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Oracle DBA Exam ( the Oracle Architecture )

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Managing Rollback Segments
Management of rollback segments. These database objects facilitate transaction processing by storing entries related to uncommitted transactions run by user processes on the Oracle database. Each transaction is tracked within a rollback segment by means of a system change number, also called an SCN. Rollback segments can be in several different modes, including online (available), offline (unavailable), pending offline, and partly available. When the DBA creates a rollback segment, the rollback segment is offline, and must be brought online before processes can use it. Once the rollback segment is online, it cannot be brought offline until every transaction using the rollback segment has completed. Rollback segments must be sized appropriately in order to manage its space well. Every rollback segment should consist of several equally sized extents. Use of the pctincrease storage clause is not permitted with rollback segments. The ideal usage of space for a rollback segment is for the first extent of the rollback segment to be closing its last active transaction as the last extent is running out of room to store active transaction entries, in order to facilitate reuse of allocated extents before obtaining new ones. The following diagram illustrates rollback segment reusability:

Creating and Sizing Rollback Segments
The size of a rollback segment can be optimized to stay around a certain number of extents with use of the optimal clause. If the optimal clause is set and a long-running transaction causes the rollback segment to allocate several additional extents, Oracle will force the rollback segment to shrink after the long-running transaction commits. The size of a rollback segment should relate to both the number and size of the average transactions running against the database. Additionally, there should be a few large rollback segments for use with long-running batch processes inherent in most database applications. Transactions can be explicitly assigned to rollback segments that best suit their transaction entry needs with use of the set transaction use rollback segment.

At database startup, at least one rollback segment must be acquired. This rollback segment is the system rollback segment that is created in the SYSTEM tablespace as part of database creation. If the database has more than one tablespace, then two rollback segments must be allocated. The total number of rollback segments that must be allocated for the instance to start is determined by dividing the value of the TRANSACTIONS initialization parameter by the value specified for the TRANSACTIONS_PER_ROLLBACK_SEGMENT parameter. Both of these parameters can be found in the init.ora file. If there are specific rollback segments that the DBA wants to acquire as part of database creation, the names of those rollback segments can be listed in the ROLLBACK_SEGMENTS parameter of the init.ora file.

Determining the Number of Rollback Segments
To determine the number of rollback segments that should be created for the database, use the Rule of Four. Divide the average number of concurrent transactions by 4. If the result is less than 4 + 4, or 8, then round it up to the nearest multiple of 4. Configuring more than 50 rollback segments is generally not advised except under heavy volume transaction processing. The V$ROLLSTAT and V$WAITSTAT dynamic performance views are used to monitor rollback segment performance.

Managing Tables and Indexes
Management and administration of tables and indexes. These two objects are the lifeblood of the database, for without data to store there can be no database. Table and index creation must be preceded by appropriate sizing estimates to determine how large a table or index will get.

Sizing Tables
Sizing a table is a three-step process: 1) determining row counts for the table, 2) determining how many rows will fit into a data block, and 3) determining how many blocks the table will need. Step 1 is straightforward-the DBA should involve the developer and the customer where possible and try to forecast table size over 1-2 years in order to ensure enough size is allocated to prevent a maintenance problem later. Step 2 requires a fair amount of calculation to determine two things-the amount of available space in each block and the amount of space each row in a table will require. The combination of these two factors will determine the estimate of the number of blocks the table will require, calculated as part of step 3.

Sizing Indexes
Sizing indexes uses the same procedure for index node entry count as the estimate of row count used in step 1 for sizing the index's associated table. Step 2 for sizing indexes is the same as for tables-the amount of space available per block is determined, followed by the size of each index node, which includes all columns being indexed and a 6-byte ROWID associated with each value in the index. The two are then combined to determine how many nodes will fit into each block. In step 3, the number of blocks required to store the full index is determined by determining how many blocks are required to store all index nodes; then, that number is increased by 5 percent to account for the allocation of special blocks designed to hold the structure of the index together.

Understanding Storage and Performance Trade-Offs
The principle behind indexes is simple-indexes improve performance on table searches for data. However, with the improvement in performance comes an increase in storage costs associated with housing the index. In order to minimize that storage need, the DBA should create indexes that match the columns used in the where clauses of queries running against the database. Other storage/performance trade-offs include use of the pctincrease option. Each time an extent is allocated in situations where pctincrease is greater than zero, the size of the allocated extent will be the percentage larger than the previous extent as defined by pctincrease. This setup allows rapidly growing tables to reduce performance overhead associated with allocating extents by allocating larger and larger extents each time growth is necessary. One drawback is that if the growth of the table were to diminish, pctincrease may cause the table to allocate far more space than it needs on that last extent.

Reviewing Space Usage
Space within a table is managed with two clauses defined for a table at table creation. Those clauses are pctfree and pctused. The pctfree clause specifies that a percentage of the block must remain free when rows are inserted into the block to accommodate for growth of existing rows via update statements. The pctused clause is a threshold value under which the capacity of data held in a block must fall in order for Oracle to consider the block free for inserting new rows. Both pctfree and pctused are generally configured together for several reasons. First, the values specified for both clauses when added together cannot exceed 100. Second, the types of activities on the database will determine the values for pctfree and pctused. Third, the values set for both clauses work together to determine how high or low the costs for storage management will be.

High pctfree causes a great deal of space to remain free for updates to existing rows in the database. It is useful in environments where the size of a row is increased substantially by frequent updates. Although space is intentionally preallocated high, the overall benefit for performance and storage is high as well, because chaining and row migration will be minimized. Row migration is when a row of data is larger than the block can accommodate, so Oracle must move the row to another block. The entry where the row once stood is replaced with its new location. Chaining goes one step further to place pieces of row data in several blocks when there is not enough free space in any block to accommodate the row. Setting pctfree low means little space will be left over for row update growth. This configuration works well for static systems like data warehouses where data is infrequently updated once populated. Space utilization will be maximized, but setting pctfree in this way is not recommended for high update volume systems because the updates will cause chaining and row migration. High pctused means that Oracle should always attempt to keep blocks as filled as possible with row data. This setup means that in environments where data is deleted from tables often, the blocks having row deletion will spend short and frequent periods on the table's freelist. A freelist is a list of blocks that are below their pctused threshold, and that are available to have rows inserted into them. Moving blocks onto and off of the freelists for a table increases performance costs and should be avoided. Low pctused is a good method to prevent a block from being considered "free" before a great deal of data can be inserted into it. Low pctused improves performance related to space management; however, setting pctused too low can cause space to be wasted in blocks.

Managing Clusters
Typically, regular "nonclustered" tables and associated indexes will give most databases the performance they need to access their database applications quickly. However, there are certain situations where performance can be enhanced significantly with the use of cluster segments. A cluster segment is designed to store two or more tables physically within the same blocks. The operating principle is that if there are two or more tables that are joined frequently in select statements, then storing the data for each table together will improve performance on statements that retrieve data from them. Data from rows on multiple tables correspond to one unique index of common column shared between the tables in the cluster. This index is called a cluster index. A few conditions for use apply to clusters. Only tables that contain static data and are rarely queried by themselves work well in clusters. Although tables in clusters are still considered logically separate, from a physical management standpoint they are really one object. As such, pctfree and pctused options for the individual tables in a cluster defer to the values specified for pctfree and pctused for the cluster as a whole. However, some control over space usage is given with the size option used in cluster creation.

Creating Index Clusters
In order to create clusters, the size required by the clustered data must be determined. The steps required are the same for sizing tables, namely 1) the number of rows per table that will be associated to each member of the cluster index, called a cluster key; 2) the number of cluster keys that fit into one data block will be determined; and 3) the number of blocks required to store the cluster will also be determined. One key point to remember in step 2 is that the row size estimates for each table in the cluster must not include the columns in the cluster key. That estimate is done separately. Once sizing is complete, clusters are created in the following way: 1) create the cluster segment with the create cluster command; 2) add tables to the cluster with the create table command with the cluster option; 3) create the cluster index with the create index on cluster command, and lastly, 4) populate the cluster tables with row data. Note that step 4 cannot happen before step 3 is complete.

Creating Hash Clusters
Clusters add performance value in certain circumstances where table joins are frequently performed on static data. However, for even more performance gain, hash clustering can be used. Hashing differs from normal clusters in that each block contains one or more hash keys that are used to identify each block in the cluster. When select statements are issued against hash clusters, the value specified by an equality operation in the where clause is translated into a hash key by means of a special hash function, and data is then selected from the specific block that contains the hash key. When properly configured, hashing can yield required data for a query in as little as one disk read.
There are two major conditions for hashing-one is that hashing only improves performance when the two or more tables in the cluster are rarely selected from individually, and joined by equality operations (column_name = X, or a.column_name = b.column_name, etc.) in the where clause exclusively. The second condition is that the DBA must be willing to make an enormous storage trade-off for that performance gain-tables in hash clusters can require as much as 50 percent more storage space than comparably defined nonclustered tables with associated indexes.

Managing Data Integrity Constraints
The use of declarative constraints in order to preserve data integrity. In many database systems, there is only one way to enforce data integrity in a database-define procedures for checking data that will be executed at the time a data change is made. In Oracle, this functionality is provided with the use of triggers. However, Oracle also provides a set of five declarative integrity constraints that can be defined at the data definition level.

Types of Declarative Integrity Constraints
The five types of integrity constraints are 1) primary keys, designed to identify the uniqueness of every row in a table; 2) foreign keys, designed to allow referential integrity and parent/child relationships between tables; 3) unique constraints, designed to force each row's non-NULL column element to be unique; 4) NOT NULL constraints, designed to prevent a column value from being specified as NULL by a row; and 5) check constraints, designed to check the value of a column or columns against a prescribed set of constant values. Two of these constraints-primary keys and unique constraints-have associated indexes with them.

Constraints in Action
Constraints have two statuses, enabled and disabled. When created, the constraint will automatically validate every column in the table associated with the constraint. If no row's data violates the constraint, then the constraint will be in enabled status when creation completes.

Managing Constraint Violations
If a row violates the constraint, then the status of the constraint will be disabled after the constraint is created. If the constraint is disabled after startup, the DBA can identify and examine the offending rows by first creating a special table called EXCEPTIONS by running the utlexcpt.sql script found in the rdbms/admin directory under the Oracle software home directory. Once EXCEPTIONS is created, the DBA can execute an alter table enable constraints exceptions into statement, and the offending rows will be loaded into the EXCEPTIONS table.

Viewing Information about Constraints
To find information about constraints, the DBA can look in DBA_CONSTRAINTS and DBA_CONS_COLUMNS. Additional information about the indexes created by constraints can be gathered from the DBA_INDEXES view.

Managing Users
Managing users is an important area of database administration. Without users, there can be no database change, and thus no need for a database. Creation of new users comprises specifying values for several parameters in the database. They are password, default and temporary tablespaces, quotas on all tablespaces accessible to the user (except the temporary tablespace), user profile, and default roles. Default and temporary tablespaces should be defined in order to preserve the integrity of the SYSTEM tablespace. Quotas are useful in limiting the space that a user can allocate for his or her database objects. Once users are created, the alter user statement can be used to change any aspect of the user's configuration. The only aspects of the user's configuration that can be changed by the user are the default role and the password.

Monitoring Information About Existing Users
Several views exist to display information about the users of the database. DBA_USERS gives information about the default and temporary tablespace specified for the user, while DBA_PROFILES gives information about the specific resource usage allotted to that user. DBA_TS_QUOTAS lists every tablespace quota set for a user, while DBA_ROLES describes all roles granted to the user. DBA_TAB_PRIVS also lists information about each privilege granted to a user or role on the database. Other views are used to monitor session information for current database usage. An important view for this purpose is V$SESSION. This dynamic performance view gives information required in order to kill a user session with the alter system kill session. The relevant pieces of information required to kill a session are the session ID and the serial# for the session.

Understanding Oracle Resource Usage
In order to restrict database usage, the DBA can create user profiles that detail resource limits. A user cannot exceed these limits if the RESOURCE_LIMIT initialization parameter is set on the database to TRUE. Several database resources are limited as part of a user profile. They include available CPU per call and/or session, disk block I/O reads per session, connection time, idle time, and more. One profile exists on the Oracle database at database creation time, called DEFAULT. The resource usage values in the DEFAULT profile are all set to unlimited. The DBA should create more profiles to correspond to the various types or classes of users on the database. Once created, the profiles of the database can then be granted to the users of the database.

Resource Costs and Composite Limits
An alternative to setting usage limits on individual resources is to set composite limits to all database resources that can be assigned a resource cost. A resource cost is an integer that represents the importance of that resource to the system as a whole. The integer assigned as a resource cost is fairly arbitrary and does not usually represent a monetary cost. The higher the integer used for resource cost, the more valuable the resource. The database resources that can be assigned a resource cost are CPU per session, disk reads per session, connect time, and memory allocated to the private SGA for user SQL statements. After assigning a resource cost, the DBA can then assign a composite limit in the user profile. As the user uses resources, Oracle keeps track of the number of times the user incurs the cost associated with the resource and adjusts the running total. When the composite limit is reached, the user session is ended.

Object Privileges Explained
Oracle limits the users' access to the database objects created in the Oracle database by means of privileges. Database privileges are used to allow the users of the database to perform any function within the database, from creating users to dropping tables to inserting data into a view. There are two general classes of privilege: system privileges and object privileges. System privileges generally pertain to the creation of database objects and users, as well as the ability to connect to the database at all, while object privileges govern the amount of access a user might have to insert, update, delete, or generate foreign keys on data in a database object.

Creating and Controlling Roles
Database privilege management can be tricky if privileges are granted directly to users. In order to alleviate some of the strain on the DBA trying to manage database access, the Oracle architecture provides a special database object called a role. The role is an intermediate step in granting user privileges. The role acts as a "virtual user," allowing the DBA to grant all privileges required for a certain user class to perform its job function. When the role has been granted all privileges required, the role can then be granted to as many users as required. When a new privilege is required for this user group, the privilege is granted to the role, and each user who has the role automatically obtains the privilege. Similarly, when a user is no longer authorized to perform a certain job function, the DBA can revoke the role from the user in one easy step. Roles can be set up to require password authentication before the user can execute an operation that requires a privilege granted via the role.

Auditing the Database
The activities on a database can also be audited using the Oracle audit capability. Several reasons exist for the DBA or security administrator to perform an audit, including suspicious database activity or a need to maintain an archive of historical database activity. If the need is identified to conduct a database audit, then that audit can happen on system-level or statement-level activities. Regardless of the various objects that may be monitored, the start and stopping of a database as well as any access to the database with administrator privileges is always monitored. To begin an audit, the AUDIT_TRAIL parameter must be set to DB for recording audit information in the database audit trail, OS for recording the audit information in the operating system audit trail, or to NONE if no auditing is to take place. Any aspect of the database that must have a privilege granted to do it can be audited. The information gathered in a database audit is stored in the AUD$ table in the Oracle data dictionary. The AUD$ table is owned by SYS. Special views are also available in the data dictionary to provide views on audit data. Some of these views are DBA_AUDIT_EXISTS, DBA_AUDIT_OBJECT, DBA_AUDIT_SESSION, DBA_AUDIT_STATEMENT, and DBA_AUDIT_TRAIL. It is important to clean records out of the audit trail periodically, as the size of the AUD$ table is finite, and if there is an audit of sessions connecting to the database happening when the AUD$ table fills, then no users will be able to connect to the database until some room is made in the audit trail. Records can only be removed from the AUD$ table by a user who has delete any table privilege, the SYS user, or a user SYS has given delete access to on the AUD$ table. The records in the AUD$ table should be archived before they are deleted. Additionally, the audit trail should be audited to detect inappropriate tampering with the data in the table.

Introduction to SQL*Loader
SQL*Loader is a tool that developers and DBAs can use to load data into Oracle8 tables from flat files easily. SQL*Loader consists of three main components: a set of data records to be entered, a set of controls explaining how to manipulate the data records, and a set of parameters defining how to execute the load. Most often, these different sets of information are stored in files-a datafile, a control file, and a parameter file.

The Control File
The control file provides the following information to Oracle for the purpose the data load: datafile name and format, character sets used in the datafiles, datatypes of fields in those files, how each field is delimited, and which tables and columns to load. You must provide the control file to SQL*Loader so that the tool knows several things about the data it is about to load. Data and control file information can be provided in the same file or in separate files. Some items in the control file are mandatory, such as which tables and columns to load and how each field is delimited.

The bad file and the discard file
SQL*Loader uses two other files during data loads in conjunction with record filtering. They are the bad file and the discard file. Both filenames are specified either as parameters or as part of the control file. The bad file stores records from the data load that SQL*Loader rejects due to bad formatting, or that Oracle8 rejects for failing some integrity constraint on the table being loaded. The discard file stores records from the data load that have been discarded by SQL*Loader for failing to meet some requirement as stated in the when clause expression of the control file. Data placed in both files are in the same format as they appear in the original datafile to allow reuse of the control file for a later load.

Datafiles can have two formats. The data Oracle will use to populate its tables can be in fixed-length fields or in variable-length fields delimited by a special character. Additionally, SQL*Loader can handle data in binary format or character format. If the data is in binary format, then the datafile must have fixed-length fields.

Log file
Recording the entire load event is the log file. The log filename is specified in the parameters on the command line or in the parameter file. The log file gives six key pieces of information about the run: software version and run date; global information such as log, bad, discard, and datafile names; information about the table being loaded; datafile information, including which records are rejected; data load information, including row counts for discards and bad and good records; and summary statistics, including elapsed and CPU time.

Loading Methods
There are two load paths available to SQL*Loader: conventional and direct.

Conventional Path
The conventional path uses the SQL interface and all components of the Oracle RDBMS to insert new records into the database. It reliably builds indexes as it inserts rows and writes records to the redo log, guaranteeing recovery similar to that required in normal situations involving Oracle8. The conventional path is the path of choice in many loading situations, particularly when there is a small amount of data to load into a large table. This is because it takes longer to drop and re-create an index as required in a direct load than it takes to insert a small number of new rows into the index. In other situations, like loading data across a network connection using SQL*Net, the direct load simply is not possible.

Direct Path
However, the direct path often has better performance executing data loads. In the course of direct path loading with SQL*Loader, several things happen. First, the tool disables all constraints and secondary indexes the table being loaded may have, as well as any insert triggers on the table. Then, it converts flat file data into Oracle blocks and writes those full data blocks to the database. Finally, it reenables those constraints and secondary indexes, validating all data against the constraints and rebuilding the index. It reenables the triggers as well, but no further action is performed.

In some cases, a direct path load may leave the loaded table's indexes in a direct path state. This generally means that data was inserted into a column that violated an indexed constraint, or that the load failed. In the event that this happens, the index must be dropped, the situation identified and corrected, and the index re-created.

Data Saves
Both the conventional and the direct path have the ability to store data during the load. In a conventional load, data can be earmarked for database storage by issuing a commit. In a direct load, roughly the same function is accomplished by issuing a data save. The frequency of a commit or data save is specified by the ROWS parameter. A data save differs from a commit in that a data save does not update indexes, release database resources, or end the transaction-it simply adjusts the highwatermark for the table to a point just beyond the most recently written data block. The table's highwatermark is the maximum amount of storage space the table has occupied in the database.

SQL*Loader Command-Line Parameters
Many parameters are available to SQL*Loader that refine the way the tool executes. The most important parameters are USERID to specify the username the tool can use to insert data and CONTROL to specify the control file SQL*Loader should use to interpret the data. Those parameters can be placed in the parameter file, passed on the command line, or added to the control file.
The control file of SQL*Loader has many features and complex syntax, but its basic function is simple. It specifies that data is to be loaded and identifies the input datafile. It identifies the table and columns that will be loaded with the named input data. It defines how to read the input data, and can even contain the input data itself.
Finally, although SQL*Loader functionality can be duplicated using a number of other tools and methods, SQL*Loader is often the tool of choice for data loading between Oracle and non-Oracle databases because of its functionality, flexibility, and performance.

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