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Don Burleson Blog 








Oracle index rebuilding:
Indexes to rebuild script

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

Important update:  The rules for identification of candidates for index coalescing/rebuilding depend on your specific index state.  See MOSC notes 989186.1, 122008.1, 989093.1 for Oracle?s suggestions on when to coalesce/rebuild indexes. Also see my updated notes on index coalesce/rebuilding and note that this DBA has demonstrated the characteristics indexes that benefits from scheduled oracle index rebuilding.

Note:  This article was originally published before 2005 and some parts may not apply to Oracle 10g and Oracle 11g.  Per bug 3661285, the Oracle 11g segment advisor now detects sparse indexes and automatically flags them for rebuilding.

How rare are "bad" indexes? 


You cannot generalize to say that index rebuilding for performance is rare, or even medium rare, it depends on many factors, most importantly the characteristics of the application.

  • In scientific applications (clinical, laboratory) where large datasets are added and removed, the need to rebuild indexes is "common".

  • Conversely, in system that never update or delete rows, index rebuilding rarely improves performance.

  • In systems that do batch DML jobs, index rebuilding "often" improves SQL performance.

See Oracle MOSC note 122008.1 for the officially authorized script to detect indexes that benefit from rebuilding.  This script detects indexes for rebuilding using these rules:  Rebuild the index when these conditions are true:

- deleted entries represent 20% or more of the current entries.
- the index depth is more then 4 levels.

I also have more sophisticated index rebuilding scripts in my book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with a code depot of downloadable diagnostic scripts. 

Script to rebuild indexes

It is very difficult to write a script that will identify indexes that will benefit from rebuilding because it depends on how the indexes are used.  For example, indexes that are always accessed vis an index unique scan" will never need rebuilding, because the "dead space" does not interfere with the index access. 

Only indexes that have a high number of deleted leaf blocks and are accessed in these ways will benefit from rebuilding:

  • index fast full scan

  • index full scan

  • index range scan

Getting statistically valid: proof from a volatile production system would be a phenomenal challenge.  In a large production system, it would be a massive effort to trace LIO from specific queries to specific indexes before and after the rebuild.

When rebuilding fregmented (indexes with deleted leaf nodes) we will expect the space to be reduced:

col segment_name format a40
col blocks       format 999,999,999
   segment_type = 'INDEX'
   owner = 'xxx';

Normally, these indexes attempt to manage themselves internally to ensure fast access to the data rows. However, excessive activity within a table can cause Oracle indexes to dynamically reconfigure themselves. This reconfiguration involves three activities:

  • Index splitting This is when the addition of new table rows cause new index nodes to be created at existing levels

  • Index spawning At some point, the Oracle indexes will reach the maximum capacity for the level and the Oracle index will spawn, creating a deeper level structure

  •   Index node deletion As you may know, Oracle index nodes are not physically deleted when table rows are deleted, nor are the entries removed from the index. Rather, Oracle ?logically? deletes the index entry and leaves ?dead? nodes in the index tree.

Indexes require rebuilding when deleted leaf nodes appear or when the index has spawned into too many levels of depth. While it is tempting to write a script that rebuilds every index in the schema, bear in mind that Oracle contains many thousands of indexes, and a complete rebuild can be very time consuming. Hence, we need to develop a method to identify those indexes that will get improved performance with a rebuild. Let?s look at a method for accomplishing this task.

One vexing issue with Oracle indexes is that the information for an index rebuild must be gathered from two sources:

  •  The Oracle analyze index compute statistics command:


  • The Oracle analyze index validate structure command:


Once we gather information from these sources, we can generate a report with everything we need to know about the index internal structure:

                      # rep       dist.    # deleted              blk gets
Index                  keys        keys      leaf rows  Height      per access
--------------------  ------       -----     --------   ------      -----
CUST_IDX                   1     423,209       58,282        4          6
EDU_IDX_12               433      36,272        7,231        3          2
CUST_IDX                  12   1,262,393      726,361        4          6

From this report, we see several important statistics:

  • The number of deleted leaf nodes The term ?deleted leaf node? refers to the number of index nodes that have been logically deleted as a result of row delete operations. Remember that Oracle leaves ?dead? index nodes in the index when rows are deleted. This is done to speed up SQL deletes, since Oracle does not have to rebalance the index tree when rows are deleted.

  • Index height The height of the index refers to the number of levels that are spawned by the index as a result in row inserts. When a large number of rows are added to a table, Oracle may spawn additional levels of an index to accommodate the new rows. Hence, an Oracle index may have four levels, but only in those areas of the index tree where the massive inserts have occurred. Oracle indexes can support many millions of entries in three levels, and any Oracle index that has four or more levels would benefit from rebuilding.

  • Gets per index access The number of ?gets? per access refers to the amount of logical I/O that is required to fetch a row with the index. As you may know, a logical get is not necessarily a physical I/O since much of the index may reside in the Oracle buffer cache.

The script to make the report is complex because both the validate structure and compute statistics commands must be executed. The following code snippets are used to generate the report.

WARNING - This script for experts only.  It is extremely resource intensive.  DO NOT run it in an active production environment.  Only run this script during scheduled downtime.


set pages 9999;
set heading off;
set feedback off;
set echo off;
spool id4.sql;
select '@id2.sql' from dual;
select 'analyze index '||owner||'.'||index_name||' validate structure;',
from Remote DBA_indexes
owner not in ('SYS','SYSTEM');
spool off;
set heading on;
set feedback on;
set echo on;


create table temp_stats as
name ,
most_repeated_key ,
distinct_keys ,
del_lf_rows ,
height ,
from index_stats;


insert into temp_stats
name ,
most_repeated_key ,
distinct_keys ,
del_lf_rows ,
height ,
from index_stats


Rem ind_fix.sql - Shows the details for index stats

set pagesize 60;
set linesize 100;
set echo off;
set feedback off;
set heading off;
column c1 format a18;
column c2 format 9,999,999;
column c3 format 9,999,999;
column c4 format 999,999;
column c5 format 99,999;
column c6 format 9,999;

spool idx_report.lst;

prompt '                      # rep       dist.    # deleted              blk s
prompt Index                  keys        keys      leaf rows  Height     per s
prompt --------------------  ------       -----     --------   ------     -----

select distinct
  name                  c1,
  most_repeated_key     c2,
  distinct_keys         c3,
  del_lf_Rows           c4,
  height                c5,
  blks_gets_per_access  c6
from temp_stats
  height > 3
  del_lf_rows > 10
order by name;

spool off;

spool id6.sql;

select 'alter index '||owner||'.'||name||' rebuild tablespace '||tablespace_name||';'
from temp_stats, Remote DBA_indexes
where = Remote DBA_indexes.index_name
  (height > 3
  del_lf_rows > 10);
select 'analyze index '||owner||'.'||name||' compute statistics;'
from temp_stats, Remote DBA_indexes
where = Remote DBA_indexes.index_name
  (height > 3
  del_lf_rows > 10);

spool off;


select 'alter index '||owner||'.'||name||' rebuild tablespace '||tablespace_name
from temp_stats, Remote DBA_indexes
where = Remote DBA_indexes.index_name
(height > 3
del_lf_rows > 10);
select 'analyze index '||owner||'.'||name||' compute statistics;'
from temp_stats, Remote DBA_indexes
where = Remote DBA_indexes.index_name
(height > 3
del_lf_rows > 10);
spool off;


There are many compelling reasons to manage indexes within Oracle.  In an OLTP system, index space is often greater than the space allocated for tables, and fast row data access is critical for sub-second response time.  As we may know, Oracle offers a wealth of index structures: 

  • B-tree indexes: .This is the standard tree index that Oracle has been using since the earliest releases. 

  • Bitmap indexes:  Bitmap indexes are used where an index column has a relatively small number of distinct values (low cardinality).  These are super-fast for read-only databases, but are not suitable for systems with frequent updates 

  • Bitmap join indexes:  This is an index structure whereby data columns from other tables appear in a multi-column index of a junction table.   This is the only create index syntax to employ a SQL-like from clause and where clause.

create bitmap index
inventory( parts.part_type, supplier.state )
inventory i,
   parts     p,
   supplier  s


In addition to these index structures we also see interesting use of indexes at runtime.  Here is a sample of index-based access plans:

  • Nested loop joins:  This row access method scans an index to collect a series of ROWID?s. 

  • Index fast-full-scans:  This is a: multi-block read? access where the index blocks are accessed via a: db file scattered read? to load index blocks into the buffers.  Please note that this method does not read the index nodes. 

  • Star joins:  The star index has changed in structure several times, originally being a single-concatenated index and then changing to a bitmap index implementation.  STAR indexes are super-fast when joining large read-only data warehouse tables. 

  • Index combine access:  This is an example of the use of the index_combine hint.  This execution plan combines bitmap indexes to quickly resolve a low-cardinality Boolean expression:

select /*+ index_combine(emp, dept_bit, job_bit) */
   job = 'SALESMAN'
   deptno = 30

Here is the execution plan that shows the index combine process:

OPTIONS                        OBJECT_NAME                    POSITION
------------------------------ ---------------------------- ----------
BY INDEX ROWID                 EMP                                   1
TO ROWIDS                                                            1
SINGLE VALUE                   DEPT_BIT                              1
SINGLE VALUE                   JOB_BIT                               2

While the internals of Oracle indexing are very complex and open to debate, there are some things that you can do to explore the internal structures of your indexes.  Let?s take a closer look at the method that I use to reveal index structures.

Oracle index rebuilding scripts

Ken Adkins, a respected Oracle author, notes that it is often difficult to pinpoint the exact reason that indexes benefit from a rebuild:

?The DBAs were pulling out their hair until they noticed that the size of the indexes were too large for the amount of data in the tables, and remembered this old: myth?, and decided to try rebuilding the indexes on these tables.

The DELETE with the multiple NOT EXISTS went from running for 2 hours to delete 30,000 records, to deleting over 100,000 records in minutes. Simply by rebuilding the indexes?.?

An Oracle ACE notes this script to rebuild his indexes.  "I eventually wrote a simple query that generates a list of candidates for index rebuilds, and the commands necessary to rebuild the indexes once the tables reached a point where it was necessary. The query reads a table we built called TABLE_MODIFICATIONS that we loaded each night from DBA_TAB_MODIFICATIONS before we ran statistics. Monitoring must be turned on to use the DBA_TAB_MODIFICATIONS table."

'exec analyzedb.reorg_a_table4('||''||rtrim(t.table_owner)||''||','||''||
t.table_owner||'.'||t.table_name name,
sum(t.inserts) ins,
sum(t.updates) upd,
sum(t.deletes) del,
sum(t.updates)+sum(t.inserts)+sum(t.deletes) tot_chgs,
to_char((sum(t.deletes)/(decode(a.num_rows,0,1,a.num_rows)))*100.0,?999999.99′) per_del,
round(((sum(t.updates)+sum(t.inserts)+sum(t.deletes))/(decode(a.num_rows,0,1,a.num_rows)) *100.0),2) per_chg
from analyzedb.table_modifications t,
all_tables a
where t.timestamp >= to_date('&from_date','dd-mon-yyyy') and
t.table_owner = a.owner and t.table_owner not in ('SYS','SYSTEM') and
having (sum(t.deletes)/(decode(a.num_rows,0,1,a.num_rows)))*100.0 >=5
group by t.table_owner, t.table_name, a.num_rows
order by num_rows desc, t.table_owner, t.table_name;


The Debate Continues

Today, a battle is raging between the: academics? who do not believe that indexes should be rebuilt without expensive studies, and the: pragmatists? who rebuild indexes on a schedule because their end-users report faster response times. 

To date, none of the world's Oracle experts has determined a reliable rule for index rebuilding, and no expert has proven that index rebuilds "rarely" help. 

  •  Academic approach - Many Oracle experts claim that indexes rarely benefit from rebuilding, yet none has ever provided empirical evidence that this is the case, or what logical I/O conditions arise in those: rare? cases where indexes benefit from rebuilding. 

  • Pragmatic approach:  Many IT managers force their Oracle DBAs to periodically rebuild indexes because the end-user community reports faster response times following the rebuild.  The pragmatists are not interested in: proving? anything, they are just happy that the end-users are happy.  Even if index rebuilding were to be proven as a useless activity, the Placebo Effect on the end-users is enough to justify the task.

It is clear that all 70 of the index metrics interact together in a predictable way.  Some scientist should be able to take this data and reverse-engineer the internal rules for index rebuilding, if any actually exist.  For now, the most any Oracle professional can do is to explore their indexes and learn how the software manages b-tree structures.

When can we "prove" a benefit from an index rebuild?  Here, Robin Schumacher proves that an index that is rebuilt in a larger tablespace will contain more index entries be block, and have a flatter structure:

"As you can see, the amount of logical reads has been reduced in half simply by using the new 16K tablespace and accompanying 16K data cache."

In an OracleWorld 2003 presentation titled: Oracle Database 10g: The Self-Managing Database? by Sushil Kumar of Oracle Corporation, Kumar states that the new Automatic Maintenance Tasks (AMT) Oracle10g feature will "automatically detect and re-build sub-optimal indexes.? However, the 10g segment advisor only recommends index rebuilding from a space reclamation perspective, not for performance.

This Kim Floss article shows the Oracle 10g segment advisor recommending a rebuild of an index: 

?The page lists all the segments (table, index, and so on) that constitute the object under review. The default view ("View Segments Recommended to Shrink") lists any segments that have free space you can reclaim.?

Oracle index rebuild advisor (Source: Oracle Corporation)

Inside Oracle b-tree indexes

There are many myths and legends surrounding the use of Oracle indexes, especially the ongoing passionate debate about rebuilding of indexes for improving performance.  Some experts claim that periodic rebuilding of Oracle b-tree indexes greatly improves space usage and access speed, while other experts maintain that Oracle indexes should: rarely? be rebuilt.  Interestingly, Oracle reports that the new Oracle10g Automatic Maintenance Tasks (AMT) will automatically detect indexes that are in need of re-building.  Here are the pros and cons of this highly emotional issue:

  • Arguments for Index Rebuilding:  Many Oracle shops schedule periodic index rebuilding, and report measurable speed improvements after they rebuild their Oracle b-tree indexes.  In an OracleWorld 2003 presentation titled Oracle Database 10 g: The Self-Managing Database by Sushil Kumar of Oracle Corporation, Kumar states that the Automatic Maintenance Tasks (AMT) Oracle10g feature will automatically detect and rebuild sub-optimal indexes. : AWR provides the Oracle Database 10g a very good 'knowledge' of how it is being used. By analyzing the information stored in AWR, the database can identify the need of performing routine maintenance tasks, such as optimizer statistics refresh, rebuilding indexes, etc. The Automated Maintenance Tasks infrastructure enables the Oracle Database to automatically perform those operations.? 

  • Arguments against Index Rebuilding:  Some Oracle in-house experts maintain that Oracle indexes are super-efficient at space re-use and access speed and that a b-tree index rarely needs rebuilding.  They claim that a reduction in Logical I/O (LIO) should be measurable, and if there were any benefit to index rebuilding, someone would have come up with: provable? rules.

So who is right?  I suspect that they both are correct.  There is a huge body of evidence that index rebuilding makes the end-users report faster response time, and I have to wonder if this is only a Placebo Effect, with no scientific basis.  Some experts suspect a Placebo Effect may be at work here, and the end-users, knowing that they have new index trees, report a performance gain when none exists.

Because of their extreme flexibility, Oracle b-tree indexes are quite complex, and to really gather scientific evidence we must examine all of the index metrics.  Getting a meaningful measure of the benefit of an index rebuild in a production environment is very difficult because the system is under heavy load and usage patterns change constantly.  Plus, many IT managers require periodic index re-building because it is a low-risk job and it curries favor from the end-user community. 

Where are the index details?

Most Oracle professionals are aware of the dba_indexes view, which is populated with index statistics when indexes are analyzed.  The dba_indexes view contains a great deal of important information for the SQL optimizer, but there is still more to see.  Oracle provides an analyze index xxx validate structure command that provides additional statistics into a temporary tables called index_stats, which, sadly, is overlaid after each command.

To get the full picture, we must devise a table structure that will collect data from both sources.  Here is a method that will do the job:

  1. Create a temporary table to hold data from dba_indexes and index_stats

  2. Verify quality of dbms_stats analysis

  3. Populate temporary table from dba_indexes

  4. Validate indexes and send output into temp table

IMPORTANT:  Collecting the index_stats information is very time consuming and expensive and will introduce serious locking issues on production databases. It is strongly recommended that you perform these checks during scheduled downtime, or on a representative test database.

10g note:  Tested against Oracle10g on Windows XP SP2, and found

DROPPED                 VARCHAR2(3)
NUM_KEYS                NUMBER

Need to be defined in the table index_details, and this crashes the subsequent table population and procedure.

 Let?s start by creating a table to hold our index data.  I call this table index_details:

drop table index_details;

Create table index_details
-- *********  The following is from dba_indexes ******************
OWNER_NAME                                         VARCHAR2(30),
INDEX_NAME                                         VARCHAR2(30),
INDEX_TYPE                                         VARCHAR2(27),
TABLE_OWNER                                        VARCHAR2(30),
TABLE_NAME                                         VARCHAR2(30),
TABLE_TYPE                                         VARCHAR2(11),
UNIQUENESS                                         VARCHAR2(9),
COMPRESSION                                        VARCHAR2(8),
PREFIX_LENGTH                                      NUMBER,
TABLESPACE_NAME                                    VARCHAR2(30),
INI_TRANS                                          NUMBER,
MAX_TRANS                                          NUMBER,
INITIAL_EXTENT                                     NUMBER,
NEXT_EXTENT                                        NUMBER,
MIN_EXTENTS                                        NUMBER,
MAX_EXTENTS                                        NUMBER,
PCT_INCREASE                                       NUMBER,
PCT_THRESHOLD                                      NUMBER,
INCLUDE_COLUMN                                     NUMBER,
FREELISTS                                          NUMBER,
FREELIST_GROUPS                                    NUMBER,
PCT_FREE                                           NUMBER,
LOGGING                                            VARCHAR2(3),
BLEVEL                                             NUMBER,
LEAF_BLOCKS                                        NUMBER,
DISTINCT_KEYS                                      NUMBER,
AVG_LEAF_BLOCKS_PER_KEY                            NUMBER,
AVG_DATA_BLOCKS_PER_KEY                            NUMBER,
CLUSTERING_FACTOR                                  NUMBER,
STATUS                                             VARCHAR2(8),
NUM_ROWS                                           NUMBER,
SAMPLE_SIZE                                        NUMBER,
LAST_ANALYZED                                      DATE,
DEGREE                                             VARCHAR2(40),
INSTANCES                                          VARCHAR2(40),
PARTITIONED                                        VARCHAR2(3),
TEMPORARY                                          VARCHAR2(1),
GENERATED                                          VARCHAR2(1),
SECONDARY                                          VARCHAR2(1),
BUFFER_POOL                                        VARCHAR2(7),
USER_STATS                                         VARCHAR2(3),
DURATION                                           VARCHAR2(15),
PCT_DIRECT_ACCESS                                  NUMBER,
ITYP_OWNER                                         VARCHAR2(30),
ITYP_NAME                                          VARCHAR2(30),
PARAMETERS                                         VARCHAR2(1000),
GLOBAL_STATS                                       VARCHAR2(3),
DOMIDX_STATUS                                      VARCHAR2(12),
DOMIDX_OPSTATUS                                    VARCHAR2(6),
FUNCIDX_STATUS                                     VARCHAR2(8),
JOIN_INDEX                                         VARCHAR2(3),
-- *********  The following is from index_stats  ******************
HEIGHT                                             NUMBER,
BLOCKS                                             NUMBER,
NAMEx                                              VARCHAR2(30),
PARTITION_NAME                                     VARCHAR2(30),
LF_ROWS                                            NUMBER,
LF_BLKS                                            NUMBER,
LF_ROWS_LEN                                        NUMBER,
LF_BLK_LEN                                         NUMBER,
BR_ROWS                                            NUMBER,
BR_BLKS                                            NUMBER,
BR_ROWS_LEN                                        NUMBER,
BR_BLK_LEN                                         NUMBER,
DEL_LF_ROWS                                        NUMBER,
DEL_LF_ROWS_LEN                                    NUMBER,
DISTINCT_KEYSx                                     NUMBER,
MOST_REPEATED_KEY                                  NUMBER,
BTREE_SPACE                                        NUMBER,
USED_SPACE                                         NUMBER,
PCT_USED                                           NUMBER,
ROWS_PER_KEY                                       NUMBER,
BLKS_GETS_PER_ACCESS                               NUMBER,
PRE_ROWS                                           NUMBER,
PRE_ROWS_LEN                                       NUMBER,
OPT_CMPR_COUNT                                     NUMBER,
OPT_CMPR_PCTSAVE                                   NUMBER
tablespace tools
storage (initial 5k next 5k maxextents unlimited);

(Note: the index_stats table has a column named PCT_USED even though Oracle indexes do not allow changes to this value.)

Now that we have a table that will hold all of the index details, the next step is to populate the table with data from freshly-analyzed indexes.  Remember, you should always run dbms_stats to get current index statistics.  Here is the script.

insert into index_details
select * from dba_indexes
where owner not like 'SYS%'

Now that we have gathered the index details from dba_indexes, we must loop through iterations of the analyze index xxx validate structure command to populate our table with other statistics.  Here is the script that I use to get all index details.

/*  INDEX.STATS contains 1 row from last execution  */
/*  We need to loop through validates for each      */
/*  index and populate the table.                   */

v_dynam varchar2(100);
cursor idx_cursor is
  select owner_name, index_name from index_details;

for c_row in idx_cursor loop
   v_dynam := 'analyze index '||c_row.owner_name||'.'||c_row.index_name||
             ' validate structure';
   execute immediate v_dynam;
   update index_details set
   = (select * from index_stats)
     where index_details.owner_name = c_row.owner_name
       and index_details.index_name = c_row.index_name;
   if mod(idx_cursor%rowcount,50)=0 then
   end if;
end loop;


   index_details a
   num_keys =
      dba_ind_columns b
       a.owner_name = b.table_owner
       a.index_name = b.index_name


After running the script from listing 3, we should now have complete index details for any index that we desire.  However with 70 different metrics for each index, it can be quite confusing about which columns are the most important.  To make queries easy, I create a view that only displays the columns that I find the most interesting.  Here is my view.


drop view indx_stats;

Create view idx_stats
OWNER_NAME                 ,
INDEX_NAME                 ,
INDEX_TYPE                , 
UNIQUENESS                , 
PREFIX_LENGTH             , 
BLEVEL                    , 
LEAF_BLOCKS               , 
DISTINCT_KEYS             , 
NUM_ROWS                  , 
HEIGHT                    , 
BLOCKS                    , 
NAMEx                     , 
PARTITION_NAME            , 
LF_ROWS                   , 
LF_BLKS                   , 
LF_ROWS_LEN               , 
LF_BLK_LEN                , 
BR_ROWS                   , 
BR_BLKS                   , 
BR_ROWS_LEN               , 
BR_BLK_LEN                , 
DEL_LF_ROWS               , 
DEL_LF_ROWS_LEN           , 
DISTINCT_KEYSx            , 
BTREE_SPACE               , 
USED_SPACE                , 
PCT_USED                  , 
ROWS_PER_KEY              , 
PRE_ROWS                  , 
PRE_ROWS_LEN              ,

While most of these column descriptions are self-evident, there are some that are especially important:

  • CLUSTERING_FACTOR:  This is one of the most important index statistics because it indicates how well sequenced the index columns are to the table rows.  If clustering_factor is low (about the same as the number of dba_segments.blocks in the table segment) then the index key is in the same order as the table rows and index range scans will be very efficient, with minimal disk I/O.  As clustering_factor increases (up to dba_tables.num_rows), the index key is increasingly out of sequence with the table rows.  Oracle?s cost-based SQL optimizer relies heavily upon clustering_factor to decide whether to use the index to access the table.                

  • HEIGHT  - As an index accepts new rows, the index blocks split.  Once the index  nodes have split to a predetermined maximum level the index will: spawn? into a new level.  

  • BLOCKS:  This is the number of blocks consumed by the index.  This is dependent on the db_block_size.  In Oracle9i and beyond, many DBAs create b-tree indexes in very large blocksizes (db_32k_cache_size) because the index will spawn less. Robin Schumacher has noted in his book Oracle Performance Troubleshooting notes: As you can see, the amount of logical reads has been reduced in half simply by using the new 16K tablespace and accompanying 16K data cache.  Clearly, the benefits of properly using the new data caches and multi-block tablespace feature of Oracle9i and above are worth your investigation and trials in your own database.?

  • PCT_USED:  This metric is very misleading because it looks identical to the dba_tables pct_used column, but has a different meaning.  Normally, the pct_used threshold is the freelist unlink threshold, while in index_stats pct_used is the percentage of space allocated in the b-tree that is being used.

Is there a criterion for index rebuilding?

If we believe the anecdotal reports that index rebuilding improved end-user reported performance, how can we analyze this data and see what the criteria (if any) might be for an index rebuild? 

For example, here are the criteria used by a fellow Oracle DBA who swears that rebuilding indexes with these criteria has a positive effect on his system performance:

-- ***  Only consider when space used is more than 1 block    ***
   btree_space > 8192
-- ***  The number of index levels is > 3  ***
   (height > 3
-- ***  The % being used is < 75%          ***
    or pct_used < 75
-- ***  Deleted > 20% of total             ***
    or (del_lf_rows/(decode(lf_rows,0,1,lf_rows)) *100) > 20)


In reality I suspect that the rules are far more complicated than this simple formula.  To see the commonality between indexes of similar nature you can use the data from your new index_details table to write summary queries (Listing 5).  Here we see the average number of index blocks, leaf rows and leaf blocks for indexes of different heights.

This gives us a high-level idea of Oracle threshold for spawning an index onto new levels.  We can take this same approach and attempt to answer the following questions:

1 - At what point does an index spawn to another level (height)?  It should be a function of blocksize, key length and the number of keys.

2 - The number of deleted leaf nodes may not be enough to trigger an index rebuild.  This is because if clustering_factor is low (dba_indexes.clustering_factor ~= dba_segments.blocks), then the rows are added in order, and the index is likely to reuse the deleted leaf nodes.  On the other hand, if clustering_factor is high (dba_indexes.clustering_factor ~= dba_tables.num_rows), and the majority of queries use the index with fast-full scans or index range scans, then a rebuild of the underlying table (to resequence the rows) may be beneficial. 

To illustrate, assume I have an index on the last_name column of a 1,000,000 row table and the clustering_factor is close to the number of blocks, indicating that the rows are in the same sequence as the index. In this case, a bulk delete of all people whose last_name begins with the letter: K? would leave a dense cluster of deleted leaf nodes on adjacent data blocks within the index tablespace.  This large section of space is more likely to be reused than many tiny chunks.

We can also use the data from our detail table to compute our own metrics.  In the example query below, we create a meta-rule for indexes:

  •  Dense Full Block Space - This is the index key space (number of table rows * index key length) as a function of the blocksize and free index space. 

  •  Percent of Free Blocks - This is the estimated number of free blocks within the index.

Using these metrics, we can analyze the system and produce some very interesting reports of index internals: 

col c1 heading 'Average|Height'            format 99
col c2 heading 'Average|Blocks'            format 999,999
col c3 heading 'Average|Leaf|Rows'         format 9,999,999,999
col c4 heading 'Average|Leaf Row|Length'   format 999,999,999
col c5 heading 'Average|Leaf Blocks'       format 9,999,999
col c6 heading 'Average|Leaf Block|Length' format 9,999,999

   height           c1,
   avg(blocks)      c2,
   avg(lf_rows)     c3,
   avg(lf_rows_len) c4,
   avg(lf_blks)     c5,
   avg(lf_blk_len)  c6
group by


                        Average      Average                Average            
Average  Average           Leaf     Leaf Row     Average Leaf Block            
 Height   Blocks           Rows       Length Leaf Blocks     Length            
------- -------- -------------- ------------ ----------- ----------            
      1      236             12          234           1      7,996            
      2      317         33,804      691,504         106      7,915            
      3    8,207      1,706,685   41,498,749       7,901      7,583            
      4  114,613     12,506,040  538,468,239     113,628      7,988

As we see, we can compute and spin this data in an almost infinite variety of ways.

Reader Comments on index rebuilding:

It has been my experience that the percentage of deletes required to affect performance actually goes down as the table gets larger, perhaps because the I/O effect is magnified with more data. 

At my previous job, our observation was that on 20 million row tables and upward as little as 5% deletes, regardless of other factors, would cause sufficient performance degradation to justify an index rebuild.  Admittedly this was a site with fairly tight budget constraints, so we couldn't afford absolute, top of the line hardware.  We also didn't have the luxury of making sure every tablespace was ideally placed for performance, but we did a pretty good job with what we had.  I actually wrote a script that would calculate the % deletes and generate the index rebuild command.

Also, there is the rebuild online option for indices, which does work but it will cause noticeable performance degradation if you try and do it during busy times.  I believe it was available in 8i, but it would generate ora-600 errors when used on busy tables in 8i.

- O
racle ACE

See my related notes on index rebuilding:


Reader Feedback:

10g usage note:

Tested against Oracle10g on Windows XP SP2, and found

DROPPED                 VARCHAR2(3)
NUM_KEYS                NUMBER

not defined in the table index_details, and this crashes the subsequent table population and procedure.

If you like Oracle tuning, see the book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.




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