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Oracle Index Access Methods

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

As you may know, Oracle offers a variety of indexing methods including b-tree, bitmapped, and function-based indexes. Regardless of the index structure, an Oracle index can be thought of as a pair bond of a symbolic key and a ROWID. The goal of index access is to gather the ROWIDs required to quickly retrieve the desired table rows. Within Oracle, we see the following types of index access.

  • Index range scanThis is the retrieval of one or more ROWIDs from an index. Indexed values are generally scanned in ascending order.

  • Index unique scanThis is the retrieval of a single ROWID from an index.

  • Descending index range scanThis is the retrieval of one or more ROWIDs from an index. Indexed values are returned in descending order.

  • And-equal filterThis is an operation that gathers multiple sets of ROWIDs from the where clause of a query (e.g., select customer_name from customer where status = ‘OPEN’ and age > 35;). The and-equal operation compares the sets of ROWIDs and returns the intersection of these sets, thereby eliminating duplicates and satisfying the and conditions in the where clause.

Index Range Scan

The index range scan is one of the most common access methods. During an index range scan, Oracle accesses adjacent index entries and then uses the ROWID values in the index to retrieve the table rows (see Figure 3-5).

Figure 5: An index range scan

An example of an index range scan would be the following query.

   home_city = ‘Rocky Ford’;

Tip: Because an index range scan fetches the ROWID list from the index, each ROWID will most likely point to a different data block causing a disk I/O for each block in the index range scan. In practice, many Oracle SQL tuning professionals will resequence the table rows into the same physical order as the primary index. This technique can reduce disk I/O on index range scans by several orders of magnitude. For details, see "Turning the Tables on Disk I/O" by Don Burleson in the January/February 2000 issue of Oracle Magazine online.

Oracle provides a column called clustering_factor in the Remote DBA_indexes view that tells you how synchronized the table rows are with your index. When the clustering factor is close to the number of data blocks, the table rows are synchronized with the index. As the clustering_factor approaches the number of rows in the table, the rows are out of sync with the index.

This is an excerpt from "Oracle High-Performance SQL Tuning" by Donald K. Burleson, published by Oracle Press.

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