Skip Headers

Oracle® Database Application Developer's Guide - Fundamentals
10g Release 1 (10.1)

Part Number B10795-01
Go to Documentation Home
Go to Book List
Book List
Go to Table of Contents
Go to Index
Go to Master Index
Master Index
Go to Feedback page

Go to previous page
Go to next page
View PDF

Selecting an Index Strategy

This chapter discusses considerations for using the different types of indexes in an application. The topics include:

Guidelines for Application-Specific Indexes

You can create indexes on columns to speed up queries. Indexes provide faster access to data for operations that return a small portion of a table's rows.

In general, you should create an index on a column in any of the following situations:

You can create an index on any column; however, if the column is not used in any of these situations, creating an index on the column does not increase performance and the index takes up resources unnecessarily.

Although the database creates an index for you on a column with an integrity constraint, explicitly creating an index on such a column is recommended.

You can use the following techniques to determine which columns are best candidates for indexing:

Sometimes, if an index is not being used by default and it would be most efficient to use that index, you can use a query hint so that the index is used.

See Also:

Oracle Database Performance Tuning Guide for information on using the V$SQL_PLAN view, the EXPLAIN PLAN statement, query hints, and measuring the performance benefits of indexes

The following sections explain how to create, alter, and drop indexes using SQL commands, and give guidelines for managing indexes.

Create Indexes After Inserting Table Data

Typically, you insert or load data into a table (using SQL*Loader or Import) before creating indexes. Otherwise, the overhead of updating the index slows down the insert or load operation. The exception to this rule is that you must create an index for a cluster before you insert any data into the cluster.

Switch Your Temporary Tablespace to Avoid Space Problems Creating Indexes

When you create an index on a table that already has data, Oracle Database must use sort space to create the index. The database uses the sort space in memory allocated for the creator of the index (the amount for each user is determined by the initialization parameter SORT_AREA_SIZE), but the database must also swap sort information to and from temporary segments allocated on behalf of the index creation. If the index is extremely large, it can be beneficial to complete the following steps:

  1. Create a new temporary tablespace using the CREATE TABLESPACE command.
  2. Use the TEMPORARY TABLESPACE option of the ALTER USER command to make this your new temporary tablespace.
  3. Create the index using the CREATE INDEX command.
  4. Drop this tablespace using the DROP TABLESPACE command. Then use the ALTER USER command to reset your temporary tablespace to your original temporary tablespace.

Under certain conditions, you can load data into a table with the SQL*Loader "direct path load", and an index can be created as data is loaded.

See Also:

Oracle Database Utilities for information on direct path load

Index the Correct Tables and Columns

Use the following guidelines for determining when to create an index:

Some columns are strong candidates for indexing. Columns with one or more of the following characteristics are good candidates for indexing:

Columns with the following characteristics are less suitable for indexing:

LONG and LONG RAW columns cannot be indexed.

The size of a single index entry cannot exceed roughly one-half (minus some overhead) of the available space in the data block. Consult with the database administrator for assistance in determining the space required by an index.

Limit the Number of Indexes for Each Table

The more indexes, the more overhead is incurred as the table is altered. When rows are inserted or deleted, all indexes on the table must be updated. When a column is updated, all indexes on the column must be updated.

You must weigh the performance benefit of indexes for queries against the performance overhead of updates. For example, if a table is primarily read-only, you might use more indexes; but, if a table is heavily updated, you might use fewer indexes.

Choose the Order of Columns in Composite Indexes

Although you can specify columns in any order in the CREATE INDEX command, the order of columns in the CREATE INDEX statement can affect query performance. In general, you should put the column expected to be used most often first in the index. You can create a composite index (using several columns), and the same index can be used for queries that reference all of these columns, or just some of them.

For example, assume the columns of the VENDOR_PARTS table are as shown in Figure 4-1.

Figure 4-1 The VENDOR_PARTS Table

Text description of adfns043.gif follows

Text description of the illustration adfns043.gif

Assume that there are five vendors, and each vendor has about 1000 parts.

Suppose that the VENDOR_PARTS table is commonly queried by SQL statements such as the following:

SELECT * FROM vendor_parts
    WHERE part_no = 457 AND vendor_id = 1012;

To increase the performance of such queries, you might create a composite index putting the most selective column first; that is, the column with the most values:

CREATE INDEX ind_vendor_id
    ON vendor_parts (part_no, vendor_id);

Composite indexes speed up queries that use the leading portion of the index. So in this example, queries with WHERE clauses using only the PART_NO column also note a performance gain. Because there are only five distinct values, placing a separate index on VENDOR_ID would serve no purpose.

Gather Statistics to Make Index Usage More Accurate

The database can use indexes more effectively when it has statistical information about the tables involved in the queries. You can gather statistics when the indexes are created by including the keywords COMPUTE STATISTICS in the CREATE INDEX statement. As data is updated and the distribution of values changes, you or the DBA can periodically refresh the statistics by calling procedures like DBMS_STATS.GATHER_TABLE_STATISTICS and DBMS_STATS.GATHER_SCHEMA_STATISTICS.

Drop Indexes That Are No Longer Required

You might drop an index if:

When you drop an index, all extents of the index's segment are returned to the containing tablespace and become available for other objects in the tablespace.

Use the SQL command DROP INDEX to drop an index. For example, the following statement drops a specific named index:

DROP INDEX Emp_ename;

If you drop a table, then all associated indexes are dropped.

To drop an index, the index must be contained in your schema or you must have the DROP ANY INDEX system privilege.

Privileges Required to Create an Index

When using indexes in an application, you might need to request that the DBA grant privileges or make changes to initialization parameters.

To create a new index, you must own, or have the INDEX object privilege for, the corresponding table. The schema that contains the index must also have a quota for the tablespace intended to contain the index, or the UNLIMITED TABLESPACE system privilege. To create an index in another user's schema, you must have the CREATE ANY INDEX system privilege.

Creating Indexes: Basic Examples

You can create an index for a table to improve the performance of queries issued against the corresponding table. You can also create an index for a cluster. You can create a composite index on multiple columns up to a maximum of 32 columns. A composite index key cannot exceed roughly one-half (minus some overhead) of the available space in the data block.

Oracle Database automatically creates an index to enforce a UNIQUE or PRIMARY KEY integrity constraint. In general, it is better to create such constraints to enforce uniqueness, instead of using the obsolete CREATE UNIQUE INDEX syntax.

Use the SQL command CREATE INDEX to create an index.

In this example, an index is created for a single column, to speed up queries that test that column:

CREATE INDEX emp_ename ON emp_tab(ename);

In this example, several storage settings are explicitly specified for the index:

 CREATE INDEX emp_ename ON emp_tab(ename)
    TABLESPACE users
             NEXT        20k
             PCTINCREASE 75)
             PCTFREE      0

In this example, the index applies to two columns, to speed up queries that test either the first column or both columns:

CREATE INDEX emp_ename ON emp_tab(ename, empno) COMPUTE STATISTICS;

In this example, the query is going to sort on the function UPPER(ENAME). An index on the ENAME column itself would not speed up this operation, and it might be slow to call the function for each result row. A function-based index precomputes the result of the function for each column value, speeding up queries that use the function for searching or sorting:

CREATE INDEX emp_upper_ename ON emp_tab(UPPER(ename)) COMPUTE STATISTICS;

When to Use Domain Indexes

Domain indexes are appropriate for special-purpose applications implemented using data cartridges. The domain index helps to manipulate complex data, such as spatial, audio, or video data. If you need to develop such an application, see Oracle Data Cartridge Developer's Guide.

Oracle Database supplies a number of specialized data cartridges to help manage these kinds of complex data. So, if you need to create a search engine, or a geographic information system, you can do much of the work simply by creating the right kind of index.

When to Use Function-Based Indexes

A function-based index is an index built on an expression. It extends your indexing capabilities beyond indexing on a column. A function-based index increases the variety of ways in which you can access data.

  • The index is more effective if you gather statistics for the table or schema, using the procedures in the DBMS_STATS package.
  • The index cannot contain any null values. Either make sure the appropriate columns contain no null values, or use the NVL function in the index expression to substitute some other value for nulls.

The expression indexed by a function-based index can be an arithmetic expression or an expression that contains a PL/SQL function, package function, C callout, or SQL function. Function-based indexes also support linguistic sorts based on collation keys, efficient linguistic collation of SQL statements, and case-insensitive sorts.

Like other indexes, function-based indexes improve query performance. For example, if you need to access a computationally complex expression often, then you can store it in an index. Then when you need to access the expression, it is already computed. You can find a detailed description of the advantages of function-based indexes in "Advantages of Function-Based Indexes".

Function-based indexes have all of the same properties as indexes on columns. However, unlike indexes on columns which can be used by both cost-based and rule-based optimization, function-based indexes can be used by only by cost-based optimization. Other restrictions on function-based indexes are described in "Restrictions for Function-Based Indexes".

See Also:

Advantages of Function-Based Indexes

Function-based indexes:

Another function-based index calls the object method distance_from_equator for each city in the table. The method is applied to the object column Reg_Obj. A query could use this index to quickly find cities that are more than 1000 miles from the equator:

CREATE INDEX Distance_index 
ON Weatherdata_tab (Distance_from_equator (Reg_obj));

SELECT * FROM Weatherdata_tab 
WHERE (Distance_from_equator (Reg_Obj)) > '1000';

Another index stores the temperature delta and the maximum temperature. The result of the delta is sorted in descending order. A query could use this index to quickly find table rows where the temperature delta is less than 20 and the maximum temperature is greater than 75.

CREATE INDEX compare_index 
ON Weatherdata_tab ((Maxtemp - Mintemp) DESC, Maxtemp);

SELECT * FROM Weatherdata_tab
WHERE ((Maxtemp - Mintemp) < '20' AND Maxtemp > '75');

Examples of Function-Based Indexes

Example: Function-Based Index for Case-Insensitive Searches

The following command allows faster case-insensitive searches in table EMP_TAB.

CREATE INDEX Idx ON Emp_tab (UPPER(Ename));

The SELECT command uses the function-based index on UPPER(e_name) to return all of the employees with name like :KEYCOL.


Example: Precomputing Arithmetic Expressions with a Function-Based Index

The following command computes a value for each row using columns A, B, and C, and stores the results in the index.

CREATE INDEX Idx ON Fbi_tab (A + B * (C - 1), A, B);

The SELECT statement can either use index range scan (since the expression is a prefix of index IDX) or index fast full scan (which may be preferable if the index has specified a high parallel degree).

SELECT a FROM Fbi_tab WHERE A + B * (C - 1) < 100;

Example: Function-Based Index for Language-Dependent Sorting

This example demonstrates how a function-based index can be used to sort based on the collation order for a national language. The NLSSORT function returns a sort key for each name, using the collation sequence GERMAN.

    ON Nls_tab (NLSSORT(Name, 'NLS_SORT = German'));

The SELECT statement selects all of the contents of the table and orders it by NAME. The rows are ordered using the German collation sequence. The Globalization Support parameters are not needed in the SELECT statement, because in a German session, NLS_SORT is set to German and NLS_COMP is set to ANSI.

    ORDER BY Name;

Restrictions for Function-Based Indexes

Note the following restrictions for function-based indexes: