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Sunday, February 28, 2010

PLSQL "All or Nothing" Pitfall

Transactions are such a common thing when working with databases. They act on an "all or nothing" basis, that is, they succeed or fail but they always should let the database into a consistent state. Of course, in Oracle databases the rules are the same, but the interesting part I want to refer to is in connection with PL/SQL modules (procedures, functions or packages).

A PL/SQL module is some kind of "all or nothing" component. If the procedure fails it rollbacks the uncommited work it has done. Suppose we have the following procedure:
insert into yyy values (1);
raise_application_error(-20000, 'I am a cute error!');
END test;

Let's see what happens:
SQL> truncate table yyy;

Table truncated.

SQL> exec test;
BEGIN test; END;

ERROR at line 1:
ORA-20000: I am a cute error!
ORA-06512: at "TALEK.TEST", line 4
ORA-06512: at line 1

SQL> select * from yyy;

no rows selected

Nice... we didn't explicitly rollback, but Oracle was smart enough to do the cleanup job for us. This makes sense and proves that PLSQL modules are, in a way, "all or nothing" components.

Now, let's say we have an oracle job which calls our "test" procedure and if an error occurs it has to log it into another table. A possible implementation of the job PLSQL caller block may be:

when others then
insert into log values (dbms_utility.format_error_stack);

The above code may seem harmless: the test procedure is called and if it raises an error the exception part of the PL/SQL caller block is executed which further inserts the error into our log table. Of course, we commit the log entry we just inserted and we re-raise the originating error. We know that if test procedure fails then it rollbacks its uncommited work as we seen above. After all, it's an "all or nothing" piece, right? Well, here's the pitfall: if you catch the exception then the procedure which raised the error will not clean up anything as long as you are within the EXCEPTION section. Even the whole anonymous block will fail because of re-raising the original error, the COMMIT statement from the EXCEPTION section will actually commit the incomplete work done by our "TEST" procedure. So, in most cases you should look twice to such EXCEPTION WHEN THEN ... COMMIT definitions... otherwise you may end up with nasty bugs. In the above example, in order to avoid this problem, a ROLLBACK should be performed before logging the error. Of course, there are smarter logging solutions which use autonomous transactions but, anyway, the goal was just to reveal the pitfall.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

INS-32018 Warning for Standalone Server

When it comes to installing Oracle you should always follow the procedures written into the installation guides. As you already know, Oracle 11.2 packages ASM within a new separate component called Oracle Grid Infrastructure. So, if you want to install the database files into ASM then you must install Grid Infrastructure. As a good practice, Oracle recommends to install it under a different user, typically named "grid".
As far as the OFA directories structure is concerned the installation guide recommends:

  • to create an "/u01/app/grid" directory to be used as an ORACLE_BASE for this "grid" user;

  • to create an "/u01/app/11.2.0/grid" directory to be used as an ORACLE_HOME for this "grid" user.

If you're like me, the above configuration looks a little bit weird because I used to think that the ORACLE_HOME should be somewhere under the ORACLE_BASE directory. Nevertheless, the documentation clearly states the following:


For grid infrastructure for a cluster installations, the Grid home must not be placed under one of the Oracle base directories, or under Oracle home directories of Oracle Database installation owners, or in the home directory of an installation owner. During installation, ownership of the path to the Grid home is changed to root. This change causes permission errors for other installations.

However, the above applies just to cluster installations. If you just want ASM installed for a single instance database then it's fine (and recommended) to place the ORACLE_HOME under the ORACLE_BASE. If not doing so, you'll get the following warning:

So, to sum up the above ideas, remember that if you are going to install a RAC then you need to create the grid ORACLE_HOME out of the ORACLE_BASE of any oracle software owner. If you choose to install the Oracle Grid Infrastructure for a standalone server then the ORACLE_HOME of the grid user should be under its ORACLE_BASE.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


If you ever wondered what's the difference between ALL_TABLES and ALL_ALL_TABLES then here's the answer: both views provide all tables to which the current user has access to but, in addition to the tables returned by ALL_TABLES, the ALL_ALL_TABLES will also return all object tables (system generated or not) accessible by the current user.

Pay attention that this may be an interview question (e.g. how can you get all tables you have access to?) and you may leave a good impression if you respond with another question: "Do you also want object tables to be included?". :)