a session. You can do this by increasing the value of the initialization parameter OPEN_CURSORS.

Allocating Additional Memory to the Data Dictionary Cache

Examine cache activity by monitoring the GETS and GETMISSES columns. For frequently accessed dictionary caches, the ratio of total GETMISSES to total GETS should be less than 10% or 15%, depending on the application.

Consider increasing the amount of memory available to the cache if all of the following are true:

Increase the amount of memory available to the data dictionary cache by increasing the value of the initialization parameter SHARED_POOL_SIZE.

Reducing Memory Allocation

If your RELOADS are near zero, and if you have a small amount of free memory in the shared pool, then the shared pool is probably large enough to hold the most frequently accessed data.

If you always have significant amounts of memory free in the shared pool, and if you would like to allocate this memory elsewhere, then you might be able to reduce the shared pool size and still maintain good performance.

To make the shared pool smaller, reduce the size of the cache by changing the value for the parameter SHARED_POOL_SIZE.

Using the Large Pool

Unlike the shared pool, the large pool does not have an LRU list. Oracle does not attempt to age objects out of the large pool.

You should consider configuring a large pool if your instance uses any of the following:

Tuning the Large Pool and Shared Pool for the Shared Server Architecture

As Oracle allocates shared pool memory for shared server session memory, the amount of shared pool memory available for the library cache and dictionary cache decreases. If you allocate this session memory from a different pool, then Oracle can use the shared pool primarily for caching shared SQL and not incur the performance overhead from shrinking the shared SQL cache.

Oracle recommends using the large pool to allocate the shared server-related User Global Area (UGA), rather that using the shared pool. This is because Oracle uses the shared pool to allocate Shared Global Area (SGA) memory for other purposes, such as shared SQL and PL/SQL procedures. Using the large pool instead of the shared pool decreases fragmentation of the shared pool.

To store shared server-related UGA in the large pool, specify a value for the initialization parameter LARGE_POOL_SIZE. To see which pool (shared pool or large pool) the memory for an object resides in, check the column POOL in V$SGASTAT. The large pool is not configured by default; its minimum value is 300K. If you do not configure the large pool, then Oracle uses the shared pool for shared server user session memory.

Configure the size of the large pool based on the number of simultaneously active sessions. Each application requires a different amount of memory for session information, and your configuration of the large pool or SGA should reflect the memory requirement. For example, assuming that the shared server requires 200K to 300K to store session information for each active session. If you anticipate 100 active sessions simultaneously, then configure the large pool to be 30M, or increase the shared pool accordingly if the large pool is not configured.


If a shared server architecture is used, then Oracle allocates some fixed amount of memory (about 10K) for each configured session from the shared pool, even if you have configured the large pool. The CIRCUITS initialization parameter specifies the maximum number of concurrent shared server connections that the database allows.

Determining an Effective Setting for Shared Server UGA Storage

The exact amount of UGA Oracle uses depends on each application. To determine an effective setting for the large or shared pools, observe UGA use for a typical user and multiply this amount by the estimated number of user sessions.

Even though use of shared memory increases with shared servers, the total amount of memory use decreases. This is because there are fewer processes; therefore, Oracle uses less PGA memory with shared servers when compared to dedicated server environments.

Checking System Statistics in the V$SESSTAT View

Oracle collects statistics on total memory used by a session and stores them in the dynamic performance view V$SESSTAT. Table 14-3 lists these statistics.

Table 14-3  V$SESSTAT Statistics Reflecting Memory
Statistic Description

session UGA memory

The value of this statistic is the amount of memory in bytes allocated to the session.

Session UGA memory max

The value of this statistic is the maximum amount of memory in bytes ever allocated to the session.

To find the value, query V$STATNAME. If you are using a shared server, you can use the following query to decide how much larger to make the shared pool. Issue the following queries while your application is running:


WHERE NAME = 'session uga memory'


WHERE NAME = 'session uga memory max'

These queries also select from the dynamic performance view V$STATNAME to obtain internal identifiers for session memory and max session memory. The results of these queries could look like the following:

157125 BYTES
417381 BYTES

The result of the first query indicates that the memory currently allocated to all sessions is 157,125 bytes. This value is the total memory with a location that depends on how the sessions are connected to Oracle. If the sessions are connected to dedicated server processes, then this memory is part of the memories of the user processes. If the sessions are connected to shared server processes, then this memory is part of the shared pool.

The result of the second query indicates that the sum of the maximum sizes of the memories for all sessions is 417,381 bytes. The second result is greater than the first because some sessions have deallocated memory since allocating their maximum amounts.

If you use a shared server architecture, you can use the result of either of these queries to determine how much larger to make the shared pool. The first value is likely to be a better estimate than the second unless nearly all sessions are likely to reach their maximum allocations at the same time.

Limiting Memory Use for Each User Session by Setting PRIVATE_SGA

You can set the PRIVATE_SGA resource limit to restrict the memory used by each client session from the SGA. PRIVATE_SGA defines the number of bytes of memory used from the SGA by a session. However, this parameter is used rarely, because most DBAs do not limit SGA consumption on a user-by-user basis.

Reducing Memory Use with Three-Tier Connections

If you have a high number of connected users, then you can reduce memory usage by implementing three-tier connections. This by-product of using a transaction process (TP) monitor is feasible only with pure transactional models, because locks and uncommitted DMLs cannot be held between calls. A shared server environment offers the following advantages:


If you have no library cache misses, then you might be able to accelerate execution calls by setting the value of the initialization parameter CURSOR_SPACE_FOR_TIME to true. This parameter specifies whether a cursor can be deallocated from the library cache to make room for a new SQL statement. CURSOR_SPACE_FOR_TIME has the following values meanings:

Setting the value of the parameter to true saves Oracle a small amount of time and can slightly improve the performance of execution calls. This value also prevents the deallocation of cursors until associated application cursors are closed.

Do not set the value of CURSOR_SPACE_FOR_TIME to true if you have found library cache misses on execution calls. Such library cache misses indicate that the shared pool is not large enough to hold the shared SQL areas of all concurrently open cursors. If the value is true, and if the shared pool has no space for a new SQL statement, then the statement cannot be parsed, and Oracle returns an error saying that there is no more shared memory. If the value is false, and if there is no space for a new statement, then Oracle deallocates an existing cursor. Although deallocating a cursor could result in a library cache miss later (only if the cursor is reexecuted), it is preferable to an error halting your application because a SQL statement cannot be parsed.

Do not set the value of CURSOR_SPACE_FOR_TIME to true if the amount of memory available to each user for private SQL areas is scarce. This value also prevents the deallocation of private SQL areas associated with open cursors. If the private SQL areas for all concurrently open cursors fills your available memory so that there is no space for a new SQL statement, then the statement cannot be parsed. Oracle returns an error indicating that there is not enough memory.

Caching Session Cursors

If an application repeatedly issues parse calls on the same set of SQL statements, then the reopening of the session cursors can affect system performance. Session cursors can be stored in a session cursor cache. This feature can be particularly useful for applications that use Oracle Forms, because switching from one form to another closes all session cursors associated with the first form.

Oracle checks the library cache to determine whether more than three parse requests have been issued on a given statement. If so, then Oracle assumes that the session cursor associated with the statement should be cached and moves the cursor into the session cursor cache. Subsequent requests to parse that SQL statement by the same session then find the cursor in the session cursor cache.

To enable caching of session cursors, you must set the initialization parameter SESSION_CACHED_CURSORS. The value of this parameter is a positive integer specifying the maximum number of session cursors kept in the cache. An LRU algorithm removes entries in the session cursor cache to make room for new entries when needed.

You can also enable the session cursor cache dynamically with the statement:


To determine whether the session cursor cache is sufficiently large for your instance, you can examine the session statistic session cursor cache hits in the V$SYSSTAT view. This statistic counts the number of times a parse call found a cursor in the session cursor cache. If this statistic is a relatively low percentage of the total parse call count for the session, then consider setting SESSION_CACHED_CURSORS to a larger value.

Configuring the Reserved Pool

Although Oracle breaks down very large requests for memory into smaller chunks, on some systems there might still be a requirement to find a contiguous chunk (for example, over 5 KB) of memory. (The default minimum reserved pool allocation is 4,400 bytes.)

If there is not enough free space in the shared pool, then Oracle must search for and free enough memory to satisfy this request. This operation could conceivably hold the latch resource for detectable periods of time, causing minor disruption to other concurrent attempts at memory allocation.

Hence, Oracle internally reserves a small memory area in the shared pool that can be used if the shared pool does not have enough space. This reserved pool makes allocation of large chunks more efficient.

By default, Oracle configures a small reserved pool. This memory can be used for operations such as PL/SQL and trigger compilation or for temporary space while loading Java objects. After the memory allocated from the reserved pool is freed, it returns to the reserved pool.

You probably will not need to change the default amount of space Oracle reserves. However, if necessary, the reserved pool size can be changed by setting the SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE initialization parameter. This parameter sets aside space in the shared pool for unusually large allocations.

For large allocations, Oracle attempts to allocate space in the shared pool in the following order:

  1. From the unreserved part of the shared pool.
  2. From the reserved pool. If there is not enough space in the unreserved part of the shared pool, then Oracle checks whether the reserved pool has enough space.
  3. From memory. If there is not enough space in the unreserved and reserved parts of the shared pool, then Oracle attempts to free enough memory for the allocation. It then retries the unreserved and reserved parts of the shared pool.

The default value for SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE is 5% of the SHARED_POOL_SIZE. This means that, by default, the reserved list is configured.

If you set SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE to more than half of SHARED_POOL_SIZE, then Oracle signals an error. Oracle does not let you reserve too much memory for the reserved pool. The amount of operating system memory, however, might constrain the size of the shared pool. In general, set SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE to 10% of SHARED_POOL_SIZE. For most systems, this value is sufficient if you have already tuned the shared pool. If you increase this value, then the database takes memory from the shared pool. (This reduces the amount of unreserved shared pool memory available for smaller allocations.)

Statistics from the V$SHARED_POOL_RESERVED view help you tune these parameters. On a system with ample free memory to increase the size of the SGA, the goal is to have the value of REQUEST_MISSES equal zero. If the system is constrained for operating system memory, then the goal is to not have REQUEST_FAILURES or at least prevent this value from increasing.

If you cannot achieve these target values, then increase the value for SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE. Also, increase the value for SHARED_POOL_SIZE by the same amount, because the reserved list is taken from the shared pool.


The reserved pool is too small when the value for REQUEST_FAILURES is more than zero and increasing. To resolve this, increase the value for the SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE and SHARED_POOL_SIZE accordingly. The settings you select for these parameters depend on your system's SGA size constraints.

Increasing the value of SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE increases the amount of memory available on the reserved list without having an effect on users who do not allocate memory from the reserved list.


Too much memory might have been allocated to the reserved list if:

If either of these conditions is true, then decrease the value for SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE.

When SHARED_POOL_SIZE is Too Small

The V$SHARED_POOL_RESERVED fixed view can also indicate when the value for SHARED_POOL_SIZE is too small. This can be the case if REQUEST_FAILURES is greater than zero and increasing.

If you have enabled the reserved list, then decrease the value for SHARED_POOL_RESERVED_SIZE. If you have not enabled the reserved list, then you could increase SHARED_POOL_SIZE.

Keeping Large Objects to Prevent Aging

After an entry has been loaded into the shared pool, it cannot be moved. Sometimes, as entries are loaded and aged, the free memory can become fragmented.

Use the PL/SQL package DBMS_SHARED_POOL to manage the shared pool. Shared SQL and PL/SQL areas age out of the shared pool according to a least recently used (LRU) algorithm, similar to database buffers. To improve performance and prevent reparsing, you might want to prevent large SQL or PL/SQL areas from aging out of the shared pool.

The DBMS_SHARED_POOL package lets you keep objects in shared memory, so that they do not age out with the normal LRU mechanism. By using the DBMS_SHARED_POOL package and by loading the SQL and PL/SQL areas before memory fragmentation occurs, the objects can be kept in memory.

CURSOR_SHARING for Existing Applications

One of the first stages of parsing is to compare the text of the statement with existing statements in the shared pool to see if the statement can be shared. If the statement differs textually in any way, then Oracle does not share the statement.

Exceptions to this are possible when the parameter CURSOR_SHARING has been set to SIMILAR or FORCE. When this parameter is used, Oracle first checks the shared pool to see if there is an identical statement in the shared pool. If an identical statement is not found, then Oracle searches for a similar statement in the shared pool. If the similar statement is there, then the parse checks continue to verify the executable form of the cursor can be used. If the statement is not there, then a hard parse is necessary to generate the executable form of the statement.

Similar SQL Statements

Statements that are identical, except for the values of some literals, are called similar statements. Similar statements pass the textual check in the parse phase when the CURSOR_SHARING parameter is set to SIMILAR or FORCE. Textual similarity does not guarantee sharing. The new form of the SQL statement still needs to go through the remaining steps of the parse phase to ensure that the execution plan of the preexisting statement is equally applicable to the new statement.


Setting CURSOR_SHARING to EXACT allows SQL statements to share the SQL area only when their texts match exactly. This is the default behavior. Using this setting, similar statements cannot shared; only textually exact statements can be shared.

Setting CURSOR_SHARING to either SIMILAR or FORCE allows similar statements to share SQL. The difference between SIMILAR and FORCE is that SIMILAR forces similar statements to share the SQL area without deteriorating execution plans. Setting CURSOR_SHARING to FORCE forces similar statements to share the executable SQL area, potentially deteriorating execution plans. Hence, FORCE should be used as a last resort, when the risk of suboptimal plans is outweighed by the improvements in cursor sharing.


The CURSOR_SHARING initialization parameter can solve some performance problems. It has the following values: FORCE, SIMILAR, and EXACT (default). Using this parameter provides benefit to existing applications that have many similar SQL statements.


Oracle does not recommend setting CURSOR_SHARING to FORCE in a DSS environment or if you are using complex queries. Also, star transformation is not supported with CURSOR_SHARING set to either SIMILAR or FORCE.

The optimal solution is to write sharable SQL, rather than rely on the CURSOR_SHARING parameter. This is because although CURSOR_SHARING does significantly reduce the amount of resources used by eliminating hard parses, it requires some extra work as a part of the soft parse to find a similar statement in the shared pool.


Setting CURSOR_SHARING to SIMILAR or FORCE causes an increase in the maximum lengths (as returned by DESCRIBE) of any selected expressions that contain literals (in a SELECT statement). However, the actual length of the data returned does not change.

Consider setting CURSOR_SHARING to SIMILAR or FORCE if you can answer 'yes' to both of the following questions:

  1. Are there statements in the shared pool that differ only in the values of literals?
  2. Is the response time low due to a very high number of library cache misses?


    Setting CURSOR_SHARING to FORCE or SIMILAR prevents any outlines generated with literals from being used if they were generated with CURSOR_SHARING set to EXACT.

    To use stored outlines with CURSOR_SHARING=FORCE or SIMILAR, the outlines must be generated with CURSOR_SHARING set to FORCE or SIMILAR and with the CREATE_STORED_OUTLINES parameter.

Using CURSOR_SHARING = SIMILAR (or FORCE) can significantly improve cursor sharing on some applications that have many similar statements, resulting in reduced memory usage, faster parses, and reduced latch contention.

Configuring and Using the Redo Log Buffer

Server processes making changes to data blocks in the buffer cache generate redo data into the log buffer. LGWR begins writing to copy entries from the redo log buffer to the online redo log if any of the following are true:

When LGWR writes redo entries from the redo log buffer to a redo log file or disk, user processes can then copy new entries over the entries in memory that have been written to disk. LGWR usually writes fast enough to ensure that space is available in the buffer for new entries, even when access to the redo log is heavy.

A larger buffer makes it more likely that there is space for new entries, and also gives LGWR the opportunity to efficiently write out redo records (too small a log buffer on a system with large updates means that LGWR is continuously flushing redo to disk so that the log buffer remains 2/3 empty).

On machines with fast processors and relatively slow disks, the processors might be filling the rest of the buffer in the time it takes the redo log writer to move a portion of the buffer to disk. A larger log buffer can temporarily mask the effect of slower disks in this situation. Alternatively, you can do one of the following:

Good usage of the redo log buffer is a simple matter of:

The size of the redo log buffer is determined by the initialization parameter LOG_BUFFER. The log buffer size cannot be modified after instance startup.

Sizing the Log Buffer

Applications that insert, modify, or delete large volumes of data usually need to change the default log buffer size. The log buffer is small compared with the total SGA size, and a modestly sized log buffer can significantly enhance throughput on systems that perform many updates.

A reasonable first estimate for such systems is to make the log buffer 1 MB. On most systems, sizing the log buffer larger than 1m does not provide any performance benefit. Increasing the log buffer size does not have any negative implications on performance or recoverability. It merely uses extra memory.

Log Buffer Statistics

The statistic REDO BUFFER ALLOCATION RETRIES reflects the number of times a user process waits for space in the redo log buffer. This statistic can be queried through the dynamic performance view V$SYSSTAT.

Use the following query to monitor these statistics over a period of time while your application is running:

WHERE NAME = 'redo buffer allocation retries';

The value of redo buffer allocation retries should be near zero over an interval. If this value increments consistently, then processes have had to wait for space in the redo log buffer. The wait can be caused by the log buffer being too small or by checkpointing. Increase the size of the redo log buffer, if necessary, by changing the value of the initialization parameter LOG_BUFFER. The value of this parameter is expressed in bytes. Alternatively, improve the checkpointing or archiving process.

Another data source is to check whether the log buffer space wait event is not a significant factor in the wait time for the instance; if not, the log buffer size is most likely adequate.

Configuring the PGA Working Memory

The Program Global Area (PGA) is a private memory region containing data and control information for a server process. Access to it is exclusive to that server process and is read and written only by the Oracle code acting on behalf of it. An example of such information is the runtime area of a cursor. Each time a cursor is executed, a new runtime area is created for that cursor in the PGA memory region of the server process executing that cursor.

For complex queries (for example, decision support queries), a big portion of the runtime area is dedicated to work areas allocated by memory intensive operators, such as the following:

A sort operator uses a work area (the sort area) to perform the in-memory sort of a set of rows. Similarly, a hash-join operator uses a work area (the hash area) to build a hash table from its left input.

The size of a work area can be controlled and tuned. Generally, bigger work areas can significantly improve the performance of a particular operator at the cost of higher memory consumption. Ideally, the size of a work area is big enough that it can accommodate the input data and auxiliary memory structures allocated by its associated SQL operator. This is known as the optimal size of a work area. When the size of the work area is smaller than optimal, the response time increases, because an extra pass is performed over part of the input data. This is known as the one-pass size of the work area. Under the one-pass threshold, when the size of a work area is far too small compared to the input data size, multiple passes over the input data are needed. This could dramatically increase the response time of the operator. This is known as the multi-pass size of the work area. For example, a serial sort operation that needs to sort 10GB of data needs a little more than 10GB to run optimal and at least 40MB to run one-pass. If this sort gets less that 40MB, then it must perform several passes over the input data.

The goal is to have most work areas running with an optimal size (for example, more than 90% or even 100% for pure OLTP systems), while a smaller fraction of them are running with a one-pass size (for example, less than 10%). Multi-pass execution should be avoided. Even for DSS systems running large sorts and hash-joins, the memory requirement for the one-pass executions is relatively small. A system configured with a reasonable amount of PGA memory should not need to perform multiple passes over the input data.

Prior to Oracle9i, the maximum size of these working areas was controlled using the SORT_AREA_SIZE, HASH_AREA_SIZE, BITMAP_MERGE_AREA_SIZE and CREATE_BITMAP_AREA_SIZE parameters. Setting these parameters is difficult, because the maximum work area size is ideally selected based on the data input size and the total number of work areas active in the system. These two factors vary a lot from one work area to another and from one point in time to another. Thus, the various *_AREA_SIZE parameters are hard to tune under the best of circumstances.

With Oracle9i, you can simplify and improve the way PGA memory is allocated, by enabling automatic PGA memory management. In this mode, Oracle dynamically adjusts the size of the portion of the PGA memory dedicated to work areas, based on an overall PGA memory target explicitly set by the DBA. To enable automatic PGA memory management, you have to set the initialization parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET, as described in the following section.

Automatic PGA Memory Management

When running under the automatic PGA memory management mode, sizing of work areas for all dedicated sessions becomes automatic. Thus, the *_AREA_SIZE parameters are ignored by all sessions running in that mode. At any given time, the total amount of PGA memory available to active work areas in the instance is automatically derived from the PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET initialization parameter. This amount is set to the value of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET minus the amount of PGA memory allocated by other components of the system (for example, PGA memory allocated by sessions). The resulting PGA memory is then assigned to individual active work areas, based on their specific memory requirements.

Under automatic PGA memory management mode, the main goal of Oracle is to honor the PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET limit set by the DBA, by controlling dynamically the amount of PGA memory allotted to SQL work areas. At the same time, Oracle tries to maximize the performance of all the memory-intensive SQL operators, by maximizing the number of work areas that are using an optimal amount of PGA memory (cache memory). The rest of the work areas are executed in one-pass mode, unless the PGA memory limit set by the DBA with the parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET is so low that multi-pass execution is required to reduce even more the consumption of PGA memory and honor the PGA target limit.

When configuring a brand new instance, it is hard to know precisely the appropriate setting for PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET. You can determine this setting in three stages:

  1. Make a first estimate for PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET, based on a rule of thumb.
  2. Run a representative workload on the instance and monitor performance, using PGA statistics collected by Oracle, to see whether the maximum PGA size is under-configured or over-configured.
  3. Tune PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET, using Oracle's PGA advice statistics.

The following sections explain this in detail:


The value of the PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET initialization parameter (for example 100000 KB, 2500 MB, or 50 GB) should be set based on the total amount of memory available for the Oracle instance. This value can then be tuned and dynamically modified at the instance level. Example 14-2 illustrates a typical situation.

Example 14-2 Initial Setting of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET

Assume that an Oracle instance is configured to run on a system with 4 GB of physical memory. Part of that memory should be left for the operating system and other non-Oracle applications running on the same hardware system. You might decide to dedicate only 80% of the available memory to the Oracle instance, or 3.2 GB.

You must then divide the resulting memory between the SGA and the PGA.

Good initial values for the parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET might be:

In this example, with a value of total_mem equal to 4 GB, you can initially set PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET to 1600 MB for the DSS system and to 655 MB for the OLTP system.

Monitoring the Performance of the Automatic PGA Memory Management

Before starting the tuning process, you need to know how to monitor and interpret the key statistics collected by Oracle to help in assessing the performance of the automatic PGA memory management component. Several dynamic performance views are available for this purpose:


This view gives instance-level statistics on the PGA memory usage and the automatic PGA memory manager. For example:


The output of this query might look like the following:

NAME                                                 VALUE UNIT
---------------------------------------------------------- -------
aggregate PGA target parameter 524288000 bytes
aggregate PGA auto target 463435776 bytes
global memory bound 25600 bytes
total PGA inuse 9353216 bytes
total PGA allocated 73516032 bytes
maximum PGA allocated 698371072 bytes
total PGA used for auto workareas 0 bytes
maximum PGA used for auto workareas 560744448 bytes
total PGA used for manual workareas 0 bytes
maximum PGA used for manual workareas 0 bytes
over allocation count 0
total bytes processed 4.0072E+10 bytes
total extra bytes read/written 3.1517E+10 bytes
cache hit percentage 55.97 percent

The main statistics displayed in V$PGASTAT are as follows:

Example 14-3 Calculating Cache Hit Percentage

Consider a simple example: Four sort operations have been executed, three were small (1 MB of input data) and one was bigger (100 MB of input data). The total number of bytes processed (BP) by the four operations is 103 MB. If one of the small sorts runs one-pass, an extra pass over 1 MB of input data is performed. This 1 MB value is the number of extra bytes read/written, or EBP. The cache hit percentage is calculated by the following formula:

BP x 100 / (BP + EBP)

The cache hit percentage in this case is 99.03%, almost 100%. This value reflects the fact that only one of the small sorts had to perform an extra pass while all other sorts were able to run optimally. Hence, the cache hit percentage is almost 100%, because this extra pass over 1 MB represents a tiny overhead. On the other hand, if the big sort is the one to run one-pass, then EBP is 100 MB instead of 1 MB, and the cache hit percentage falls to 50.73%, because the extra pass has a much bigger impact.


This view has one row for each Oracle process connected to the instance. The columns PGA_USED_MEM, PGA_ALLOC_MEM and PGA_MAX_MEM can be used to monitor the PGA memory usage of these processes. For example:


The output of this query might look like the following:

------------------------------ ------------ ------------- -----------
PSEUDO 0 0 0
oracle@miflo (PMON) 120463 234291 234291
oracle@miflo (DBW0) 1307179 1817295 1817295
oracle@miflo (LGWR) 4343655 4849203 4849203
oracle@miflo (CKPT) 194999 332583 332583
oracle@miflo (SMON) 179923 775311 775323
oracle@miflo (RECO) 129719 242803 242803
oracle@miflo (TNS V1-V3) 1400543 1540627 1540915
oracle@miflo (P000) 299599 373791 635959
oracle@miflo (P001) 299599 373791 636007
oracle@miflo (P002) 299599 373791 570471
oracle@miflo (P003) 303899 373791 636007
oracle@miflo (P004) 299599 373791 635959

This view shows the number of work areas executed with optimal memory size, one-pass memory size, and multi-pass memory size since instance start-up. Statistics in this view are subdivided into buckets that are defined by the optimal memory requirement of the work area. Each bucket is identified by a range of optimal memory requirements specified by the values of the columns LOW_OPTIMAL_SIZE and HIGH_OPTIMAL_SIZE.

Examples 14-4 and 14-5 show two ways of using V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM.

Example 14-4 Querying V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM: Nonempty Buckets

Consider a sort operation that requires 3 MB of memory to run optimally (cached). Statistics about the work area used by this sort are placed in the bucket defined by LOW_OPTIMAL_SIZE = 2097152 (2 MB) and HIGH_OPTIMAL_SIZE = 4194303 (4 MB minus 1 byte), because 3 MB falls within that range of optimal sizes. Statistics are segmented by work area size, because the performance impact of running a work area in optimal, one-pass or multi-pass mode depends mainly on the size of that work area.

The following query shows statistics for all nonempty buckets. Empty buckets are removed with the predicate where total_execution != 0.

(HIGH_OPTIMAL_SIZE+1)/1024 high_kb,

The result of the query might look like the following:

------ ------- ------------------ ------------------ ----------------------
8 16 156255 0 0
16 32 150 0 0
32 64 89 0 0
64 128 13 0 0
128 256 60 0 0
256 512 8 0 0
512 1024 657 0 0
1024 2048 551 16 0
2048 4096 538 26 0
4096 8192 243 28 0
8192 16384 137 35 0
16384 32768 45 107 0
32768 65536 0 153 0
65536 131072 0 73 0
131072 262144 0 44 0
262144 524288 0 22 0

The query result shows that, in the 1024 KB to 2048 KB bucket, 551 work areas used an optimal amount of memory, while 16 ran in one-pass mode and none ran in multi-pass mode. It also shows that all work areas under 1 MB were able to run in optimal mode.

Example 14-5 Querying V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM: Percent Optimal

You can also use V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM to find the percentage of times work areas were executed in optimal, one-pass, or multi-pass mode since start-up. This query only considers work areas of a certain size, with an optimal memory requirement of at least 64 KB.

SELECT optimal_count, round(optimal_count*100/total, 2) optimal_perc, 
onepass_count, round(onepass_count*100/total, 2) onepass_perc,
multipass_count, round(multipass_count*100/total, 2) multipass_perc
(SELECT decode(sum(total_executions), 0, 1, sum(total_executions)) total,
sum(OPTIMAL_EXECUTIONS) optimal_count,
sum(ONEPASS_EXECUTIONS) onepass_count,
sum(MULTIPASSES_EXECUTIONS) multipass_count
FROM v$sql_workarea_histogram
WHERE low_optimal_size > 64*1024);

The output of this query might look like the following:

------------- ------------ ------------- ------------ --------------- --------------
2239 81.63 504 18.37 0 0

This result shows that 81.63% of these work areas have been able to run using an optimal amount of memory. The rest (18.37%) ran one-pass. None of them ran multi-pass. Such behavior is preferable, for the following reasons:


This view can be used to display the work areas that are active (or executing) in the instance. Small active sorts (under 64 KB) are excluded from the view. Use this view to precisely monitor the size of all active work areas and to determine if these active work areas spill to a temporary segment. Example 14-6 shows a typical query of this view:

Example 14-6 Querying V$SQL_WORKAREA_ACTIVE

SELECT to_number(decode(SID, 65535, NULL, SID)) sid,
operation_type OPERATION,
trunc(ACTUAL_MEM_USED/1024) MEM,
trunc(MAX_MEM_USED/1024) "MAX MEM",
The output of this query might look like the following:
--- ----------------- --------- --------- --------- ----- -------
8 GROUP BY (SORT) 315 280 904 0
8 HASH-JOIN 2995 2377 2430 1 20000
9 GROUP BY (SORT) 34300 22688 22688 0
11 HASH-JOIN 18044 54482 54482 0
12 HASH-JOIN 18044 11406 21406 1 120000

This output shows that session 12 (column SID) is running a hash-join having its work area running in one-pass mode (PASS column). This work area is currently using 11406 KB of memory (MEM column) and has used, in the past, up to 21406 KB of PGA memory (MAX MEM column). It has also spilled to a temporary segment of size 120000 KB. Finally, the column ESIZE indicates the maximum amount of memory that the PGA memory manager expects this hash-join to use. This maximum is dynamically computed by the PGA memory manager according to workload.

When a work area is deallocated--that is, when the execution of its associated SQL operator is complete--the work area is automatically removed from the V$SQL_WORKAREA_ACTIVE view.


Oracle maintains cumulative work area statistics for each loaded cursor whose execution plan uses one or more work areas. Every time a work area is deallocated, the V$SQL_WORKAREA table is updated with execution statistics for that work area.

V$SQL_WORKAREA can be joined with V$SQL to relate a work area to a cursor. It can even be joined to V$SQL_PLAN to precisely determine which operator in the plan uses a work area.

Example 14-7 shows three typical queries on the V$SQL_WORKAREA dynamic view:

Example 14-7 Querying V$SQL_WORKAREA

The following query finds the top 10 work areas requiring most cache memory:

( SELECT workarea_address, operation_type, policy, estimated_optimal_size
ORDER BY estimated_optimal_size )

The following query finds the cursors with one or more work areas that have been executed in one or even multiple passes:

col sql_text format A80 wrap 
SELECT sql_text, sum(ONEPASS_EXECUTIONS) onepass_cnt,
WHERE s.address = wa.address
GROUP BY sql_text

Using the hash value and address of a particular cursor, the following query displays the cursor execution plan, including information about the associated work areas.

col "O/1/M" format a10
col name format a20
SELECT operation, options, object_name name,
trunc(bytes/1024/1024) "input(MB)",
trunc(last_memory_used/1024) last_mem,
trunc(estimated_optimal_size/1024) optimal_mem,
trunc(estimated_onepass_size/1024) onepass_mem,
decode(optimal_executions, null, null,
multipasses_executions) "O/1/M"
WHERE p.address=w.address(+)
AND p.hash_value=w.hash_value(+)
AND p.address='88BB460C'
AND p.hash_value=3738161960;
------------ -------- -------- --------- -------- ---------- ---------- ------
SORT GROUP BY 4582 8 16 16 16/0/0
HASH JOIN SEMI 4582 5976 5194 2187 16/0/0

You can get the address and hash value from the V$SQL view by specifying a pattern in the query. For example:

SELECT address, hash_value 
WHERE sql_text LIKE '%my_pattern%';


To help you tune the initialization parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET, Oracle provides two PGA advice performance views:

By examining these two views, you no longer need to use an empirical approach to tune the value of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET. Instead, you can use the content of these views to determine how key PGA statistics will be impacted if you change the value of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET.

In both views, values of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET used for the prediction are derived from fractions and multiples of the current value of that parameter, to assess possible higher and lower values. Values used for the prediction range from 10 MB to a maximum of 256 GB.

Oracle generates PGA advice performance views by recording the workload history and then simulating this history for different values of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET. The simulation process happens in the background and continuously updates the workload history to produce the simulation result. You can view the result at any time by querying V$PGA_TARGET_ADVICE or V$PGA_TARGET_ADVICE_HISTOGRAM.

To enable automatic generation of PGA advice performance views, make sure the following parameters are set:

The content of these PGA advice performance views is reset at instance start-up or when PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET is altered.


Simulation cannot include all factors of real execution, so derived statistics might not exactly match up with real performance statistics. You should always monitor the system after changing PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET, to verify that the new performance is what you expect.


This view predicts how the statistics cache hit percentage and over allocation count in V$PGASTAT will be impacted if you change the value of the initialization parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET. Example 14-8 shows a typical query of this view:

Example 14-8 Querying V$PGA_TARGET_ADVICE

SELECT round(PGA_TARGET_FOR_ESTIMATE/1024/1024) target_mb,

The output of this query might look like the following:

---------- -------------- --------------------
63 23 367
125 24 30
250 30 3
375 39 0
500 58 0
600 59 0
700 59 0
800 60 0
900 60 0
1000 61 0
1500 67 0
2000 76 0
3000 83 0
4000 85 0

If you use OEM, looking at the graphic, the curve shows how the PGA cache hit percentage improves as the value of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET increases. The shaded zone in the graph is the over allocation zone, where the value of the column ESTD_OVERALLOCATION_COUNT is nonzero. It indicates that PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET is too small to even meet the minimum PGA memory needs. If PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET is set within the over allocation zone, the memory manager will over-allocate memory and actual PGA memory consumed will be more than the limit you set. It is therefore meaningless to set a value of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET in that zone. In this particular example PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET should be set to at least 375 MB.


Even though the theoretical maximum for the PGA cache hit percentage is 100%, there is a practical limit on the maximum size of a work area, which may prevent this theoretical maximum from being reached, even if you further increase PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET. This should happen only in large DSS systems where the optimal memory requirement is large and might cause the value of the cache hit percentage to taper off at a lower percentage, like 90%.

Beyond the over allocation zone, the value of the PGA cache hit percentage increases rapidly. This is due to an increase in the number of work areas which run optimally or one-pass and a decrease in the number of multi-pass executions. At some point, somewhere around 500 MB in this example, there is an inflection in the curve that corresponds to the point where most (probably all) work areas can run optimally or at least one-pass. After this inflection, the cache hit percentage keeps increasing, though at a lower pace, up to the point where it starts to taper off and shows only slight improvement with increase in PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET.

Ideally, PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET should be set at the optimal value, or at least to the maximum value possible in the region beyond the over allocation zone. As a rule of thumb, the PGA cache hit percentage should be higher than 60%, since at 60% the system is almost processing double the number of bytes it actually needs to process in an ideal situation. Using this particular example, it makes sense to set PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET to at least 500 MB and as close as possible to 3 GB. But the right setting for the parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET really depends on how much memory can be dedicated to the PGA component. Generally, adding PGA memory requires reducing memory for some of the SGA components, like the shared pool or the buffer cache. This is because the overall memory dedicated to the Oracle instance is often bound by the amount of physical memory available on the system. As a result, any decisions to increase PGA memory must be taken in the larger context of the available memory in the system and the performance of the various SGA components (which you monitor with shared pool advisory and buffer cache advisory statistics). If memory cannot be taken away from the SGA, you might consider adding more physical memory to the system.


You can use the following steps as a tuning guideline in tuning PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET:

  1. Set PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET so there is no memory over-allocation; avoid setting it in the over-allocation zone. In Example 14-8, PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET should be set to at least 375 MB.
  2. After eliminating over-allocations, aim at maximizing the PGA cache hit percentage, based on your response-time requirement and memory constraints. In Example 14-8, assume you have a limit X on memory you can allocate to PGA.
    • If this limit X is beyond the optimal value, then you would set PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET to the optimal value. After this point, the incremental benefit with higher memory allocation to PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET is very small. In Example 14-8, if you have 10 GB to dedicate to PGA, set PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET to 3 GB, the optimal value. The remaining 7 GB is dedicated to the SGA.
    • If the limit X is less than the optimal value, then you would set PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET to X. In Example 14-8, if you have only 2 GB to dedicate to PGA, set PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET to 2 GB and accept a cache hit percentage of 75%.

Finally, like most statistics collected by Oracle that are cumulative since instance start-up, you can take a snapshot of the view at the beginning and at the end of a time interval. You can then derive the predicted statistics for that time interval as follows:

         estd_overalloc_count = (difference in estd_overalloc_count between the two snapshots)

                                    (difference in bytes_processed between the two snapshots)
estd_pga_cache_hit_percentage = -----------------------------------------------------------------
(difference in bytes_processed + extra_bytes_rw between the two snapshots )

This view predicts how the statistics displayed by the performance view V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM will be impacted if you change the value of the initialization parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET. You can use the dynamic view V$PGA_TARGET_ADVICE_HISTOGRAM to view detailed information on the predicted number of optimal, one-pass and multi-pass work area executions for the set of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET values you use for the prediction.

The V$PGA_TARGET_ADVICE_HISTOGRAM view is identical to the V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM view, with two additional columns to represent the PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET values used for the prediction. Therefore, any query executed against the V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM view can be used on this view, with an additional predicate to select the desired value of PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET.


The following query displays the predicted content of V$SQL_WORKAREA_HISTOGRAM for a value of the initialization parameter PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET set to twice its current value.

SELECT LOW_OPTIMAL_SIZE/1024 low_kb, (HIGH_OPTIMAL_SIZE+1)/1024 high_kb, 
estd_optimal_executions estd_opt_cnt,
estd_onepass_executions estd_onepass_cnt,
estd_multipasses_executions estd_mpass_cnt
FROM v$pga_target_advice_histogram
WHERE pga_target_factor = 2
AND estd_total_executions != 0

The output of this query might look like the following.

------ ------- ---------------- ---------------- --------------
8 16 156107 0 0
16 32 148 0 0
32 64 89 0 0
64 128 13 0 0
128 256 58 0 0
256 512 10 0 0
512 1024 653 0 0
1024 2048 530 0 0
2048 4096 509 0 0
4096 8192 227 0 0
8192 16384 176 0 0
16384 32768 133 16 0
32768 65536 66 103 0
65536 131072 15 47 0
131072 262144 0 48 0
262144 524288 0 23 0

The output shows that increasing PGA_AGGREGATE_TARGET by a factor of 2 will allow all work areas under 16 MB to execute in optimal mode.

See Also:

Oracle9i Database Reference


Statistics in the V$SYSSTAT and V$SESSTAT views show the total number of work areas executed with optimal memory size, one-pass memory size, and multi-pass memory size. These statistics are cumulative since the instance or the session was started.

The following query gives the total number and the percentage of times work areas were executed in these three modes since the instance was started:

SELECT name profile, cnt, decode(total, 0, 0, round(cnt*100/total)) percentage
FROM (SELECT name, value cnt, (sum(value) over ()) total
WHERE name like 'workarea exec%');

The output of this query might look like the following:

PROFILE                                    CNT PERCENTAGE
----------------------------------- ---------- ----------
workarea executions - optimal 5395 95
workarea executions - onepass 284 5
workarea executions - multipass 0 0

Configuring SORT_AREA_SIZE

Tuning sort operations using SORT_AREA_SIZE is only relevant for configurations running the Oracle shared server option or for configurations not running under the automatic memory management mode. In the later case, Oracle Corporation strongly recommends switching to the automatic memory management mode, because it is easier to manage and often outperforms a manually-tuned system.

This section describes the following:

Fundamentals of Sorts

A sort is an operation that orders data according to certain criteria before the data is returned to the requestor.

Operations that perform sorts include the following:

When the WORKAREA_SIZE_POLICY parameter is set to MANUAL, the maximum amount of memory allocated for a sort is defined by the parameter SORT_AREA_SIZE. If the sort operation is not able to completely fit into SORT_AREA_SIZE memory, then the sort is separated into phases. The temporary output of each phase is stored in temporary segments on disk. The tablespace in which these sort segments are created is the user's temporary tablespace.

When Oracle writes sort operations to disk, it writes out partially sorted data in sorted runs. After all the data has been received by the sort, Oracle merges the runs to produce the final sorted output. If the sort area is not large enough to merge all the runs at once, then subsets of the runs are merged in several merge passes. If the sort area is larger, then there are fewer, longer runs produced. A larger sort area also means that the sort can merge more runs in one merge pass.


Reads and writes performed as a part of disk sort operations bypass the buffer cache.

Recognizing Memory and Disk Sorts

Oracle collects statistics that reflect sort activity and stores them in dynamic performance views, such as V$SQLAREA and V$SYSSTAT.

Table 14-4 lists the statistics from V$SYSSTAT that reflect sort behavior.

Table 14-4  V$SYSSTAT Statistics Reflecting Sort Behavior
Statistic Description

sorts (memory)

The number of sorts small enough to be performed entirely in memory without I/O to temporary sort segments on disk.

sorts (disk)

The number of sorts too large to be performed entirely in memory, requiring I/O to temporary sort segments on disk.

For example, the following query monitors these statistics:

WHERE NAME IN ('sorts (memory)', 'sorts (disk)');

The output of this query might look like the following:

NAME                                                                  VALUE
---------------------------------------------------------------- ----------
sorts (memory) 430418566
sorts (disk) 33255

In addition, to find individual SQL statements that are performing sorts, query the V$SQLAREA view. Order the rows by SORTS to identify the SQL statements performing the most sorts. For example:


In an OLTP environment, the best solution is to investigate whether the SQL statements can be tuned to avoid the sort activity.

Application Characteristics

For best performance in OLTP systems, most sorts should occur solely within memory. Sorts written to disk can adversely affect performance. If your OLTP application frequently performs sorts that do not fit into sort area size, and if the application has been tuned to avoid unnecessary sorting, then consider increasing the SORT_AREA_SIZE parameter for the whole instance.

If there are only a few programs that perform larger than average sorts that sort to disk, then it is possible to modify SORT_AREA_SIZE at the session level only for that workload or application (for example, building an index).

DSS applications typically access large volumes of data. These types of applications are expected to perform sorts to disk, purely because of the nature of the application and the data volumes involved. In DSS applications, it is important to identify the optimal SORT_AREA_SIZE to allow the disk sorts to perform most efficiently. Allocating more memory to sorts does not necessarily mean that the sort will be faster.

Considerations with SORT_AREA_SIZE

The main consideration when choosing SORT_AREA_SIZE is balancing memory usage with sort performance.

Since Oracle8 release 8.0, sorts do not allocate the whole of SORT_AREA_SIZE in one memory allocation at the beginning of the sort. The memory is allocated in DB_BLOCK_SIZE chunks when required, up to SORT_AREA_SIZE.

This means that increasing SORT_AREA_SIZE memory is a concern when the majority of processes on the system perform sorts and use the maximum allocation. In this situation, increasing SORT_AREA_SIZE for the instance as a whole results in more memory being allocated from the operating system (for dedicated connections; that is, if a shared server environment is not used). This is not necessarily a problem if the system has free memory available. However, if there is not enough free memory, then this causes paging or swapping.

If a shared server environment is used, then the additional memory is allocated out of the shared pool or the large pool when it is configured (that is, when the LARGE_POOL_SIZE initialization parameter is specified). The actual amount of memory used in the shared pool is the lesser of SORT_AREA_SIZE, SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE, and the actual allocation used by the sort.

If the SORT_AREA_SIZE is too small, then the sort is not performed as efficiently as possible. This means that sorts that could have been memory-only sorts will be disk sorts, or, alternatively, that the number of sort runs required to process the sort could be larger than necessary. Both of these situations can severely degrade performance.

Remember that there is a point after which increasing the SORT_AREA_SIZE no longer provides a performance benefit.


SORT_AREA_SIZE is a dynamically modifiable initialization parameter that specifies the maximum amount of memory to use for each sort. If a significant number of sorts require disk I/O to temporary segments, then your application's performance might benefit from increasing the value of SORT_AREA_SIZE. Alternatively in a DSS environment, increasing SORT_AREA_SIZE is not likely to make the sort a memory-only sort; however, depending on the current value and the new value chosen, it could make the sort faster.

The maximum value of this parameter depends on your operating system. You need to determine what size SORT_AREA_SIZE makes sense for your system.

Considerations with SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE

The SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE parameter determines the lower memory limit to which Oracle reduces the size of the sort area after the sort has started sending the sorted data to the user or to the next part of the query.

With dedicated connections, the freed memory is not released to the operating system, rather the freed memory is made available to the session for reuse.

However, if the connection is through shared server, then there could be a memory benefit to setting SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE. If this parameter is set after the sort has completed, then the sorted data is stored in the SGA. The amount of memory used in the SGA is the lesser of the actual usage or SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE if it is set; otherwise, it is SORT_AREA_SIZE. This is why setting SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE could be of use with a shared server environment.


Connections made to the database through shared servers usually should not perform large sorts.

Although there might be a memory saving with shared server, setting SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE causes additional I/O to write and read data to and from temporary segments on disk (if the sort requires more than SORT_AREA_RETAINED_SIZE bytes).

Using NOSORT to Create Indexes Without Sorting

One cause of sorting is the creation of indexes. Creating an index for a table involves sorting all rows in the table based on the values of the indexed columns. However, Oracle lets you create indexes without sorting. If the rows in the table are loaded in ascending order, then you can create the index faster without sorting.

The NOSORT Clause

To create an index without sorting, load the rows into the table in ascending order of the indexed column values. Your operating system might provide a sorting utility to sort the rows before you load them. When you create the index, use the NOSORT clause on the CREATE INDEX statement. For example, the following CREATE INDEX statement creates the index my_emp_name_ix on the last_name column of the employees table without sorting the rows in the employees table:

CREATE INDEX my_emp_name_ix
ON employees(last_name)

In this SQL example, it is assumed that the rows in the table are loaded in ascending order of the indexed column values.


Specifying NOSORT in a CREATE INDEX statement negates the use of PARALLEL INDEX CREATE, even if PARALLEL (DEGREE n) is specified.

When to Use the NOSORT Clause

Presorting your data and loading it in order might not be the fastest way to load a table.


Sorting can be avoided when performing a GROUP BY operation when you know that the input data is already ordered, so that all rows in each group are clumped together. This can be the case if the rows are being retrieved from an index that matches the grouped columns, or if a sort merge join produces the rows in the right order. ORDER BY sorts can be avoided in the same circumstances. When no sort takes place, the EXPLAIN PLAN output indicates GROUP BY NOSORT.