Carlos Sierra's Tools and Tips

Tools and Tips for Oracle Performance and SQL Tuning

Archive for the ‘SQL Healh-Check (SQLHC)’ Category

SQLTXPLAIN under new administration

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During my 17 years at Oracle, I developed several tools and scripts. The largest and more widely used is SQLTXPLAIN. It is available through My Oracle Support (MOS) under document_id 215187.1.

SQLTXPLAIN, also know as SQLT, is a tool for SQL diagnostics, including Performance and Wrong Results. I am the original developer and author, but since very early stages of its development, this tool encapsulates the expertise of many bright engineers, DBAs, developers and others, who constantly helped to improve this tool on every new release by providing valuable feedback. SQLT is then nothing but the collection of many good ideas from many people. I was just the lucky guy that decided to build something useful for the Oracle SQL tuning community.

When I decided to join Enkitec back on 2013, I asked Mauro Pagano to look after my baby (I mean SQLT), and sure enough he did an excellent job. Mauro fixed most of my bugs, as he jokes about, and also incorporated some of his own :-). Mauro kept SQLT in good shape and he was able to continue improving it on every new release. Now Mauro also works for Enkitec, so SQLT has a new owner and custodian at Oracle.

Abel Macias is the new owner of SQLT, and as such he gets busy maintaining and enhancing this tool among other duties at Oracle. So, if you have enhancement requests, or positive feedback, please reach out to Abel at his Oracle account: If you come across some of my other tools and scripts, and they show my former Oracle account (, please reach out to Abel and he might be able to route your concern or question.

Since one of my hobbies is to build free software that I also consume, my current efforts are on eDB360, eAdam and eSP. The most popular and openly available is eDB360, which basically gives your a 360-degree view of a database without installing anything. Then, Mauro is also building something cool on his own free time. Mauro is building the new SQLd360 tool, which is already available on the web (search for SQLd360). This SQLd360 tool, similar to eDB360, provides a 360-degree view, but instead of a database its focus is one SQL. And similarly than eDB360 it installs nothing on the database. Both are available as “free software” for anyone to download and use. That is the nice part: everyone likes free! (specially if any good).

What is the difference between SQLd360 and SQLT?

Both are exceptional tools. And both can be used for SQL Tuning and for SQL diagnostics. The main differences in my opinion are these:

  1. SQLT has it all. It is huge and it covers pretty much all corners. So, for SQL Tuning this SQLTXPLAIN is “THE” tool.
  2. SQLd360 in the other hand is smaller, newer and faster to execute. It gives me what is more important and most commonly used.
  3. SQLT requires to install a couple of schemas and hundreds of objects. SQLd360 installs nothing!
  4. To download SQLT you need to login into MOS. In contrast, SQLd360 is wide open (free software license), and no login is needed.
  5. Oracle Support requires SQLT, and Oracle Engineers are not exposed yet to SQLd360.
  6. SQLd360 uses Google charts (as well as eDB360 does) which enhance readability of large data sets, like time series for example. Thus SQLd360 output is quite readable.
  7. eDB360 calls SQLd360 on SQL of interest (large database consumers), so in that sense SQLd360 enhances eDB360. But SQLd360 can also be used stand-alone.

If you ask me which one would I recommend, I would answer: both!. If you can use both, then that is better than using just one. Each of these two tools (SQLT and SQLd360) has pros and cons compared to the other. But at the end both are great tools. And thanks to Abel Macias, SQLT continues its lifecycle with frequent enhancements. And thanks to Mauro, we have now a new kid on the block! I would say we have a win-win for our large Oracle community!

Written by Carlos Sierra

March 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm


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Every so often I see on a distribution list a posting that starts like this: “I upgraded my application from database release X to release Y and now many queries are performing poorly, can you tell why?”

As everyone else on a distribution list, my first impulse is to make an educated guess permeated by a prior set of experiences. The intentions are always good, but the process is painful and time consuming. Many of us have seen this kind of question, and many of us have good hunches. Still I think our eagerness to help blinds us a bit. The right thing to do is to step back and analyze the facts, and I mean all the diagnostics supporting the observation.

What is needed to diagnose a SQL Tuning issue?

The list is large, but I will enumerate some of the most important pieces:

  1. SQL Text
  2. Version of the database (before and after upgrade)
  3. Database parameters (before and after)
  4. State of the CBO Statistics (before and after)
  5. Changes on Histograms
  6. Basics about the architecture (CPUs, memory, etc.)
  7. Values of binds if SQL has them
  8. Indexes compare, including state (visible?, usable?)
  9. Execution Plan (before and after)
  10. Plan stability? (Stored Outlines, Profiles, SQL Plan Management)
  11. Performance history as per evidence on AWR or StatsPack
  12. Trace from Event 10053 to understand the CBO
  13. Trace from Event 10046 level 8 or 12 to review Waits
  14. Active Session History (ASH) if 10046 is not available

I could keep adding bullets to the list, but I think you get the point: There are simply too many things to check! And each takes some time to collect. More important, the state of the system changes overtime, so you may need to re-collect the same diagnostics more than once.

SQLTXPLAIN to the rescue

SQLT or SQLTXPLAIN, has been available on MetaLink (now MOS) under note 215187.1 for over a decade. In short, SQLT collects all the diagnostics listed above and a lot more. That is WHY Oracle Support uses it every day. It simply saves a lot of time! So, I always encourage fellow Oracle users to make use of the FREE tool and expedite their own SQL Tuning analysis. When time permits, I do volunteer to help on an analysis. So, if you get to read this, and you want to help yourself while using SQLT but feel intimidated by this little monster, please give it a try and contact me for assistance. If I can help, I will, if I cannot, I will let you know.


It is fun to guess WHY a SQL is not performing as expected, and trying different guesses is educational but very time consuming. If you want to actually find root causes before trying to fix your SQL, you may want to collect relevant diagnostics. SQLT is there to help, and if installing this tool is not something you can do in a short term, consider then SQL Health-Check SQLHC.


Meet “edb360”: a free tool that provides a 360-degree view of an Oracle database

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Besides been what I consider a horrendous color, “edb360” also stands for Enkitec’s “database 360-degree” view. Simply put: edb360 is a new free tool that provides a 360-degree view of an Oracle database.

What is “edb360“?

This “edb360” tool is the product of a collaborative effort of some very smart guys, and me. Special thanks to Frits Hoogland, Karl Arao, Randy Johnson, Martin Bach, Kyle Hailey, Tanel Poder, Alex Fatkulin, Mauro Pagano, Abel Macias, Jon Adams and Jack Agustin. These guys helped me to envision edb360, some directly and some indirectly, but their help and shared knowledge motivated me to develop edb360 and make it available today.

The edb360 tool started as a quick and dirty “script” to gather basic information about a database without knowing anything about it before hand. The first rule for edb360 was: it has to install nothing in the database. The second rule became: it has to provide some insight about a database.

The output is presented for the most part into 3 formats: HTML, Text and Comma-separated Values (CSV). Why? HTML and Text can be easily used to consolidate important findings into a Word report. Sometimes HTML is more useful and sometimes Text is better. Then CSV is used to produce charts out of Performance Trends. Some people can visualize trends easier with a graph (me included).

What about other tools?

Of course there are wonderful tools that can help in this arena, like Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM) or Oracle’s Automatic Workload Repository (AWR). So why not using those tools? Well, if I had access to OEM or I knew before hand which time intervals I want to analyze with AWR, then I would not have a strong need to use edb360. The reality that we consultants face when we are getting acquainted of a system, is that we are not given any access to the database of interest (usually production). And asking for a server account feels like asking for coke’s secret formula: then we simply cannot poke the database at our own will, and that is understandable. So, what is our second best?: please run this script that installs nothing and generates a zip file with some metadata from your system.  The script is plain text and its output is also plain text (html, text and csv files). So, any DBA or System Administration can validate that no customer confidential data is extracted or exposed. A win-win!

If the system we want to understand is an Exadata system, we can also request for an Exacheck output, if  not an Exadata system but a RAC cluster, there is Raccheck. These two tools, available though My Oracle Support (MOS) make a good companion for the edb360. In other words, edb360 is not a replacement for the other two but more of an add-on or companion.

Why is edb360 free?

Why not? Often I get asked: why do you give away the tools and scripts you develop? The answer is simple: tools, scripts, white papers, blog entries like this, in my mind they all represent the same: sharing knowledge with our Oracle community. I wish for a community where knowledge (and tools) flows for all to benefit. Let’s say my personal time I invest building tools and scripts kinds of make it up for my lame blog postings. 😉

What is the catch?

No catch. Just be aware that edb360 makes use of some DBA_HIST views and ASH data, and those are part of the Oracle Diagnostics Pack. So when executing the tool it will ask  to indicate if your site has those licenses. Your answer determines the scope of the output. So if you specify you have a license for the Oracle Diagnostics Pack then your edb360 output includes pieces from AWR and ASH, else AWR and ASH are not accessed.

About versions, feedback and support

For the most part, I am committed to maintain this tool as my personal time permits. That means I can only work on it during odd hours and not every day. Nothing different than SQLTXPLAIN during the first few years of its existence, so I am not scared. Keep also in mind this edb360 is work in progress, and version v1405 is the first one I feel comfortable sharing with the community. In other words, it is far from perfect and I foresee it growing in multiple directions.

If you like this tool, and want to enhance its output, get SQLHC from MOS 1366133.1, and place the sqlhc.sql script into the same db360/sql directory. By doing so, you will also get 3 SQL health-checks. In other words, edb360 is SQLHC aware.


If you like free tools and have a use for this edb360 tool, you might as well download it and give it a shot. Nothing to lose (besides a few minutes of your spare time). A sample output is also available under same link above.

Life is Good!

Written by Carlos Sierra

February 19, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Carlos Sierra’s shared Scripts and Presentations

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I recently delivered 3 sessions at the East Coast Oracle Users Group (ECO). During these sessions I offered to share the actual Presentations and some of the Scripts I used during the 3rd session. I plan to keep updating and expanding both scripts and presentations. They also show now on the right side of this page. Feel free to use, share and recycle any of my scripts and presentations.

Written by Carlos Sierra

November 12, 2013 at 7:23 am

A healthy way to do an Oracle database health-check

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Q: How do I do an Oracle database health-check?

A: It all depends. (hint: we can use this answer for most Oracle related questions in general and Performance related in particular, but don’t try it at home).

This seems like a quite broad question and yes it is. And of course there are many ways to proceed with a database health-check. So at this post I ‘d rather talk about: what I think is a healthy way to approach an Oracle database health-check.

  1. Start with the basics: Listen to the users of this database. If nobody complains then most probably you would have to define the scope by yourself. In any case, go on.
  2. Gather environment information. This includes the understanding of the architecture used, the databases on such architecture and the applications on those databases. Also learn who is who: Users, DBAs and Developers.
  3. Gather metrics. I am referring to OS metrics (CPU, IO and Memory), and also database metrics (AWR) together with alert logs. When gathering these metrics focus on time periods where the pain has been reported, and slice the time as small as possible (i.e. AWR reports for each time slice captured, avoiding the 6-24 hours time frame common mistake).
  4. Let the combination of complains (concerns) and findings on metrics to guide you to the next step. This is where most get lost. So don’t panic and dive in into what you see as contention on your metrics. Keep in mind that the most important metric of all is “user response time”, so anything affecting it must be in your priority list.
  5. There are many more things to check, but they are more in the configuration and sound practices arena. For example: redundancy on control files, archive mode, backups, non-default parameters, PX setup, memory setup, etc. For these, creating a check list would help.
  6. At some point you will have many leads and you will start to lose focus. Do some yoga or go for a walk, then make an A, B, C list with what is really important, what is kind-of and what is mere style.
  7. You are not an expert on every aspect of the database (nobody is). So, do not pretend you can do everything yourself. Rely on your peers and/or contacts. Reach out for help in those areas where you feel insecure (feeling insecure is a good thing, much better than feeling secure without any solid foundation).
  8. Once you think you have it nailed, go to your peers, colleagues, boss(es), friends, partner, or strangers if necessarily, and solicit a review of your findings and recommendations. Accept feedback. This is key. Maybe what you thought was sound it makes absolutely no sense to someone with more experience or simply with a different view.
  9. Reconsider everything. Avoid the pitfall of assuming that what you have learn in your two-digits years of experience can be applied to every case. For example, if you have done mostly SQL Tuning, don’t expect every issue to be SQL Tuning. Health-checks are like fortune cookies, you never know what you will get.
  10. Last but not least: Learn from your new experience, practice listening to others, use your common sense, exercise your knowledge, and work as a team member. Add the word “collaboration” to your daily work and maybe one day you will learn you are not alone.

Cheers — Carlos

Written by Carlos Sierra

November 1, 2013 at 7:27 am

YASTS: Yet Another SQL Tuning Script: planx.sql

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Having SQLTXPLAIN and SQLHC available, WHY do I need yet another way to display execution plans?

New script planx.sql reports execution plans for one SQL_ID from RAC and AWR. It is lightweight and installs nothing. It produces list of performance metrics for given SQL out of gv$sqlstats, gv$sqlstats_plan_hash, gv$sql and dba_hist_sqlstat. It also displays execution plans from gv$sql_plan_statistics_all and dba_hist_sql_plan. It is RAC aware. It also reports on io_saved when executed on Exadata.

Most stand-alone light-weight scripts I have seen only report plans from connected RAC node. This script reports from all RAC nodes. The AWR piece is optional. In other words, if your site does not have a Diagnostics Pack License you can specify so when executing this script, thus all access to AWR data is simply skipped. Output is plain text and it executes in seconds.

I will be using this planx.sql as my first step in the analysis of queries performing slowly. If I need more, then I will use SQLHC or SQLTXPLAIN. This planx.sql script, as well as some others, are beginning to populate my new shared directory of “free” scripts. The link is at the right of the screen, and also here. Quite often I write small scripts to do my job, now they will have a new house there. A readme provides a one-line description of each script.


New planx.sql is an alternative to plain DBMS_XPLAIN.DISPLAY_CURSOR. It displays plans from all RAC nodes and from AWR(opt). It also reports relevant performance metrics for all recorded execution plans. It is fast and installs nothing.

Written by Carlos Sierra

October 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

SQL Tuning with SQLTXPLAIN 2-days Workshop

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SQLTXPLAIN is a SQL Tuning tool widely used by the Oracle community. Available through My Oracle Support (MOS) under document 215187.1, this free tool is available for download and use to anyone with MOS access. It has helped thousands of times to expedite the resolution of SQL Tuning issues, and many Oracle DBAs and Developers benefit of its use on a daily basis.

Stelios Charalambides has done an excellent job writing a book on this topic. In his book Stelios covers many aspects about SQLTXPLAIN and some related topics. I highly recommend to get a copy of this book if you want to learn more about SQLTXPLAIN. It is available at Amazon and many other retailers.

The new 2-days SQLTXPLAIN Workshop offered by Enkitec (an Oracle Platinum business partner and my employer) is a completely new course that interleaves “how to use effectively SQLTXPLAIN” with important and related SQL Tuning Topics such as Plan Flexibility and Plan Stability. This hands-on workshop offers participants the unique opportunity to fully understand the contents of SQLTXPLAIN and its vast output through an interactive session. About half the time is dedicated to short guided labs, while the other half uses presentations and demos. This workshop is packed with lots of content. It was a real challenge packaging so much info in only two days, but I am very pleased with the result. It became a 2-days intensive knowledge transfer hands-on workshop on SQLTXPLAIN and SQL Tuning!

The first session of this workshop is scheduled for November 7-8 in Dallas, Texas. I expect this pilot session to fill out fast. Other sessions and onsite ones will be offered during 2014. I hope to meet many of you face to face on November 7!