Components of the Oracle Sharding Architecture

The following figure illustrates the major architectural components of Oracle Sharding, which are described in the topics that follow.

Figure 2-1 Oracle Sharding Architecture

Description of Figure 2-1 follows
Description of "Figure 2-1 Oracle Sharding Architecture"

Sharded Database and Shards

sharded database is a collection of shards.

A sharded database is a single logical Oracle Database that is horizontally partitioned across a pool of physical Oracle Databases (shards) that share no hardware or software.

Each shard in the sharded database is an independent Oracle Database instance that hosts subset of a sharded database's data. Shared storage is not required across the shards.

Shards can be hosted anywhere an Oracle database can be hosted. Oracle Sharding supports all of the deployment choices for a shard that you would expect with a single instance or clustered Oracle Database, including on-premises, any cloud platform, Oracle Exadata Database Machine, virtual machines, and so on.

Shards can all be placed in one region or can be placed in different regions. A region in the context of Oracle Sharding represents a data center or multiple data centers that are in close network proximity.

Shards are replicated for high availability and disaster recovery with Oracle Data Guard. For high availability, Data Guard standby shards can be placed in the same region where the primary shards are placed. For disaster recovery, the standby shards can be located in another region.


Oracle GoldenGate replication support for Oracle Sharding High Availability is deprecated in Oracle Database 21c.

Shard Catalog

A shard catalog is an Oracle Database that supports automated shard deployment, centralized management of a sharded database, and multi-shard queries.

A shard catalog serves following purposes

  • Serves as an administrative server for entire sharded database

  • Stores a gold copy of the database schema

  • Manages multi-shard queries with a multi-shard query coordinator

  • Stores a gold copy of duplicated table data

The shard catalog is a special-purpose Oracle Database that is a persistent store for sharded database configuration data and plays a key role in centralized management of a sharded database. All configuration changes, such as adding and removing shards and global services, are initiated on the shard catalog. All DDLs in a sharded database are executed by connecting to the shard catalog.

The shard catalog also contains the master copy of all duplicated tables in a sharded database. The shard catalog uses materialized views to automatically replicate changes to duplicated tables in all shards. The shard catalog database also acts as a query coordinator used to process multi-shard queries and queries that do not specify a sharding key.

Multiple shard catalogs can be deployed for high availability purposes. Using Oracle Data Guard for shard catalog high availability is a recommended best practice.

At run time, unless the application uses key-based queries, the shard catalog is required to direct queries to the shards. Sharding key-based transactions continue to be routed and executed by the sharded database and are unaffected by a catalog outage.

During the brief period required to complete an automatic failover to a standby shard catalog, downtime affects the ability to perform maintenance operations, make schema changes, update duplicated tables, run multi-shard queries, or perform other operations like add shard, move chunks, and so on, which induce topology change.

Shard Director

Shard directors are network listeners that enable high performance connection routing based on a sharding key.

Oracle Database 12c introduced the global service manager to route connections based on database role, load, replication lag, and locality. In support of Oracle Sharding, global service managers support routing of connections based on data location. A global service manager, in the context of Oracle Sharding, is known as a shard director.

A shard director is a specific implementation of a global service manager that acts as a regional listener for clients that connect to a sharded database. The director maintains a current topology map of the sharded database. Based on the sharding key passed during a connection request, the director routes the connections to the appropriate shard.

For a typical sharded database, a set of shard directors are installed on dedicated low-end commodity servers in each region. To achieve high availability and scalability, deploy multiple shard directors. You can deploy up to 5 shard directors in a given region.

The following are the key capabilities of shard directors:

  • Maintain runtime data about sharded database configuration and availability of shards

  • Measure network latency between its own and other regions

  • Act as a regional listener for clients to connect to a sharded database

  • Manage global services

  • Perform connection load balancing

Global Service

A global service is a database service that is use to access data in a sharded database.

A global service is an extension to the notion of the traditional database service. All of the properties of traditional database services are supported for global services. For sharded databases, additional properties are set for global services — for example, database role, replication lag tolerance, region affinity between clients and shards, and so on. For a read-write transactional workload, a single global service is created to access data from any primary shard in a sharded database. For highly available shards using Active Data Guard, a separate read-only global service can be created.

Management Interfaces for a Sharded Database

The GDSCTL command-line utility is used to configure, deploy, monitor, and manage an Oracle Sharding sharded database. Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control can also be used for sharded database monitoring and management.

Like SQL*Plus, GDSCTL is a command-line utility with which you can control all stages of a sharded database's life cycle. You can run GDSCTL remotely from a different server or laptop to configure and deploy a sharded database topology, and then montior and manage your sharded database.

GDSCTL provides a simple declarative way of specifying the configuration of a sharded database and automating its deployment. Only a few GDSCTL commands are required to create a sharded database.

You can also use Cloud Control for sharded database monitoring and life cycle management if you prefer a graphical user interface. With Cloud Control you can monitor availability and performance, and you can make changes to a sharding configuration, such as add and deploy shards, services, shard directors, and other sharding components.