Category: Exadata

Exadata Smart Flash Logging Explained

I’ve seen some posts on the blogosphere where people attempt to explain (or should I say guess) how Exadata Smart Flash Logging works and most of them are wrong. Hopefully this post will help clear up some the misconceptions out there.

The following is an excerpt from the paper entitled “Exadata Smart Flash Cache Features and the Oracle Exadata Database Machine” that goes into technical detail on the Exadata Smart Flash Logging feature.

Smart Flash Logging works as follows. When receiving a redo log write request, Exadata will do
parallel writes to the on-disk redo logs as well as a small amount of space reserved in the flash
hardware. When either of these writes has successfully completed the database will be
immediately notified of completion. If the disk drives hosting the logs experience slow response
times, then the Exadata Smart Flash Cache will provide a faster log write response time.
Conversely, if the Exadata Smart Flash Cache is temporarily experiencing slow response times
(e.g., due to wear leveling algorithms), then the disk drive will provide a faster response time.
Given the speed advantage the Exadata flash hardware has over disk drives, log writes should be
written to Exadata Smart Flash Cache, almost all of the time, resulting in very fast redo write
performance. This algorithm will significantly smooth out redo write response times and provide
overall better database performance.

The Exadata Smart Flash Cache is not used as a permanent store for redo data – it is just a
temporary store for the purpose of providing fast redo write response time. The Exadata Smart
Flash Cache is a cache for storing redo data until this data is safely written to disk. The Exadata
Storage Server comes with a substantial amount of flash storage. A small amount is allocated for
database logging and the remainder will be used for caching user data. The best practices and
configuration of redo log sizing, duplexing and mirroring do not change when using Exadata
Smart Flash Logging. Smart Flash Logging handles all crash and recovery scenarios without
requiring any additional or special administrator intervention beyond what would normally be
needed for recovery of the database from redo logs. From an end user perspective, the system
behaves in a completely transparent manner and the user need not be aware that flash is being
used as a temporary store for redo. The only behavioral difference will be consistently low
latencies for redo log writes.

By default, 512 MB of the Exadata flash is allocated to Smart Flash Logging. Relative to the 384
GB of flash in each Exadata cell this is an insignificant investment for a huge performance
benefit. This default allocation will be sufficient for most situations. Statistics are maintained to
indicate the number and frequency of redo writes serviced by flash and those that could not be
serviced, due to, for example, insufficient flash space being allocated for Smart Flash Logging.
For a database with a high redo generation rate, or when many databases are consolidated on to
one Exadata Database Machine, the size of the flash allocated to Smart Flash Logging may need
to be enlarged. In addition, for consolidated deployments, the Exadata I/O Resource Manager
(IORM) has been enhanced to enable or disable Smart Flash Logging for the different databases
running on the Database Machine, reserving flash for the most performance critical databases.

Real-World Performance Videos on YouTube – Data Warehousing

Here are some videos of a data warehouse demo that the Real-World Performance Group has been running for a while now and we thought it was time to put them on YouTube. Hope you find them informative.

Migrate a 1TB Data warehouse in 20 Minutes (Part 1)

Migrate a 1TB Data warehouse in 20 Minutes (Part 2)

Migrate a 1TB Data warehouse in 20 Minutes (Part 3)

Migrate a 1TB Data warehouse in 20 Minutes (Part 4)

Debunking More Netezza FUD About Exadata

A reader recently left a comment for which my reply was longer than I’d like to leave for a comment so I’m answering it in detail with this blog post.

Gabramel writes:

Nice article. I am just reading the Netezza paper.

You don’t appear to have debunked the following statement.

“Exadata is unable to process this three table join in its MPP tier and instead must inefficiently move all the data required by the calculation across the network to Oracle RAC.”

Not many queries exist where data is only required from two tables. Are Oracle suggesting we need to change the way data is structured to enable best use of Exadata – increasing TCO significantly?

Thanks & Nice post.

There is a reason that I did not debunk that statement – it did not exist in the original version of Netezza’s paper. It seems they have taken the shopping basket example that I debunked in my previous post and replaced it with this one. Nonetheless lets take a look at Netezza’s claim:

Exadata’s storage tier provides Bloom filters to implement simple joins between one large and one smaller table, anything more complex cannot be processed in MPP. Analytical queries commonly require joins more complex than those supported by Exadata. Consider the straightforward case of an international retailer needing insight to the dollar value of sales made in stores located in the UK. This simple SQL query requires a join across three tables – sales, currency and stores.

select sum(sales_value * exchange_rate) us_dollar_sales
from sales, currency, stores
where =
and = 'UK'
and = 'USA'

Exadata is unable to process this three table join in its MPP tier and instead must inefficiently move all the data required by the calculation across the network to Oracle RAC.

Before I comment, did you spot the error with the SQL query? Hint: Count the number of tables and joins.

Now that we can clearly see that Netezza marketing can not write good SQL because this query contains a cross product as there is no JOIN between sales and stores thus the value returned from this query is not “the [US] dollar value of sales made in stores located in the UK”, it’s some other rubbish number.

Netezza is trying to lead you to believe that sending data to the database nodes (running Oracle RAC) is a bad thing, which is most certainly is not. Let’s remember what Exadata is – Smart Storage. Exadata itself is not an MPP database, so of course it needs to send some data back to the Oracle database nodes where the Oracle database kernel can use Parallel Execution to easily parallelize the execution of this query in an MPP fashion efficiently leveraging all the CPUs and memory of the database cluster.

The reality here is that both Netezza and Oracle will do the JOIN in their respective databases, however, Oracle can push a Bloom filter into Exadata for the STORES.COUNTRY predicate so that the only data that is returned to the Oracle database are rows matching that criteria.

Let’s assume for a moment that the query is correctly written with two joins and the table definitions look like such (at least the columns we’re interested in):

create table sales (
 store_id    number,
 day         date,
 sales_value number

create table currency (
 day           date,
 country       varchar2(3),
 exchange_rate number

create table stores (
 store_id number,
 country  varchar2(3)

    sum(sales.sales_value * currency.exchange_rate) us_dollar_sales
where =
and sales.store_id = stores.store_id
and = 'UK'
and = 'USA'

For discussion’s sake, let’s assume the following:

  • There is 1 year (365 days) in the SALES table of billions of rows
  • There are 5000 stores in the UK (seems like a realistic number to me)

There is no magic in those numbers, it’s just something to add context to the discussion, so don’t think I picked them for some special reason. Could be more, could be less, but it really doesn’t matter.

So if we think about the the cardinality for the tables:

  • STORES has a cardinality of 5000 rows
  • CURRENCY has a cardinality of 365 rows (1 year)

The table JOIN order should be STORES -> SALES -> CURRENCY.

With Exadata what will happen is such:

  • Get STORE_IDs from STORE where COUNTRY = ‘UK’
  • Build a Bloom Filter of these 5000 STORE_IDs and push them into Exadata
  • Scan SALES and apply the Bloom Filter in storage, retuning only rows for UK STORE_IDs and project only the necessary columns
  • JOIN that result to CURRENCY
  • Compute the SUM aggregate

All of these operations are performed in parallel using Oracle’s Parallel Execution.

Netezza suggests that Exadata can use Bloom filters for only two table joins (1 big, 1 small) and that analytical queries are more complex than that so Exadata can not use a Bloom filter and provide an example to suggest such. The reality is not only is their example incorrectly written SQL, it also works great with Exadata Bloom filters and it is more than 2 tables! In addition, it is a great demonstration of efficient and smart data movement as Exadata can smartly filter using Bloom filters and needs to only project a very few columns, thus likely creating a big savings versus sending all the columns/rows from the storage. Thus Exadata Bloom filters can work with complex analytical queries of more than two tables and efficiently send data across the network to the Oracle RAC cluster where Parallel Execution will work on the JOINs and aggregation in an MPP manor.

Now to specifically answer your question: No, Oracle is not suggesting you need to change your data/queries to support two table joins, Exadata will likely work fine with what you have today. And to let you and everyone else in on a little secret: Exadata actually supports applying multiple Bloom filters to a table scan (we call this a Bloom filter list denoted by the Predicate Information of a query plan by SYS_OP_BLOOM_FILTER_LIST), so you can have multiple JOIN filters being applied in the Exadata storage, so in reality Bloom filters are not even limited to just 2 table JOINs.

Oh well, so much for Netezza competitive marketing. Just goes to show that Netezza has a very poor understanding how Exadata really works (yet again).

Making the Most of Oracle Exadata – A Technical Review

Over the past few weeks several people have asked me about an Exadata article entitled “Making the Most of Oracle Exadata” by Marc Fielding of Pythian. Overall it’s an informative article and touches on many of the key points of Exadata, however, even though I read (skimmed is a much better word) and briefly commented on the article back in August, after further review I found some technical inaccuracies with this article so I wanted to take the time to clarify this information for the Exadata community.

Exadata Smart Scans

Marc writes:

Smart scans: Smart scans are Exadata’s headline feature. They provide three main benefits: reduced data transfer volumes from storage servers to databases, CPU savings on database servers as workload is transferred to storage servers, and improved buffer cache efficiency thanks to column projection. Smart scans use helper processes that function much like parallel query processes but run directly on the storage servers. Operations off-loadable through smart scans include the following:

  • Predicate filtering – processing WHERE clause comparisons to literals, including logical operators and most SQL functions.
  • Column projection – by looking at a query’s SELECT clause, storage servers return only the columns requested, which is a big win for wide tables.
  • Joins – storage servers can improve join performance by using Bloom filters to recognize rows matching join criteria during the table scan phase, avoiding most of the I/O and temporary space overhead involved in the join processing.
  • Data mining model scoring – for users of Oracle Data Mining, scoring functions like PREDICT() can be evaluated on storage servers.

I personally would not choose a specific number of benefits from Exadata Smart Scan, simply stated, the design goal behind Smart Scan is to reduce the amount of data that is sent from the storage nodes (or storage arrays) to the database nodes (why move data that is not needed?). Smart Scan does this in two ways: it applies the appropriate column projection and row restriction rules to the data as it streams off of disk. However, projection is not limited to just columns in the SELECT clause, as Marc mentions, it also includes columns in the WHERE clause as well. Obviously JOIN columns need to be projected to perform the JOIN in the database nodes. The one area that Smart Scan does not help with at all is improved buffer cache efficiency. The reason for this is quite simple: Smart Scan returns data in blocks that were created on-the-fly just for that given query — it contains only the needed columns (projections) and has rows filtered out from the predicates (restrictions). Those blocks could not be reused unless someone ran the exact same query (think of those blocks as custom built just for that query). The other thing is that Smart Scans use direct path reads (cell smart table scan) and these reads are done into the PGA space, not the shared SGA space (buffer cache).

As most know, Exadata can easily push down simple predicates filters (WHERE c1 = ‘FOO’) that can be applied as restrictions with Smart Scan. In addition, Bloom Filters can be applied as restrictions for simple JOINs, like those commonly found in Star Schemas (Dimensional Data Models). These operations can be observed in the query execution plan by the JOIN FILTER CREATE and JOIN FILTER USE row sources. What is very cool is that Bloom Filters can also pass their list of values to Storage Indexes to aid in further I/O reductions if there is natural clustering on those columns or it eliminates significant amounts of data (as in a highly selective set of values). Even if there isn’t significant data elimination via Storage Indexes, a Smart Scan Bloom Filter can be applied post scan to prevent unneeded data being sent to the database servers.

Exadata Storage Indexes

Marc writes:

Storage indexes: Storage indexes reduce disk I/O volumes by tracking high and low values in memory for each 1-megabyte storage region. They can be used to give partition pruning benefits without requiring the partition key in the WHERE clause, as long as one of these columns is correlated with the partition key. For example, if a table has order_date and processed_date columns, is partitioned on order_date, and if orders are processed within 5 days of receipt, the storage server can track which processed_date values are included in each order partition, giving partition pruning for queries referring to either order_date or processed_date. Other data sets that are physically ordered on disk, such as incrementing keys, can also benefit.

In Marc’s example he states there is correlation between the two columns PROCESSED_DATE and ORDER_DATE where PROCESSED_DATE = ORDER_DATE + [0..5 days]. That’s fine and all, but to claim partition pruning takes place when specifying ORDER_DATE (the partition key column) or PROCESSED_DATE (non partition key column) in the WHERE clause because the Storage Index can be used for PROCESSED_DATE is inaccurate. The reality is, partition pruning can only take place when the partition key, ORDER_DATE, is specified, regardless if a Storage Index is used for PROCESSED_DATE.

Partition Pruning and Storage Indexes are completely independent of each other and Storage Indexes know absolutely nothing about partitions, even if the partition key column and another column have some type of correlation, as in Marc’s example. The Storage Index simply will track which Storage Regions do or do not have rows that match the predicate filters and eliminate reading the unneeded Storage Regions.

Exadata Hybrid Columnar Compression

Marc writes:

Columnar compression: Hybrid columnar compression (HCC) introduces a new physical storage concept, the compression unit. By grouping many rows together in a compression unit, and by storing only unique values within each column, HCC provides storage savings in the range of 80 90% based on the compression level selected. Since data from full table scans remains compressed through I/O and buffer cache layers, disk savings translate to reduced I/O and buffer cache work as well. HCC does, however, introduce CPU and data modification overhead that will be discussed in the next section.

The Compression Unit (CU) for Exadata Hybrid Columnar Compression (EHCC) is actually a logical construct, not a physical storage concept. The compression gains from EHCC come from column-major organization of the rows contained in the CU and the encoding and transformations (compression) that can be done because of that organization (like values are more common within the same column across rows, vs different columns in the same row). To say EHCC only stores unique values within each column is inaccurate, however, the encoding and transformation algorithms use various techniques that yield very good compression by attempting to represent the column values with as few bytes as possible.

Data from EHCC full table scans only remains fully compressed if the table scan is not a Smart Scan, in which case the compressed CUs are passed directly up to the buffer cache and the decompression will then be done by the database servers. However, if the EHCC full table scan is a Smart Scan, then only the columns and rows being returned to the database nodes are decompressed by the Exadata servers, however, predicate evaluations can be performed directly on the EHCC compressed data.

Read more: Exadata Hybrid Columnar Compression Technical White Paper

Marc also writes:

Use columnar compression judiciously: Hybrid columnar compression (HCC) in Exadata has the dual advantages of reducing storage usage and reducing I/O for large reads by storing data more densely. However, HCC works only when data is inserted using bulk operations. If non-compatible operations like single-row inserts or updates are attempted, Exadata reverts transparently to the less restrictive OLTP compression method, losing the compression benefits of HCC. When performing data modifications such as updates or deletes, the entire compression unit must be uncompressed and written in OLTP-compressed form, involving an additional disk I/O penalty as well.

EHCC does require bulk direct path load operations to work. This is because the compression algorithms that are used for EHCC need sets of rows as input, not single rows. What is incorrect with Marc’s comments is that when a row in a CU is modified (UPDATE or DELETE), the entire CU is not uncompressed and changed to non-EHCC compression, only the rows that are UPDATED are migrated to non-EHCC compression. For DELETEs no row migrations take place at all. This is easily demonstrated by tracking ROWIDs as in the example at the bottom of this post.

Exadata Smart Flash Cache

Marc writes:

Flash cache: Exadata s flash cache supplements the database servers buffer caches by providing a large cache of 384 GB per storage server and up to 5 TB in a full Oracle Exadata Database Machine, considerably larger than the capacity of memory caches. Unlike generic caches in traditional SAN storage, the flash cache understands database-level operations, preventing large non-repeated operations such as backups and large table scans from polluting the cache. Since flash storage is nonvolatile, it can cache synchronous writes, providing performance benefits to commit-intensive applications.

While flash (SSD) storage is indeed non-volatile, the Exadata Smart Flash Cache is volatile – it loses all of its contents if the Exadata server is power cycled. Also, since the Exadata Smart Flash is currently a write-through cache, it offers no direct performance advantages to commit-intensive applications, however, it does offer indirect performance advantages by servicing read requests that would otherwise be serviced by the HDDs, thus allowing the HDDs to service more write operations.

Read more: Exadata Smart Flash Cache Technical White Paper


-- EHCC UPDATE example - only modified rows migrate

SQL> create table order_items1
  2  compress for query high
  3  as
  4  select rownum as rnum, x.*
  5  from order_items x
  6  where rownum <= 10000;

Table created.

SQL> create table order_items2
  2  as
  3  select rowid as rid, x.*
  4  from order_items1 x;

Table created.

SQL> update order_items1
  2  set quantity=10000
  3  where rnum in (1,100,1000,10000);

4 rows updated.

SQL> commit;

Commit complete.

SQL> select b.rnum, b.rid before_rowid, a.rowid after_rowid
  2  from order_items1 a, order_items2 b
  3  where a.rnum(+) = b.rnum
  4  and (a.rowid != b.rid
  5    or a.rowid is null)
  6  order by b.rnum
  7  ;

--------------- ------------------ ------------------

-- EHCC DELETE example - no rows migrate

SQL> create table order_items1
  2  compress for query high
  3  as
  4  select rownum as rnum, x.*
  5  from order_items x
  6  where rownum <= 10000;

Table created.

SQL> create table order_items2
  2  as
  3  select rowid as rid, x.*
  4  from order_items1 x;

Table created.

SQL> delete from order_items1
  2  where rnum in (1,100,1000,10000);

4 rows deleted.

SQL> commit;

Commit complete.

SQL> select b.rnum, b.rid before_rowid, a.rowid after_rowid
  2  from order_items1 a, order_items2 b
  3  where a.rnum(+) = b.rnum
  4  and (a.rowid != b.rid
  5    or a.rowid is null)
  6  order by b.rnum
  7  ;

--------------- ------------------ ------------------
              1 AAAWSIAAAAAO1aTAAA
            100 AAAWSIAAAAAO1aTABj
           1000 AAAWSIAAAAAO1aTAPn
          10000 AAAWSIAAAAAO1aXBEv

Oracle Exadata Database Machine Offerings: X2-2 and X2-8

For those who followed or attended Oracle OpenWorld last week you may have seen the introduction of the new hardware for the Oracle Exadata Database Machine. Here’s a high level summary of what was introduced:

  • Updated Exadata Storage Server nodes (based on the Sun Fire X4270 M2)
  • Updated 2 socket 12 core database nodes for the X2-2 (based on the Sun Fire X4170 M2)
  • New offering of 8 socket 64 core database nodes using the Intel 7500 Series (Nehalem-EX) processors for the X2-8 (based on the Sun Fire X4800)

The major updates in the X2-2 compared to V2 database nodes are:

  • CPUs updated from quad-core Intel 5500 Series (Nehalem-EP) processors to six-core Intel 5600 Series (Westmere-EP)
  • Network updated from 1 GbE to 10 GbE
  • RAM updated from 72 GB to 96 GB

The updates to the Exadata Storage Servers (which are identical for both the X2-2 and X2-8 configurations) are:

  • CPUs updated to the six-core Intel 5600 Series (Westmere-EP) processors
  • 600 GB 15k RPM SAS offering now known as HP (High Performance)
  • 2 TB  7.2k RPM SAS offering now known as HC (High Capacity) [previously the 2 TB drives were 7.2k RPM SATA]

One of the big advantages of the CPU updates to the Intel 5600 Series (Westmere-EP) processors is that the Oracle Database Transparent Data Encryption can leverage the Intel Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel AES-NI) found in the Intel Integrated Performance Primitives (Intel IPP).  This “in silicon” functionality results in a 10x increase in encryption and an 8x increase in decryption using 256 bit keys per the Oracle Press release.

The differences (as I quickly see) between the X2-2 and the X2-8 offerings are:

  • X2-8 only comes in full racks (of 2 database nodes)
  • X2-8 has 2 TB of RAM per rack (compared to 768 GB for the X2-2)
  • X2-8 has 16s/128c/256t per rack vs. 16s/96c/192t for the X2-2 (s=sockets, c=cores, t=threads)

One of the other Exadata related announcements was that Solaris x86 will be an option for the database OS in addition to Linux.

In summary, the Oracle Exadata Database Machine is riding the wave of Intel processors and is leveraging the Intel IPP functionality and will likely do so for the foreseeable future.

If you want all hardware details, check out the product data sheets:

I just noticed that Alex Gorbachev has a nice table format of the hardware components for your viewing pleasure as well.