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Measure Oracle database server

performance with vmstat

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

September 16, 2002

When deploying Oracle as the database server platform in your environment, one of the most
important things you should be aware of is your server’s performance. While Oracle includes
some nice tools to help track server performance, the built-in utilities don’t give you all the
information you need. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how to effectively measure Oracle
database server performance using vmstat.

Author’s Note

Oracle has achieved its outstanding popularity as a database primarily because it runs on almost
all computing platforms. The Oracle database can be found on everything from mainframes to
Linux PCs. Therefore, it's very difficult to come up with generic server guidelines because all of
the operating system metrics are different. Because the Oracle Corporation estimates that over 70
percent of data is stored on UNIX, I’ll use the UNIX vmstat utility for the purposes of this Daily

What’s wrong with Statspack?

You can capture statistics about resource usage at the server level as well as the Oracle database
level. When you start the Oracle database instance, the Oracle program executable is invoked,
spawning over a dozen factotum (slave) processes. These background processes, which serve to
control all aspects of Oracle, include:

 pmon - The process monitor process

 smon - The system monitor process

 arch - The redo log archive process

 dbwr - The database writer process

As required, Oracle requests are passed to these background processes in order to perform a
server function. At startup time, Oracle performs all of the initial interactions with the Oracle
database server, including RAM region memory allocation, establishing CPU resources, and
establishing communication with the disk drives.

You can use the Oracle Statspack utility to capture snapshots showing the differences in system
interaction over pre-specified periods of time (usually each hour). Information relating to the
server that's available inside Statspack includes:

 Physical disk reads.

 CPUs used by specific transactions.
 RAM memory used by specific transactions.

One shortcoming of the Oracle statistics tool is that it doesn’t show the aggregate demand upon
the database server. You can use the utility to see resource utilization for a specific task, but you
can’t directly see the server stress. However, even if Statspack can’t give you all of the
information you need, you can use some native operating system utilities to find out how many
resources are consumed by the Oracle databases.

Vmstat to the rescue

The UNIX vmstat utility is especially useful for monitoring the performance of Oracle databases.
You’ll find vmstat on almost all implementations of UNIX, including Linux. You can run vmstat
using the simple UNIX daemon process shown in Listing 1.


# This is the Linux version

# First, we must set the environment . . . .


ORACLE_HOME=`cat /etc/oratab|grep \^$ORACLE_SID:|cut -f2 -d':'`



export PATH

MON=`echo ~oracle/mon`
export MON

SERVER_NAME=`uname -a|awk '{print $2}'`

typeset -u SERVER_NAME

# sample every five minutes (300 seconds) . . . .


while true

vmstat ${SAMPLE_TIME} 2 > /tmp/msg$$

# run vmstat and direct the output into the Oracle table . . .

cat /tmp/msg$$|sed 1,3d | awk '{ printf("%s %s %s %s %s %s\n", $1, $8, $9, $14, $15, $16)

$ORACLE_HOME/bin/sqlplus -s system/manager@testb1<<EOF

insert into sys.mon_vmstats

values (



rm /tmp/msg$$

Listing 1 - An vmstat capture script

This daemon collects server performance information every five minutes (300 seconds) and
stores the server data inside Oracle tables. These Oracle vmstat tables, once populated, can give
you interesting details about your server. For example, you can find out usage information about
how much RAM and disk I/O is being used on our database server, as well as how many CPUs
are being used.

Working with the results

When analyzing vmstat output, there are several metrics to which you should pay attention. For
example, keep an eye on the CPU run queue column. The run queue should never exceed the
number of CPUs on the server. If you do notice the run queue exceeding the amount of CPUs,
it’s a good indication that your server has a CPU bottleneck.

To get an idea of the RAM usage on your server, watch the page in (pi) and page out (po)
columns of vmstat’s output. By tracking common virtual memory operations such as page outs,
you can infer the times that the Oracle database is performing a lot of work. Even though UNIX
page ins must correlate with the vmstat’s refresh rate to accurately predict RAM swapping,
plotting page ins can tell you when the server is having spikes of RAM usage.

Once captured, it's very easy to take the information about server performance directly from the
Oracle tables and plot them in a trend graph. Rather than using an expensive statistical package
such as SAS, you can use Microsoft Excel. Copy and paste the data from the tables into Excel.
After that, you can use the Chart Wizard to create a line chart that will help you view server
usage information and discover trends.