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I'm Feeling SCSI About Disk Performance, What Then?

Oracle Tips by Mike Ault

Sorry for the bad pun (well, actually Im not) what can be done with SCSI interfaces? To tell you the truth, not a lot, however, there are some items which you may find useful. Most interfaces will buffer commands and issue them in batches, for example, most SCSI interfaces use a 32 command buffer that stacks commands until it has 32 of them and then fires them off. This can be reset in LINUX using options in the modules.conf file for the SCSI interface module.

In other UNIX flavors there are many settings which can be changed, but an exact understanding of the interface and its limitations as well as current system loads must be had before changing any of the SCSI settings. If you feel you need to have them checked, ask your SA.

Disk Stress In a Nut Shell

In summary, to determine if a disk or array is undergoing IO related stress, perform an IO balance and an IO timing analysis. If the IO timing analysis shows excessive read or write times investigate the causes. Generally speaking, poor IO timings will result when:

  • A single disk exceeds 110 150 IO per second

  • An entire multi-read capable RAID10 array exceeds #MIRRORS*#DPM*110 IOs per second

  • An entire non-multi-read capable RAID10 array exceeds #DPM*110 IOs per second

  • If a RAID5 array exceeds (#DISKS-1)*66 IOs per second then it will probably experience poor IO timings

  • Make sure Oracle is using direct IO at both the OS and Oracle levels

  • Make sure your disk interface is tuned to perform optimally

 *DPM=Disks per mirror

Seeing stress from the Oracle Side

Disk stress will show up on the Oracle side as excessive read or write times. Filesystem stress is shown by calculating the IO timings as shown in Figure 16.

rem Purpose: Calculate IO timing values for datafiles
col name format a65
col READTIM/PHYRDS heading 'Avg|Read Time' format 9,999.999
col WRITETIM/PHYWRTS heading 'Avg|Write Time' format 9,999.999
set lines 132 pages 45
start title132 'IO Timing Analysis'
spool rep_out\&db\io_time
select  f.FILE#
from v$filestat f, v$datafile d
where f.file#=d.file#
and phyrds>0 and phywrts>0
select  a.FILE#
from v$tempstat a, v$tempfile b
where a.file#=b.file#
and phyrds>0 and phywrts>0
order by 5 desc
spool off
ttitle off
clear col

Figure 16: IO Timing Report

An example of the output from Figure 16 is shown in Figure 17:

Date: 11/20/05                                                Page:   1
Time: 11:12 AM               IO Timing Analysis                PERFSTAT                                   whoraw database 

----- -------------- ---------- ------- -------------- ----------------
   13 /dev/raw/raw19      77751  102092     76.8958599       153.461829
   33 /dev/raw/raw35      32948   52764     65.7045041       89.5749375
    7 /dev/raw/raw90     245854  556242     57.0748615       76.1539869
   54 /dev/raw/raw84     208916  207539     54.5494409       115.610912
   40 /dev/raw/raw38       4743   27065     38.4469745       47.1722889
   15 /dev/raw/raw41       3850    7216     35.6272727       66.1534091
   12 /dev/raw/raw4      323691  481471     32.5510193       100.201424
   16 /dev/raw/raw50      10917   46483     31.9372538       74.5476626
   18 /dev/raw/raw24       3684    4909     30.8045603       71.7942554
   23 /dev/raw/raw58      63517   78160     29.8442779       84.4477866
    5 /dev/raw/raw91     102783   94639     29.1871516       87.8867909

Figure 17: Example IO Timing Report

As you can see from Figure 17 we are looking at an example report from a RAW configuration using single disks. Notice how both read and write times exceed even the rather large good practice limits of 10-20 milliseconds for a disk read. However in my experience for reads you should not exceed 5 milliseconds and usually with modern buffered reads, 1-2 milliseconds. Oracle is more tolerant for write delays since it uses a delayed write mechanism, so 10-20 milliseconds on writes will normally not cause significant Oracle waits, however, the smaller you can get read and write times, the better!


In UNIX or LINUX you have multiple filesystem options, RAW, JFS, ext2, ext3, reiserFS, OCFS. You need to use the best performing filesystem usually RAW, ext3 or resierFS. Oracle OCFS is also viable.

RAW Filesystems

RAW is probably the simplest filesystem to understand. In Unix systems, a disk can be configured to contain a single contiguous chunk of space, or it can be configured to contain multiple separate chunks of space. Each chunk of space is called a partition or section. Typically a partition would be formatted to contain a filesystem, allowing a hierchical structure of directories and files to be created. A partition that does not contain a filesystem is called a raw partition.. A database extent stored on a raw partition is called a raw extent.


The primary advantage to using raw extents is the possibility of increased performance compared to extents stored in Unix files. The performance benefits occur because:

  • File system overhead and address translation is eliminated. Database block addresses map directly to raw partition addresses.

  • Read operations transfer data directly from the disk controller to shared memory and write operations transfer directly from shared memory to the disk controller. The Unix buffer pool is not used, avoiding the necessity to copy data from a Unix page buffer to shared memory and vice versa.


Although they may provide increased performance, raw extents have several major disadvantages. You should not take the decision to use them lightly. Among the disadvantages are:

  • Raw disk partitions are cumbersome to configure and manage. You have to keep track of what is on each raw partition yourself. You can easily make mistakes and destroy the contents of a raw partition.

  • The number of raw partitions available on a disk may be quite limited. For example, on Solaris 2.5, a disk can have at most 8 partitions.

  • Moving raw partitions from one disk to another may be difficult or impossible.

  • Raw partition sizes are fixed. Allocating more space to a partition requires backing up all the partitions on a disk, designing a new partition layout, and restoring all saved data.

  • You cannot use the same operating system backup utilities to make backups of files and raw partitions.

  • You may get worse performance with raw devices than you do with files. The performance difference is highly dependent on the operating system's implementation of the file system. Many modern Unix systems, like Ditical Unix, AIX 4.2, HP-UX 10, Solaris 2.6, and others have highly advanced filesystem implementations that include many performance optimizations. Older Unix systems, such as Unix System V Release 4 are somewhat less advanced and raw partitions may provide better performance on these systems.

  • You may not be able to use logical volume managers with raw partitions. Not all Unix systems support logical volumes composed of raw partitions.


For more information on this topic, I recommend Don Burleson's latest book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference". 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 50%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts:



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