Monday, October 28, 2013

Daylight Saving Time Change and AWR Data Mining

Topic: this article is about a tip for Oracle 11.2 and higher on how to handle DST change when querying directly the AWR repository. In addition a few comments on PerfSheet 4, a tool to extract and plot AWR data in Excel.

Introduction: Statspack and more recently AWR reports, are standard performance data sources for Oracle practitioners. AWR analytics/data mining brings an additional powerful set of techniques to understand database workloads and performance when instance-wide analysis is relevant. If you are new to this topic, see for example this presentation by Jury Velikanov.

SQL techniques
One of the SQL techniques that is commonly used when extracting data from AWR is the use of analytic functions (see also this presentation by Connor McDonald) to calculate "deltas" between data points for consecutive snapshots of V$ views stored in AWR. I mean something like this:

...value - lag(value) over (partition by dbid,instance_number,stat_id order by snap_id nulls first) 

Moreover it is quite useful to calculate ratios of such delta values over the time elapsed between two snapshots. How can we calculate the seconds between two snapshots? With something like this:

(extract(hour from END_INTERVAL_TIME-begin_interval_time)*3600 + ...add similar terms for minutes and seconds..

DST changes can cause trouble
What has all this got to do with daylight saving time changes?
The problem we are trying to solve here is, for example that in the fall, when moving back the clock one hour, we have 2 consecutive snapshots at 2:00 am. The time interval between the snapshots calculated with the simple formula above becomes zero (actually it would normally be a number close to zero by a handful of seconds and it can also be negative) and this calls for trouble when we want to divide our delta values by the snapshot time interval.

A solution for 11.2 and higher
Oracle 11.2 and higher provide a simple solution by introducing an extra column in the dba_hist_snapshot view (and underlying table WRM$_SNAPSHOT): SNAP_TIMEZONE, the "Snapshot time zone expressed as offset from UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) time zone".
This new column allows to write a simple 'patch' to our computation of the time difference to account for daylight saving changes:

...-extract(hour from snap_timezone - lag(snap_timezone)) 

Here below an example from DBA_HIST_SNAPSHOT for a database server that has changed from CEST (Central European Summer Time) to CET on Sunday October 27th, 2013. Note that the SNAP_TIMEZONE value changes from UTC+2 to UTC+1. Note also that for SNAP_ID=13843 both begin_interval_time and end_interval_time are set to 2am. More precisely the end interval appears to have happened almost 20 seconds before the begin interval, as explained above this need to be corrected with the SNAP_TIMEZONE difference.

Mining AWR data
I find mining AWR data a very useful data source for performance tuning (when instance-wide data is appropriate). It is quite worth the effort to develop a set of scripts for AWR mining to be used when the need comes. Some pointers: my set of scripts can be downloaded from this link (it is packaged together with Perfsheet4). Another very good set of AWR scripts can be found at Karl Arao's website.

Perfsheet 4 is a tool I have written and published in February 2013 with the goal of providing a simple point-and-click data mining tool for Oracle AWR data. It is a fork of Perfsheet 3.0 by Tanel Poder and comes with a few packaged queries to extract data from AWR and visualize it as line graphs. The power of the tool is that it automates some boring details of writing queries to extract AWR data and import the results in Excel and brings the user straight to Excel's pivot charts: a simple but also quite powerful aggregation and visualization engine.
The queries used in Perfsheet4 can be seen/customized in the Excel spreadsheet and are also available as text files in the zip file. You can see there that I have used the 11.2 new attribute of snap_timezone. This has come for a price though: the compatibility with 11.1 and 10.2 databases is broken (only Oracle 11.2 and higher will run the supplied scripts).

A basic example here below of how to use PerfSheet 4 in his latest version as I write this (v3.3):