Author Archives: Rich Soule

Directly Upload Files to Oracle Support

After watching a client move a file from their Linux database server down to their Windows box and then use their browser to upload the file to Oracle Support, I remembered that there was a more efficient way to do this. I was confident that I had this post in my blog already, but lo and behold, I hadn’t.

So today I fix that:

Let’s say you have an SR number 3-111222333444 and you need to upload a big zip file name zipfile.zip and you use email@blah.com to log into Oracle Support. The below command will get the file directly from your Linux box to Oracle Support.


curl -T "zipfile.zip" -u "email@blah.com" https://transport.oracle.com/upload/issue/3-111222333444/

Happy Linuxing!

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

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My Oracle Database Server PS1 Environment Variable

Today I was doing some tricky remote troubleshooting of an ORDS deployment. It turned out that it was the networking team doing fun stuff with the removal of cookies from only one of the multiple load-balanced devices between the users and the ORDS server (99% sure of this, we’ll see later if I was right). Since this stuff can be almost impossible to figure out without sniffing packets and/or visibility into the whole network configuration, a good trick to remember is to just deploy ORDS standalone on the desktop of the user attempting to troubleshoot things. If it works on their desktop, then it’s almost certainly the networking team doing something funny between the users and the application servers.

During the whole troubleshooting session, where the DBA was typing in all the commands as I dictated them (so much fun!), the DBA was constantly typing pwd. This post is for that DBA.

I’ve added the following line to my .bash_profile on all my Oracle database servers:

export PS1='\n[\u@\h DB:$( echo $ORACLE_SID ) \t \w]\n\$ '

PS1 is the environment variable that controls what your prompt looks like.

Mine has the following:

\n = a new line. This means that all of my commands have some nice whitespace (although I use green on black, so is that blackspace?) between them.

[ = the starting bracket for my prompt.

\u@\h = username@hostname

DB:$( echo $ORACLE_SID ) = Each time a new prompt is generated, find the value of the $ORACLE_HOME environment variable and display it with a DB: in front of it. It took me a bit to figure out how to get this to evaluate every time a new prompt was drawn. For my middleware servers, I leave this portion off. I suppose if your middleware server talks to only a single database, you could just hardcode it into the prompt.

\t = the current time

\w = the current working directory. No more typing pwd every other command!

] = the ending bracket for my prompt.

\n = another new line. This allows your actual command prompt to always start on the left side of the screen instead of constantly moving across the screen as you navigate down directory paths.

\$ = print the normal prompt. Notice that there is a space before the closing ‘ so that commands are not jammed up against the prompt.

Hopefully, an Oracle DBA or two out there finds this useful!

Happy DBAing!

#joelkallmanday


Motorsport Safety Academy HPDE Instructor Training Level 1 Course

While I’ve been instructing since 2006, anywhere from 2 to 6 days per month, almost every single month (I’ve missed a month here or there with work or family obligations), one organization that I instruct with wanted to have all their instructors take the HPDE Instructor Training Level 1 Course.

The course is composed of 17 lessons of various lengths and types (some are videos, some are slides), 13 quizzes, and a final assessment. Note that the final assessment isn’t just a repeat of the questions from the quizzes (like many lesser online exams), but instead, it’s almost all brand new questions (some of which are generally related to the quiz questions, but nothing that appeared to be a direct copy). This week I made my way through the various lessons and quizzes and then passed the final exam today.

HPDE Instructor Level 1 Course Certificate of Completion

Overall, the content is very good. Even though I’ve been instructing since 2006, there were a few things the content brought to my attention that I’ll probably do differently going forward. For example, I used to tell students at Circuit of the Americas to “Don’t brake” on the way into Turn 16, and going forward I’m going to refrain from saying “No braking/Don’t break” and instead use something else… maybe “Steady throttle” or “Slight lift” depending on how fast they are going into the turn.

I’d agree with the creators that the content would prepare someone thinking about instructing to be more prepared before they took whatever school/training program their local HPDE organization had for instructors. It certainly wouldn’t qualify anyone who had not done any instructing before to become an instructor.

One area that I really felt could have been better was the quizzes and the exam. Some of the quiz questions were along the lines of “What is your favorite color?” and the answers would be Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue. And then, amazingly, you could get the answer wrong because they were not really asking which was your favorite color, but instead, “What color do we think should be your favorite color?”. There was also a spelling mistake in the correct answer to a quiz question (“stop” was spelled “stp”). Also, I felt that the final assessment had questions that were not in any way discussed in the material. That’s fine (and I did pass on the first attempt), but it would have been nice if at the beginning of the course (or at least at the start of the final assessment) it was made clear that you’d be answering questions that you should know from your own track experience rather than from the content of the course. And some of the questions and answers were just a bit too subjective for my taste.

Overall, I’d give the course an A-. With a bit of editing on the exam questions and final exam, it could easily be brought up to an A.

Happy HPDEing!


Windows WSL can be Oracle Linux!

The other day I struggled a bit as I was trying to get something to work on the out-of-the-box Windows Subsystem for Linux that ships as Ubuntu. Linux is Linux, but Ubuntu is just a bit different from Oracle Linux (basically RHEL with some better stuff) that I use daily.

Haniel (@haniel211 on Twitter, give him a follow) was giving me a hand and he mentioned that the MS store that has an Oracle Linux WSL application!

Since I didn’t have anything really configured in my current WSL, I just removed the Unbuntu Linux and installed Oracle Linux. It’s pretty awesome to have my WSL match the distribution that I use every day.

Happy Linuxing!


Pretty Dates in Oracle

The default display for the database for date columns is often DD-MON-RR. So Januray 1st, 2021 would display as 01-JAN-21. This is horrible. The time portion of the date is missing from the display (an Oracle date is always composed of at least the century, year, month, day, hour, minute, and second) and the RR format will lead to issues in 2050 which isn’t that far away.

To get your Oracle tools (like sqlplus and rman for example) on your Unix/Linux server to show dates in a better format, the following will help.

export NLS_DATE_FORMAT="YYYY-MM-DD HH24:MI:SS"


Which Oracle tablespaces have the most write activity going on?

One of my customers is deploying a new driver for their VMWare Cluster SAN next week. The last time they did this (about a year ago), there were random disk corruptions on the database servers. Needless to say, this was bad.

This time the VMWare team is going to be on the lookout for corruption, but the database team wanted to also do an extra check and run an rman validate command on the “datafiles with the most write activity”.

The following query will give you a list of tablespaces with write activity over the last hour with the highest write activity.

  select tablespace_name
       , sum(physical_block_writes) as total_last_hour_block_writes
    from v$filemetric_history
    join dba_data_files using (file_id)
group by tablespace_name
  having sum(physical_block_writes) > 0
order by sum(physical_block_writes) desc;

Hopefully, this helps someone in the future.

Photo courtesy of Gratisography


BUG 32055647 – RMAN DUPLICATE CHANGES DB_NAME TO UPPERCASE ALWAYS

I’ve been working with RMAN for quite a while and one thing that has always annoyed me is if you create a database using the RMAN duplicate command, it will always change your DB_NAME to uppercase. Someone logged a bug against this a long time ago and it was closed as ‘not a bug’ because “Doc ID: 2050095.1 Due to many dependencies, RMAN needs to convert DB_NAME and DB_UNIQUE_NAME to UPPER case. This is confirmed by development via Bug 21193086 closed as ‘not a bug’.”

A while ago, during a marathon RMAN duplicate session with a customer, I decided to go ahead and raise the bug again.

I filed the SR above and included the following:

While closed as ‘not a bug’, it most definitely is a bug. There are MANY ramifications of this including scripts, database directory objects (/u01/app/oracle/admin/orcl/dpdump becomes /u01/app/oracle/admin/ORCL/dpdump for example), wallet locations, etc.

Just because whoever wrote this code way back when made a few mistakes doesn’t mean that this isn’t a bug. It is a bug. You are taking a duplicate (clone operation) and arbitrarily changing things that shouldn’t be changed. I spend 14.5 years at Oracle including 5.5 years in development. Far too often there was a joke about “I just status 32’d the issue. If they really care, they’ll raise it again.”

There can’t really be ‘many dependencies’ since this only happens in the very final stage of an RMAN duplicate.

Consider this the “it was raised again”.

After quite a while (and I do mean quite a while) the support team raised my bug with the Oracle development team.

I’m really hoping that the development team comes up with a better solution than they did for the old bug. While you need a support contract to see the solution in Doc ID 2050095.1, if you imagined a scenerio where Oracle said “Deal with it”, you wouldn’t be far off from their current ‘solution’.

I asked Oracle to publish the bug, and they have… Here’s to hoping this gets addressed.


SQLcl Breaks noncdb_to_pdb.sql (?)

Today I finished off a project where I migrated a database from a non-container 12.1.0.2 database to a pluggable 19.9 database. The final step: run noncdb_to_pdb.sql.

I’ve been using SQLcl without any issues, but for some reason SQLcl (20.2, the latest version) produced an error where SQL Plus didn’t!

SYS@CDB$ROOT AS SYSDBA> STORE SET ncdb2pdb.settings.sql REPLACE
 SP2-0603: Illegal STORE command
 Usage: STORE {SET} filename[.ext] [CRE[ATE]|REP[LACE]|APP[END]]

SQL Plus on the other hand ran the same command just fine:

SYS@aurdcon AS SYSDBA> STORE SET ncdb2pdb.settings.sql REPLACE
 Wrote file ncdb2pdb.settings.sql

DBA Masterclass 2020

Today I took the DBA Masterclass Quiz (truthfully just a bit too easy…) and earned the above badge from Oracle.

Oracle put on a three class event that was fun and informative. You can watch the recordings even though the live presentations are finished.

For me, one of the best outcomes was connecting directly with Russ Lowenthal (@RussLowenthall), a member of the Database Security Team, and have a great conversation about fixing the whole tls_wallet (or ssl_wallet if you are a bit older) issue with requiring DBAs to download root and intermediate certs so that the database can access TLS encrypted URLs. I presented Russ with some interesting ideas which he said the database team at Oracle would consider for future releases. Basically we’d all like the ability for the database to ‘just work’ with signed URLs the same way your browser just works.

Here’s to hoping the security team gets around to fixing this!


Oracle Backup Terminology

Oracle backup terminology can be kind of confusing. And, by can be, I mean that it is confusing. There are lots of different terms that sound similar but mean very different things. I’ve seen very experienced DBAs use the following statements synonymously: “I just did a whole backup” and “I just did a full backup”. The correct response to “I just did a whole backup.” is “Thanks! I appreciate it.”, while the correct response to “I just did a full backup.” is “Of what?” or maybe even “Why?”. Because, according to Oracle’s terminology, those two statements mean quite different things.

I’ll be defining the terminology that Oracle uses in their training material and documentation and, in addition, making suggestions on what your backups should most often look like.

Backup Strategy – Whole or Partial

Every Oracle backup is either a whole backup or a partial backup.

A whole backup in Oracle terminology means that you’ve backed up all data in all datafiles and at least one control file. Since the control files (you have configured multiple control files, right?) are copies of each other, you technically only have to backup a single control file.

So what is a partial backup? It’s a backup that isn’t all data in all datafiles and a control file, but instead less than that. If you backup a single datafile, you’ve done a partial backup. If you backup all datafiles but one, you’ve done a partial backup. If you backup all data in every single data file, but don’t back up at least one control file, you’ve done a partial backup.

Backup strategy tells you how much of your database you are backing up. You are either backing up all data in all datafiles and at least one control file, or you are backing up something different than that.

For your backup strategy you should start with a whole backup of your database. After that initial backup you can either do partials forever using the Oracle Suggested Backup Strategy , or you can bounce back and forth between whole and partial backups. To me, the least effective backup strategy is to always do whole backups, but some folks do use this strategy. I much prefer to start with a whole backup and then do partial backups from then on using the Oracle Suggested Backup Strategy.

As an aside, notice that a whole backup doesn’t technically need an spfile to be included in the backup, but I always include an spfile in all my whole backups.

Backup Type – Full or Incremental

The next term that Oracle uses to describe a backup is Backup Type. Every backup is either a Full Backup or an Incremental Backup.

And… Welcome to the start of the confusion! Whole does not equal Full. While you can do a whole full backup, you can also do a partial full backup.

Backup type tells you how the backup can be used relative to other backups. Generally, a full backup stands on it’s own and isn’t used in conjunction with other backups. A full backup backs up all the data in whatever you are backing up. An incremental backup can be used with other incremental backups and, depending on it’s level (which I’ll explain in a moment) either backs up all the data in whatever you are backing up, or all the data that has changed since your previous incremental backup.

Incremental Backup Types – Level 0, Level 1 Differential, Level 1 Cumulative

To further increase backup type complexity, incremental backups have different types themselves. Incremental backups are either a Level 0 backup or a Level 1 backup. And, to make backup types even more confusing, Level 1 backups are also of different types! Incremental Level 1 backups are either Cumulative or Differential backups.

Let’s start with a Level 0 backup. A Level 0 backup is identical to a full backup in that it contains all of the data in whatever you are backing up (remember, it could be either a whole or partial backup that you are doing), but it has one additional property: It can be used as the base backup for later incremental level 1 backups.

A Level 1 backup contains only data that has changed since a previous backup. Which previous backup? Well, it depends on the incremental Level 1 backup type. If it is an incremental Level 1 Cumulative backup, then it will always contain the changes since the last Level 0 backup. An incremental Level 1 Differential backup, on the other hand, will contain the changes since the previous incremental backup whether it was a Level 0, Level 1 Cumulative, or Level 1 Differential.

One might ask: Why do we have these two different Level 1 backup types?

It’s basically a balance between the size and speed of the backup (the first differential or cumulative backup taken after a level 0 backup are the same, but, generally subsequent differentials should be faster and smaller than subsequent cumulative backups), and the time to recover datafiles past the level 0 restore point. A recover process of a single cumulative backup should be faster than recovering 6 differential backups. However, if you have almost all add operations, then the difference could be negligible. If you have many update operations, then the difference could be significant.

Personally I think it is really an artifact from the early days of computing when backups went to tape, and the tapes drives required operators to physically mount and unmount the tapes. If you had 6 incremental differential backups, you might have to physically mount and unmount 6 different tapes if you wanted to restore and recover data in your database. Each time you had to do this, you’d get a prompt from the terminal telling you to go find this particular tape, and each time you did that your restore and recover operations would take a bit longer.

These days we don’t really have to worry about this so much. Most of the time, we just do differential backups when we do level 1 backups because the files that make up the backup are usually located in one place instead of separate physical tapes and we don’t have to mount and unmount tape drives any more, or if we do, the capacity is massive compared to the early days of computing and we are not bouncing from tape to tape like we did in the past.

For backup types, I always start with an incremental level 0 backup. In general, I don’t usually do full backups. Since an incremental level 0 is nothing more than a more flexible full backup, a whole incremental level 0 is usually the way to go for a base backup. Once that is completed, I usually follow that up with incremental level 1 differential backups and then move my level 0 backup forward in time by applying previous level 1 incremental backups to the level 0 backup, effectively moving the level 0 backup forward in time.

Backup File Type – Image Copy or Backup Set

So… Here’s another source of confusion. Backups generate output files, and there are two different types of output files: Image Copies or Backup Sets.

An image copy (which RMAN, the tool Oracle supplies to manage and use database backups, just shortens to COPY) is an exact bit for bit duplicate of the file. It includes all used and unused space in the file. So, if you’ve created a 1 TB datafile and only have 10 MB of data in it and you create an image copy backup of this file, you’re output file will be… 1 TB.

With backup sets, instead of taking an exact copy of the whole file, Oracle just extracts the actual information from the file and then creates a new file (or multiple files if specified and/or necessary) that contains the necessary information. Additionally, this file can also be compressed, so it is often much, much smaller than an image copy backup. That 1 TB datafile with 10 MB of data in it backed up as a backup set could, potentially, be even smaller than 10 MB.

Further more, image copy backups are always either full backups or incremental level 0 backups. If you have an incremental level 1 backup (either kind!), then it can’t be an image copy (it only has information that has changed since a previous backup) and therefore it will always be a backup set.

Since backup sets are so efficient, one might wonder why you’d ever create an image copy. It turns out that the efficiency of a backup set (much less storage used for the backup) is limited to the creation process. When it becomes time to recreate the original file (called a restore in Oracle terminology, which is done from either a full or incremental level 0 backup) all the data in the backup set must be read and the original file is recreated step by step until you have a copy of the file at the point in which it was backed up. With a restore we are going to create a bit for bit copy of the original file at the time of the backup… and that is exactly what an image copy is! So, instead of recreating the original file, if you have an image copy backup, you can actually point to the image copy and tell the database to use it directly. This means that the time to restore the file from an image copy can be effectively instantaneous. The time to restore a file from a backup set depends on the size of the backup set, so as your backups get bigger, your restore time gets longer if you are using backup sets.

The computer science way of saying this is:

  • A restore operation of an image copy backup can be an order 1 operation.
    Using the RMAN switch command, the amount of time to restore a 1 MB datafile is the exact same amount of time to restore a 32 GB datafile.
  • A restore operation of a backup set is always an order N operation.
    We can’t switch to a backup set, so we’ll have to read all the data and recreate the datafile from scratch. So a 1 MB datafile will restore much more quickly than a 32 GB datafile.

Backup File Destination – Disk or Tape

In the earlier days of computing computer storage was broken into two distinct buckets: Disks which were faster but extremely expensive per storage unit, and tapes which were slower but much less expensive per storage unit. These days the lines between disk and tape have become a bit blurred with cloud backups that can appear as either disk or tape and could go (on the cloud) to disk or tape under the covers (under the cloud?). Also, the cost differences generally favor tape.

As far as Oracle backups go, backups are written to one of two different devices: DISK (self explanatory) and SBT (which stands for System Backup to Tape). It’s important to understand that these device types are logical rather than physical. If you configure some AWS or Oracle Cloud Object Storage in the cloud as a local drive mounted to your computer and do a disk backup to it, as far as Oracle is concerned the backup went to disk (even though it went to ‘the cloud’). If you configure a the SBT driver to point to some disks, Oracle will consider the backup written to this device to be a tape backup. The Oracle Database Cloud Backup Module, for example, turns cloud storage into a ‘logical tape drive’.

Backups to the logical device type disk can be either image copies or backup sets. Backups to the logical device type SBT however can only be backup sets.

So, it seems kind of clear: You can backup up to image copies or backup sets to disk, and backup sets can go to tape… but, guess what (remember, this can be a bit confusing). It turns out that there are two different kinds of ‘device type disk’ backups. Oracle gives you the ability to define a special disk location called the fast recovery area. Of course, just to make things fun, when this special location was first introduced it was called the flash recovery area. When Oracle introduced this term it was before the dawn of flash disks (usually called solid state drives now). Since this could be confusing(!), Oracle decided to change the name of the flash recovery area to the fast recovery area. At least the abbreviation for the fast recovery area is the same as it always was: FRA.

So, what’s the difference between a disk backup to the FRA and a disk backup to ‘not the FRA’? Really, nothing. They are the same. There is no ‘different information’ in a backup to the FRA vs. a backup to ‘not the FRA’. However, backups to the FRA are managed differently by Oracle.

The FRA is defined by setting two Oracle database parameters (not RMAN configuration settings as one might expect): DB_RECOVERY_FILE_DEST which points to a location logically on the server, and DB_RECOVERY_FILE_DEST_SIZE which determines how much space is logically allocated for this particular database to use. It’s important to realize that the db_recovery_file_dest_size is logical, not physical. This means that if you point to a mount point (let’s say you set db_recovery_file_dest to /u02/app/oracle/fast_recovery_area) that has 1 TB of storage allocated to it, but you set the db_recovery_file_dest_size to 2 TB, Oracle won’t complain in the least… until you actually write more than 1 TB of information to the FRA. At that point you’ll get some out of space errors from the OS and whatever operation Oracle was trying to do in the FRA will fail. So, obviously, that would be just silly to do. Let’s assume that you are going to set your FRA logical size to be something that makes sense for the system you are running Oracle on. What does using this ‘logically identified and size space’ get you? Well, if you put items into the FRA and they are no longer needed to meet your retention targets (these are defined with RMAN configuration settings) then Oracle will, if it can, automatically remove no longer needed items for you. If you do not have those two database parameters set then your disk backups go to ‘not the FRA’ and you have to manually maintain the space. If you do have those two database parameters set, and you do a disk backup to ‘someplace other than the FRA’ then again, you’ll have to manually maintain the space.

So far we have covered the following Oracle Backup Terminology:

  • Backup Strategy
    • Whole
    • Partial
  • Backup Type
    • Full
    • Incremental
      • Level 0
      • Level 1
        • Differential
        • Cumulative
  • Output File Type
    • Backup Set
    • Image Copy
  • Output File Location
    • Tape (SBT)
    • Disk
      • FRA
      • not FRA

For now, this seems like quite a bit of ground to cover, and this post is getting quite long. At some point in the future I’ll attempt to cover other things like the following:

  • Database Log Mode
    • ARCHIVELOG
    • NOARCHIVELOG (I call this ‘polish your resume mode’.)
  • Backup Mode
    • Consistent/Cold
    • Inconsistent/Hot
  • Using Created Backups
    • Restore
      • SP Files
      • Control Files
      • Data Files
      • Archive Logs
    • Recover
      • Database Data Files
      • Image Copy Backups (Incrementally Updated Image Copies)
    • Creating Database Clones
    • Point In Time Recovery
  • Backup Targets
    • Database
    • Data Files
    • Archivelogs
    • FRA
  • Instance/Database Types
    • Target
    • Auxiliary
    • Catalog

And more?

Happy DBA’ing!