Oracle8i Designing and Tuning for Performance
Release 2 (8.1.6)

Part Number A76992-01





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Tuning the Operating System

This chapter explains how to tune the operating system for optimal performance of the Oracle server.

This chapter contains the following sections:

Understanding Operating System Performance Issues

Operating system performance issues commonly involve process management, memory management, and scheduling. If you tuned the Oracle instance and you still need better performance, then verify your work or try to reduce system time. Make sure that there is enough I/O bandwidth, CPU power, and swap space. Do not expect, however, that further tuning of the operating system will have a significant effect on application performance. Changes in the Oracle configuration or in the application are likely to make a more significant difference in operating system efficiency than simply tuning the operating system.

For example, if your application experiences excessive buffer busy waits, then the number of system calls will increase. If you reduce the buffer busy waits by tuning the application, then the number of system calls will decrease. Similarly, if you turn on the Oracle initialization parameter TIMED_STATISTICS, then the number of system calls will increase. If you turn it off, then system calls will decrease.

See Also:

For detailed information, see your Oracle platform-specific documentation and your operating system vendor's documentation. 

Operating System and Hardware Caches

Operating systems and device controllers provide data caches that do not directly conflict with Oracle's own cache management. Nonetheless, these structures can consume resources while offering little or no benefit to performance. This is most noticeable on a UNIX system that has the database files in the UNIX file store: by default all database I/O goes through the file system cache. On some UNIX systems, direct I/O is available to the filestore. This arrangement allows the database files to be accessed within the UNIX file system, bypassing the file system cache. It saves CPU resources and allows the file system cache to be dedicated to non-database activity, such as program texts and spool files.

This problem does not occur on NT. All file requests by the database bypass the caches in the file system.

Raw Devices

Evaluate the use of raw devices on your system. Using raw devices may involve a significant amount of work, but may also provide significant performance benefits.

Raw devices impose a penalty on full table scans, but may be essential on UNIX systems if the implementation does not support "write through" cache. The UNIX file system accelerates full table scans by reading ahead when the server starts requesting contiguous data blocks. It also caches full table scans. If your UNIX system does not support the write through option on writes to the file system, then it is essential that you use raw devices to ensure that at commit and checkpoint, the data that the server assumes is safely established on disk is actually there. If this is not the case, then recovery from a UNIX operating system crash may not be possible.

Raw devices on NT are similar to UNIX raw devices; however, all NT devices support write through cache.

See Also:

For a discussion on raw devices versus UNIX file system (UFS), see Chapter 20, "Tuning I/O"

Process Schedulers

Many processes, or "threads" on NT systems, are involved in the operation of Oracle. They all access the shared memory resources in the SGA.

Be sure that all Oracle processes, both background and user processes, have the same process priority. When you install Oracle, all background processes are given the default priority for your operating system. Do not change the priorities of background processes. Verify that all user processes have the default operating system priority.

Assigning different priorities to Oracle processes may exacerbate the effects of contention. Your operating system may not grant processing time to a low-priority process if a high-priority process also requests processing time. If a high-priority process needs access to a memory resource held by a low-priority process, then the high-priority process may wait indefinitely for the low-priority process to obtain the CPU, process the request, and release the resource.

Additionally, do not bind Oracle background processes to CPUs. This may cause the bound processes to be CPU-starved. This is especially the case when binding processes that fork off operating system threads. In this case, the parent process and all its threads will bind to the CPU.

Operating System Resource Managers

Some platforms provide operating system resource managers. These are designed to reduce the impact of peak load use patterns by prioritizing access to system resources. They usually implement administrative policies that govern which resources users can access, and how much of those resources each user is permitted to consume.

Operating system resource managers are different from domains or other similar facilities. Domains provide one or more completely separated environments within one system. Disk, CPU, memory, and all other resources are dedicated to each domain, and cannot be accessed from any other domain. Other similar facilities completely separate just a portion of system resources into different areas, usually separate CPU and/or memory areas. Like domains, the separate resource areas are dedicated only to the processing assigned to that area; processes cannot migrate across boundaries. Unlike domains, all other resources (usually disk) are accessed by all partitions on a system.

Oracle runs within domains, as well as within these other less complete partitioning constructs, provided that the allocation of partitioned memory (RAM) resources is fixed, not dynamic. Deallocating RAM to enable a memory board replacement is an example of a dynamically changing memory resource; therefore, this is an example of an environment in which Oracle is not supported.


Oracle is not supported in any resource partitioned environment in which memory resources are assigned dynamically. 

Operating system resource managers prioritize resource allocation within a global pool of resources, usually a domain or an entire system. Processes are assigned to groups, which are in turn assigned resources anywhere within the resource pool.


When running under operating system resource managers, Oracle is supported only when each instance is assigned to a dedicated operating system resource manager group or managed entity. Also, the dedicated entity running all the instance's processes must run at one priority (or resource consumption) level. Management of individual Oracle processes at different priority levels is not supported. Severe consequences, including instance crashes, can result.

Warning: Oracle is not supported for use with any operating system resource manager's memory management and allocation facility.

Warning: Oracle Database Resource Manager, which provides resource allocation capabilities within an Oracle instance, cannot be used with any operating system resource manager. 

See Also:

For a complete list of operating system resource management and resource allocation/deallocation features that work with Oracle and Oracle Database Resource Manager, see your systems vendor and your Oracle representative. Note that Oracle does not certify these system features for compatibility with specific release levels.

For more information about Oracle Database Resource Manager, see Oracle8i Concepts and Oracle8i Administrator's Guide

Detecting Operating System Problems

The key statistics to extract from any operating system monitor are:

Examine CPU use to determine the ratio between the time spent running in application mode and the time spent running in operating system mode. Look at run queues to see how many processes are runable and how many system calls are being executed. See if paging or swapping is occuring, and check the number of I/Os being performed and the scan rate.

See Also:

For more information, see your Oracle platform-specific documentation and your operating system vendor's documentation.  

Solving Operating System Problems

This section provides hints for tuning various systems by explaining the following topics:

Familiarize yourself with platform-specific issues so you know what performance options your operating system provides. For example, some platforms have post wait drivers that allow you to map system time and thus reduce system calls, enabling faster I/O.

See Also:

For more information, see your Oracle platform-specific documentation and your operating system vendor's documentation. 

Performance on UNIX-Based Systems

On UNIX systems, try to establish a good ratio between the amount of time the operating system spends fulfilling system calls and doing process scheduling, and the amount of time the application runs. Your goal should be running 60% to 75% of the time in application mode, and 25% to 40% of the time in operating system mode. If you find that the system is spending 50% of its time in each mode, then determine what is wrong.

The ratio of time spent in each mode is only a symptom of the underlying problem, which might involve:

If such conditions exist, then there is less time available for the application to run. The more time you can release from the operating system side, the more transactions your application can perform.

Performance on NT Systems

On NT systems, as with UNIX-based systems, you should establish an appropriate ratio between time in application mode and time in system mode. On NT you can easily monitor many factors with Performance Monitor: CPU, network, I/O, and memory are all displayed on the same graph, to assist you in avoiding bottlenecks in any of these areas.

Performance on Mainframe Computers

Consider the paging parameters on a mainframe, and remember that Oracle can exploit a very large working set of parameters.

Free memory in VAX/VMS environments is actually memory that is not mapped to any operating system process. On a busy system, free memory likely contains a page belonging to one or more currently active process. When that access occurs, a "soft page fault" takes place, and the page is included in the working set for the process. If the process cannot expand its working set, then one of the pages currently mapped by the process must be moved to the free set.

Any number of processes may have pages of shared memory within their working sets. The sum of the sizes of the working sets can thus markedly exceed the available memory. When the Oracle server is running, the SGA, the Oracle kernel code, and the Oracle Forms runtime executable are normally all sharable and account for perhaps 80% or 90% of the pages accessed.

Adding more buffers is not necessarily better. Each application has a threshold number of buffers at which the cache hit ratio stops rising. This is typically quite low (approximately 1500 buffers). Setting higher values simply increases the management load for both Oracle and the operating system.

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