Oracle, Technical

Cache Buffers Chains and Latch Spelunking

Last night I posted a case study where I used the AWR (a blessed new feature) to investigate “gc buffer busy” wait events in a RAC environment. I concluded the write-up by theorizing that the single freelist was pointing all nodes of the cluster to the same small group of blocks for inserts and thereby causing the blocks on the freelist to always be subject to unearthly contention across the cluster.

One common piece of advice for gc buffer busy waits is to treat them like regular buffer busy waits. Because essentially that’s what they are – a buffer busy wait on a remote instance. So another avenue of investigation is to look at what might be causing buffer busy waits across the cluster.

Some people may remember that back in the days before YAPP and the wait interface, latches were usually where the purported “experts” looked when you had performance problems. Particularly those two infamous latches cache buffers chains and library cache. And of course today these are still an important part of any in-depth investigation and V$LATCH even includes wait time so you can take a time-based approach to analysis. I spent some time yesterday having a look at the latching in this RAC system and it yielded some results that I thought might be interesting to post. So here goes…

Cache Buffers Chains Latch

latches.GIFNow it was apparent to me pretty quickly that the cache buffers chains latch was the busiest on the system. And of course it’s normal for there to be some contention on this latch. You’ll notice from the screenshot the enormous difference in gets, spin_gets and sleeps. So that gave me a bit of a head start – but you could certainly get the same information from the AWR (that blessed new feature) as well. In fact you can do all of this from the AWR – although look out since latch information is not gathered by default!

So these guys weren’t gathering latch info – and so I couldn’t use the AWR. Instead I just setup my own temporary table to hold the statistics.

create table jschneider.waits as
select 1 snap, systimestamp timestamp, inst_id
,      CHILD# 
,      ADDR
,      GETS
,      MISSES
,      SLEEPS
from gv$latch_children
where name = 'cache buffers chains';

Table created.

At this point I worked on something else for awhile. After an hour or so I took a second snapshot.

insert into jschneider.waits
select 2, systimestamp, inst_id
,      CHILD#  
,      ADDR    
,      GETS    
,      MISSES  
,      SLEEPS  
from gv$latch_children
where name = 'cache buffers chains';

393216 rows created.


Commit complete.

I guess I should briefly explain why I grabbed that information. The cache buffers chains latch is actually made up of a large number of child latches. When Oracle needs to access the buffer cache it hashes some of the block’s information to discover which child it needs to use. That way each child latch only has a short list of blocks that it is managing. What I aim to do is find out which child latches are the busiest and then see which segments have blocks protected by those latches. Not only that but we’ll be able to see which blocks are the busiest (in real time).

So the next step is to find the child latches suffering from the most contention. In order to do this we’ll look for latches that frequently cause processes to sleep (relinquish the processor) while waiting.

with subq as (
select t2.inst_id i, t2.child#, t2.addr,
  t2.gets-t1.gets gets,
  t2.misses-t1.misses misses,
  t2.sleeps-t1.sleeps sleeps
from jschneider.waits6 t1, jschneider.waits6 t2
where t1.child#=t2.child#
  and t1.inst_id=t2.inst_id
  and t1.snap=1 and t2.snap=2
order by sleeps desc
select * from subq
where rownum < 40;

         I     CHILD# ADDR                   GETS     MISSES     SLEEPS
---------- ---------- ---------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
         3      32664 00000005F9EA6780     349526       8642        168
         2      32664 00000005F9EA6780     352351       9850        167
         3      21135 00000005F7D9FC80     109896       1284        146
         3      39340 00000005FBA3AD10      58127       1100        142
         5      13536 00000005A8F41F40    2305516      63418        126
         3      57464 0000000608DD4200      45361        909        112
         3      59297 000000060799DF68      31056        690         94
         3      14549 00000005F9C30B08      46444        624         90
         2      53157 00000006078C8808       4727       1129         83
         3      27008 00000005F6E27820      64685       1148         82
         3      62193 00000005FAD17808      28596        550         78
         3      24183 00000005F6DC54B8      32420        505         77
         3      35290 00000005F7F8BE38      65142       1115         75
         3      46376 0000000606C9CA30      29474        653         74
         3       8428 00000005F6BA1900      67146        303         73
         3      15740 00000005F7CE4388      94209        338         72
         3      30375 00000005F7EE1040       4962        663         69
         2      57464 0000000608DD4200      59033        887         68
         3      21180 00000005F7DA1588      65043        743         68
         3      38233 00000005F6FADC08      31475        516         66
         3      25742 00000005F8DE1520      57828        928         65
         3      46198 00000005FAAEB6D0      61915        751         65
         3       6648 00000005F6B63AE0      32022        462         62
         5      18908 00000005A2E51A30    1480518      39246         62
         3      59340 00000005FBCF2210      77557        307         61
         6      63812 00000005A0CD70E8    1071392      63118         61
         2       2526 00000005F5B16B90     339617        303         60
         1      32664 00000005F9EA6780     234869       5319         57
         2      14849 00000005F9C3B1E8      30541        248         57
         3      11539 00000005F9BC80B8     141915        220         57
         2      16944 00000005F9C83F40       3931        961         56
         4      18475 00000005F7D434E0      87239        477         56
         3      33009 00000005F9EB2768      66883        793         56
         2      59438 00000005FACB7B90      27733        742         52
         2      63600 00000005FBD863B0      10316        188         51
         3      44988 00000005FAAC15C0      28087        208         51
         2      52350 00000005FBBFF1E0     570855       3252         50
         3       1388 00000005F6AACD00     203545        163         50
         3       8972 00000005F8B9A4D0      28815        205         49

Exploring the Buffer Cache

Notice that I’ve also queried all latches across the entire cluster. So this is giving me a system-wide picture of cache buffer chains latches. Interestingly, the top child is the same one on two different instances (2 and 3). So next let’s login locally to instance 3 and see what that latch child is protecting! Also, I’m going to grab the current SCN – but only the base – from dbms_flashback.

select mod(dbms_flashback.get_system_change_number,power(2,32)) cur_scn_base from dual;


col object format a55
col state format a5
select /*+rule*/ * 
from (
select o.owner||'.'||o.object_name||decode(o.subobject_name,NULL,'','.')||
  o.subobject_name||' ['||o.object_type||']' object, sq.* 
from (
    11,'DONATED',x.state) state,
  decode(x.state,3,cr_scn_bas,NULL) scn_bas
  sys.v$latch_children  l,
  sys.x$bh  x
  x.hladdr = l.addr and
  x.obj < power(2,22) and
  x.hladdr  = '00000005F9EA6780'
) sq, dba_objects o
  order by sq.tch desc, file#, dbablk, scn_bas
) where rownum<40;

OBJECT                                                         OBJ      FILE#     DBABLK        TCH STATE    SCN_BAS
------------------------------------------------------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----- ----------
JSCHDER.SPOT_ACTIVITY [TABLE]                               903892        214     110918          3 SCUR
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_LOG.P_2007_09 [TABLE PARTITION]           3208618       1209      16393          2 CR     279622172
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_ORDERS_MF_AND_PARTS [INDEX]                  3136        994     121460          1 SCUR
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE.P_PARTS_APPROVED [TABLE PARTITION]        3064309       1156      33703          1 SCUR
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_LOG.P_2007_09 [TABLE PARTITION]           3208618       1209      16393          1 CR     279619002
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_LOG.P_2007_09 [TABLE PARTITION]           3208618       1209      16393          1 CR     279619202
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_LOG.P_2007_09 [TABLE PARTITION]           3208618       1209      16393          1 CR     279621063
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_LOG.P_2007_09 [TABLE PARTITION]           3208618       1209      16393          1 CR     279618998
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_LOG.P_2007_09 [TABLE PARTITION]           3208618       1209      16393          1 PI
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_LOG.P_2007_09 [TABLE PARTITION]           3208618       1209      16393          1 PI
JSCHDER.BIGTABL_LG_X_CHANGE_DATE.P_2007_09 [INDEX PARTI    3208620       1542       4537          1 SCUR

JSCHDER.PERSISTENT_QUERY [TABLE]                           1455110         10      99668          0 SCUR
JSCHDER.GENERATED_REPORT [TABLE]                           1455107         13      22427          0 SCUR
JSCHDER.SPOT_ACTIVITY_URL_DETAIL [TABLE]                   2684382        287      51469          0 SCUR
JSCHDER.GENERATED_REPORT [TABLE]                           1455107        476     103892          0 SCUR
JSCHDER.BIGTABLE_TOTALS [TABLE]                            1746552        524     187199          0 SCUR
JSCHDER.PERSISTENT_QUERY [TABLE]                           1455110       1476      21915          0 SCUR

17 rows selected.

Now this query has done more than show me the blocks protected by this latch child. The “TCH” field is telling me the Touch Count for the buffer – an indication of how hot the block is. This counter is incremented most of the time that Oracle accesses the block and if I remember right it is decremented automatically every 3 seconds or so. So this will show me – in real time – what blocks are being accessed.

First of all I noticed that there are only 17 blocks on this latch – which should be great for concurrency! These blocks must have been hammered to have so many sleeps! Secondly, I noticed that there’s one block that has seven different versions in this instance alone. I was immediately suspicious about that block and decided to check something…

select header_file, header_block from dba_segments
where owner='JSCHDER' and segment_name='BIGTABLE_LOG' and PARTITION_NAME='P_2007_09';

----------- ------------
       1209        16393

Looks like that’s the header block!! Interesting… so I wonder how many copies of this block are spread around the cluster? That’s pretty easy to check too.

select inst_id, status, dirty, stale from gv$bh 
where file#=1209 and block#=16393 order by 1, 2;

---------- ------- - -
         1 cr      N Y
         1 cr      N N
         1 cr      N N
         1 cr      N N
         1 cr      N N
         1 pi      Y N
         2 cr      N N
         2 cr      N N
         2 cr      N Y
         2 cr      N N
         2 pi      Y N
         3 cr      N N
         3 cr      N N
         3 cr      N Y
         3 cr      N N
         3 cr      N N
         3 pi      Y N
         4 cr      N N
         4 cr      N N
         4 cr      N N
         4 cr      N N
         4 cr      N N
         4 pi      Y N
         4 xcur    N N

Quite a few. In fact I discovered that if I repeated that query even a few moments apart the “xcur” block (which is the one being updated) is constantly moving between instances. Normal operation for RAC… but interesting to watch nonetheless!

What Does it All Mean?

So what’s the point? Well we’ve shored up the theory that BIGTABLE_LOG is the main culprit in this system. The header block is where the master freelist is and that would be bounced around a lot without freelist groups. After switching to ASSM or adding freelist groups I would expect to see fewer copies of the header block in the global cache. Hopefully they’ll let me know what happens so I can post an update! (Sounds like they’re planning to move the partition to ASSM during the downtime window this weekend!)

Appendix: Quickly Mapping file#/block# to an Object

I’m sure that everyone, at some point, has had a block number and wanted to know the object. And if you’ve been in this situation with a large database then you realize that there’s just no good way to do it. You have to query the dreaded DBA_EXTENTS view… which can take years to finish.

If you didn’t notice, I actually just demonstrated a potential alternative – maybe. If the block you’re checking is in the buffer cache (on any instance in RAC) then you can just read from v$bh instead of waiting around for DBA_EXTENTS! Just use a query something like this:

col object_name format a20
col owner format a10
col subobject_name format a20
select distinct o.owner, o.object_name, o.subobject_name, o.object_type
from dba_objects o, gv$bh b
where o.data_object_id=b.objd and b.objd < power(2,22) and status != 'free'
  and b.file#=1209
  and b.block#=16393

---------- -------------------- -------------------- -------------------
JSCHDER    BIGTABLE_LOG         P_2007_09            TABLE PARTITION

Very handy shortcut in my opinion. If you’re not on RAC then this will go even faster.

Happy hacking!

Update 9/14/07 – updated queries against dba_objects/v$bh to eliminate rollback and temp segs. also fixed last query in the post to use data_object_id.

More Resources

Yas left a comment pointing me to a post from Lewis – and that led me to a few other useful posts that seem worth linking here.

But it’s in the manual! Jonathan Lewis’ post discussing the join between v$bh and dba_objects
Oracle RAC Cache Fusion Efficiency: A Buffer Cache Analysis for RAC Script from Christo Kutrovsky – runs a little slow but gives a great overview of your buffer cache across the entire cluster.
Using the Oracle Wait Interface to Troubleshoot I/O Issues Post from Shakir Sadikali demonstrating a Steve Adams script to show a snapshot of current system-wide wait events.

PS – if you haven’t checked out my Links page in awhile then have another look – I’ve added quite a few links over the past few weeks!

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About Jeremy Schneider

Doing stuff with Oracle Database, Performance, Clusters, Linux. about.me/jeremy_schneider


4 thoughts on “Cache Buffers Chains and Latch Spelunking

  1. Jeremy, look at this post of Jonathan Lewis about joining v$bh to dba_objects. He talks about some important points, like using data_object_id and not object_id.

    Posted by Yas | September 14, 2007, 2:23 am
  2. Oops – thanks for the link. I did join on data_object_id in the first example but had changed it in the second SQL statement (at the end of the post) while playing around with how it reported on partitions… and I forgot to change it back before writing the post. However I didn’t know the bits from Lewis’ post about rollback segs, global temp tables and free blocks.

    I don’t want to eliminate free blocks because I’m looking for contention and would be interested seeing any objects that ever had blocks on the latch chain. However I guess I could get rid of rollback and temp for now… although honestly I should probably outer join them in – but I’ll leave that for a future update. I’m updating the post now!

    Also, your link to Lewis’ page led me to a few other great posts so I’ve added them to the bottom of the post. Thanks again!

    Posted by Jeremy | September 14, 2007, 7:03 am
  3. I heard of a hidden parameter _db_block_hash_buckets that help with busy buffers and latch contention.

    Have you used it before? What are your thoughts?

    Posted by psyprus | January 15, 2008, 5:10 pm
  4. I have been using caching the objects with high reads in the keep cache and the objects with the high writes in the default cache. The problem is diminished but not eliminated. You can identify what is causing the buffer_busy waits with the following two sqls. If statistics_level=typical, then buffer_busy waits will be accumulated in v$segment_statistics since startup (9i on).

    In 10g and 11g, dba_hist_seg_stat keeps hourly deltas of v$segment_statistics and you can identify what causes the buffer_busy waits by object each hour.

    SQL> @buffer_busy
    Object Buffer Busy Waits
    ———————— —————–
    JOB 69
    STEP 76
    STEP_PK 165
    JOB_PK 224

    – Must have statistics_level=typical
    col “Object” format a30
    set numwidth 12
    set lines 132
    set pages 50
    select * from(
    select DECODE(GROUPING(a.object_name), 1, ‘All Objects’,
    a.object_name) AS “Object”,
    sum(case when a.statistic_name = ‘buffer busy waits’
    then a.value else null end) “Buffer Busy Waits”,
    sum(case when a.statistic_name = ‘physical reads’
    then a.value else null end) “Physical_Reads”,
    sum(case when a.statistic_name = ‘physical writes’
    then a.value else null end) “Physical_writes”,
    sum(case when a.statistic_name = ‘logical reads’
    then a.value else null end) “Logical Reads”
    from v$segment_statistics a
    where a.owner like upper(‘%’)
    group by rollup(a.object_name)) b
    where b.”Buffer Busy Waits”>0
    order by 2
    clear columns
    ttitle off

    In 10g and 11g the following works great:

    SQL> @dba_hist_buffer_busy
    ————— ———— ————————–
    19-MAR-08 02.00 432 CONTENT.IDX_ECM_CONTENT_ID
    19-MAR-08 02.00 247 CONTENT.IDX_ECM_CONTENT_ID
    19-MAR-08 04.00 1427 SITE.BATCH_JOB_PK

    set pages 50
    column name format a40
    set lines 130
    column begin_interval_time format a15
    set wrap off
    select begin_interval_time,BUFFER_BUSY_WAITS_DELTA buffer_busy,
    ROW_LOCK_WAITS_DELTA row_locks,
    owner||’.’||object_name name
    from dba_hist_seg_stat dhss,dba_objects do ,sys.wRM$_SNAPSHOT ws
    where begin_interval_time > sysdate-10
    and do.object_id=dhss.obj#
    and ws.snap_id=dhss.snap_id
    – to find largest order by BUFFER_BUSY_WAITS_DELTA
    order by begin_interval_time

    Posted by Alan Kendall | March 20, 2008, 5:37 pm


(a) The views expressed on this website are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.


Jeremy Schneider

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