Archive for the 'oracle' Category

Impugn My Character Over Technical Points–But You Should Probably Be Correct When You Do So. Oracle 12c In-Memory Feature Snare? You Be The Judge ‘Cause Here’s The Proof.

Executive Summary

This blog post offers proof that you can trigger In-Memory Column Store feature usage with the default INMEMORY_* parameter settings. These parameters are documented as the approach to ensure In-Memory functionality is not used inadvertently.

What Really Matters?

This is a post about enabling versus using the Oracle Database 12c Release In-Memory Column Store feature which is a part of the separately licensed Database In-Memory Option of 12c. While reading this please be mindful that in this situation all that really matters is what actions on your part the internal tables Oracle audits to charge you for feature usage.

Make Software, Not Enemies–And Certainly Not War

There is a huge kerfuffle regarding the separately licensed In-Memory Column Store feature in Oracle Database 12c Release–specifically how the feature is enabled and what triggers charges for usage of the feature.

I pointed a) the fact that the feature is enabled by default and b) the feature is easily accidentally used. I did that in Part I and Part II in my series on the matter.  In Part III I shared how the issue has lead to industry journalists quoting–and then removing–said quotes. I’ve endured an ungodly amount of shameful backlash from friends on the Oaktable Network list as they asserted I was making a mole hill out of something that was a total lark (that was a euphemistic way of saying they all but accused me of misleading my readers).  I even had friends suggesting this is a friendship-ending issue. Emotion and high-technology are watery-oil like in nature.

About the only thing that hasn’t happened is for anyone to apologize for being totally wrong in their blind-faith rooted feelings about this issue. What did he say? Please read on.

From the start I pointed out that the INMEMORY_QUERY feature is enabled by default–and that it is conceivable that someone could use it accidentally. The back lash from that was along the lines of how many parameters and what user actions are needed for that to be a reality.  Maria Colgan–who is Oracle’ s PM for the In-Memory Column Store feature–tweeted that I’m confusing people when announcing her blog post on the fact that In-Memory Column Store usage is controlled not by INMEMORY_QUERY but instead INMEMORY_SIZE.

If I were to show you everyone else was wrong and I was right, would you think less of me? Please, don’t let it make you feel less of them. We’re just people trying to wade through the confusion.

The Truth On The Matter

Here is the truth and I’ll prove it in a screen shot to follow:

  1. INMEMORY_QUERY is enabled by default. If it is set you can trigger feature usage–full stop.
  2. INMEMORY_SIZE is zero by default.  Remember this is the supposedly ueber-powerful setting that precludes usage of the feature and not, in fact, the top-level-sounding INMEMORY_QUERY parameter. As such this should be the feature that would prevent you for paying for usage of the feature.

In the following screenshot I’ll show that INMEMORY_QUERY is at the default setting of ENABLE  and INMEMORY_SIZE is at the default setting of zero. I prove first there is no prior feature usage. I then issue a CREATE TABLE statement specifying INMEMORY.  Remember, the feature-blocking INMEMORY_SIZE parameter is zero.  If  “they” are right I shouldn’t be able to trigger In-Memory Column Store feature usage, right? Observe–or better yet, try this in your own lab:


So ENABLED Means ENABLED? Really? Imagine That.

So I proved my point which is any instance with the default initialization parameters can trigger feature usage. I also proved that the words in the following two screenshots are factually incorrect:


Screenshot of blog post on


Screenshot of email to Oracle-L Email list:






I didn’t want to make a mole hill of this one. It’s just a bug. I don’t expect apologies. That would be too human–almost as human as being completely wrong and wrongly clinging to one’s wrongness because others are equally, wrongly, well, wrong on the matter.


Sundry References

 Print out of Maria’s post on and link to same: Getting started with Oracle Database In-Memory Part I



Oracle Database 12c In-Memory Feature. Enabled, Used or Confused? Don’t Be.

Enabled By Default. Not Usable By Default.

Series Links: Part I, Part II.

It was my intention to only write 2 installments on my short series about Oracle Database 12c In-Memory Column Store feature usage. My hopes were quickly dashed when the following developments occurred:

1. A quote from an Oracle spokesman cited on was pulled because (I assume) it corroborated my assertion that the feature is enabled by default. It is, enabled by default.

Citations: Tweet about the quote, link to the July 26, 2014 version of the article showing the Oracle spokesman quote: 26 July 2014.

The July 26, 2014 version of the article quoted an Oracle spokesman as having said the following:

Yes, Oracle Database In-Memory is an option and it is on by default, as have been all new options since Oracle Database 11g

2. An email from an Oracle Product Manager appeared on the oracle-l email list and stated the following:

So, it is explicitly NOT TRUE that Database In-Memory is enabled by default – and it’s (IMHO) irresponsible (at best) to suggest otherwise

Citation: link to the oracle-l list server copy of the email, screenshot of the email.


Features or Options, Enabled or Used

I stated in Part I that I think the In-Memory Column Store feature is a part of a hugely-important release.  But, since the topic is so utterly confusing I have to make some points.

It turns out that neither of the Oracle folks I mention above are correct. Please allow me to explain. Yes, the Oracle spokesman spoke the truth originally to as reported by Doug Henschen. The truth that was spoken is, yes indeed, the In-Memory Column Store feature/option  is enabled by default. Now don’t be confused. There is a difference between enabled and usable and  in-use.

In Part II of the series I showed an example of the things that need to be done to put the feature into use–and remember, you’re not charged for it until it is used. I believe that post made it quite clear that there is a difference between enabled and in-use. What does the Oracle documentation say about In-Memory Column Store feature/option default settings? It says it is enabled by default. Full stop. Citation: Top-level initialization parameter enabled by default. I’ve put a screenshot of that documentation here for education sake:



This citation of the documentation means the Oracle spokesman was correct.  The feature is enabled by default.

The problem is with the mixing of the words enabled and “use” in the documentation.

Please consider the following screenshot of a session where the top-level INMEMORY_QUERY parameter is set to the default (ENABLE) as well as the INMEMORY_SIZE parameter to grant some RAM to the In-Memory Column Store feature. In the screenshot you’ll see that I didn’t trigger usage of the feature just by enabling it. I did, however, show that you don’t have to “use” the feature to trigger “usage” so please visit Part II on that matter.


So here we sit with wars over words.

Oracle’s Maria Colgan just posted a helpful blog (or, practically a Documentation addendum) going over the initialization parameters needed to fully, really-truly enable the feature–or more correctly how to go beyond enabled to usable.  I’ve shown that Oracle’s spokesman was correct in stating the feature is enabled by default (INMEMORY_QUERY enabled by default). Maria and others showed that you have to set 2 parameters to really, truly, gosh-darnit use the feature that is clearly ENABLE(d) by default. I showed you that enabling the feature doesn’t mean you use the feature (as per the DBA_FEATURE_USAGE_STATICS view). I also showed you in Part II how one can easily, accidentally use the feature.  And using the feature is chargeable and that’s why I assert INMEMORY_QUERY should ship with the default value of DISABLE. It is less confusing and it maps well to prior art such as the handling of Real Application Clusters.

Trying To Get To A Summary

So how does one summarize all of this?  I see it as quite simple. Oracle could have shipped Oracle Database 12c with the sole,  top-level enabling parameter disabled (e.g., INMEMORY_QUERY=DISABLE). Doing so would be crystal clear because it nearly maps to a trite sentence–the feature is DISABLE(d). Instead we have other involved parameters that are not top level adding to the confusion. And confusion indeed since the Oracle documentation insinuates INMEMORY_SIZE is treated differently when Automatic Memory Management is in play:


Prior Art

And what is that prior art on the matter? Well, consider Oracle’s (presumably) most profitable separately-licensed feature of all time–Real Application Clusters. How does Oracle treat this desirable feature? It treats it with a crystal-clear top-level, nuance-free disabled state:


So, in summary, the In-Memory feature is not disabled by default. It happens to be that the capacity-sizing parameter INMEMORY_SIZE is set to zero so the feature is unusable. However, setting both INMEMORY_QUERY and INMEMORY_SIZE does not constitute usage of the feature.

Confused? I’m not.


Oracle Database 12c Release – My First Observations. Licensed Features Usage Concerns – Part II.


In this post you’ll see that I provide an scenario of accidental paid-feature “use.”  The key elements of the scenario are: 1) I enabled the feature (by “accident”) but 2) I didn’t actually use the feature because I neither created nor altered any tables.

In Part I of this series I aimed to bring to people’s attention what I see as a significant variation from the norm when it comes to Oracle licensed-option usage triggers and how to prevent them from being triggered. Oracle Database Enterprise Edition supports several separately licensed options such as Real Application Clusters, Partitioning, and so on.  A feature like Real Application Clusters is very expensive but if  “accidental usage” of this feature is a worry on an administrator’s mind there is a simple remedy: unlink it. If the bits aren’t in the executable you’re safe. Is that a convoluted procedure? No. An administrator simply executes make -d rac_off and then relinks the Oracle executable. Done.

What about other separately licensed options like Partitioning?  As I learned from Paul Bullen, once can use the Oracle-supplied chopt command to remove any chance of using Partitioning if, in fact, one does not want to use Partitioning. I thought chopt might be the solution to the issue of possible, accidental usage of the In-Memory Column Store feature/option. However, I found that chopt, as of this point, does not offer the ability to neutralize the feature as per the following screenshot.


Trivial Pursuit of the Ignoramus or Mountainous Mole Hill?

There is yet no way I know of to prevent accidental use of the In-Memory Column Store feature/option. Am I just making a mountain out of a mole hill? I’ll let you be the judge. And if you side with folks that do feel this is a mountainous-mole hill you’d be in really good company.

Lest folks think that we Oaktable Network Members are a blind, mutual admiration society, allow me to share the rather sizzling feedback I got for raising awareness to this aspect of Oracle Database 12c:



No, I didn’t just want to dismiss this feedback. Instead  I pushed the belt-sander off of my face and read the words a couple of times. The author of this email asserted I’m conveying misinformation ( aka “BS”) and to fortify that position it was pointed out that one must:

  1. Set a database (instance initialization) parameter.
  2. Bounce the instance.
  3. Alter any object to use the feature. I’ll interpret that as a DDL action (e.g., ALTER TABLE, CREATE TABLE).

Even before I read this email I knew these assertions were false. We all make mistakes–this I know!  I should point out that unlike every release of Oracle from 5.1.17 to 11gR2 I was not invited to participate in the Beta for this feature. I think a lot of Oaktable Network members were in the program–perhaps even the author of the above email snippet–but I don’t know that for certain. Had I encountered this during a Beta test I would have raised it to the Beta manager as an issue and maybe, just maybe, the feature behavior might have changed before first customer ship. Why am I blabbering on about the Beta program? Well, given the fact that even Oaktable Network members with pre-release experience with this feature evidently do not know what I’m about to show in the remainder of this post.

What Is An Accident?

Better yet, what is an accident and how full of “BS” must one be to fall prey? Maybe the remainder of the post will answer that rhetorical question. Whether or not  it does, in fact, answer the question I’ll be done with this blog series and move on to the exciting work of performance characterization of this new, incredibly important feature.

Anatomy of a “Stupid Accident.”

Consider a scenario. Let’s say a DBA likes to use the CREATE DATABASE statement to create a database. Imagine that!  Let’s pretend for a moment that DBAs can be very busy and operate in chaotic conditions. In the fog of this chaos, a DBA could, conceivably, pull the wrong database instance initialization file (e.g., init.ora or SPFILE) and use it when creating a database. Let’s pretend for a moment I was that busy, overworked DBA and I’ll show you what happens in the following:

  1. I executed sqlplus from the bash command prompt.
  2. I directed sqlplus to execute a SQL script called cr_db.sql. Many will recognize this as the simple little create script I supply with SLOB.
  3. The cr_db.sql script uses a local initialization parameter file called create.ora
  4. sqlplus finished creating the database. NOTE: this procedure does not create even a single user table.
  5. After the database was created I connected to the instance and forced the feature usage tracking views to be updated (thanks to Morgan’s Library for that know-how as well…remember, I’m a database platform engineer not a DBA so I learn all the time in that space).
  6. I executed a SQL script to report feature usage of only those features that match a predicate such as “In-%’



This screen shot shows that the list of three asserted must-happen steps (provided me by a fellow Oaktable Network member) were not, in fact, the required recipe of doom.  The output of the features.sql script proves that I didn’t  need to create even a single a user table to trigger the feature.

The following screen shot shows what the cr_db.sql script does:


The following screenshot shows the scripts I used to update the feature usage tracking views and to report against same:


The “Solution” To The “Puzzle”

Stepping on a landmine doesn’t just happen. You have to sort of be on your feet and walking around for that to happen. In the same vein, triggering usage of the separately licensed Oracle Database 12c Release In-Memory Column Store feature/option required me to be “on my feet and walking around” the landmine–as it were. Did I have to jump through hoops and be a raging, bumbling idiot to accidentally trigger usage of this feature? No. Or, indeed, did I issue a single CREATE TABLE or ALTER TABLE DDL statement? No. What was my transgression? I simply grabbed the wrong database initialization parameter file from my repository–in the age old I’m-only-human sort of way these things can  happen.

To err to such a degree would certainly not be human, would it?

The following screenshot shows the parameter file I used to prove:

  1. You do not need to alter parameters and bounce an instance to trigger this feature usage in spite of BS-asserting feedback from experts.
  2. You don’t even have to create a single application table to trigger this feature usage.



This blog thread has made me a feel a little like David Litchfield must have surely felt for challenging the Oracle9i-era claims of how Oracle Database was impenetrable by database security breaches. We all know how erroneous those claims where. Unbreakable, can’t break it, can’t break in?

Folks, I know we all have our different reasons to be fans of Oracle technology–and, indeed, I am a fan. However, I’m not convinced that unconditional love of a supposed omnipotent and omniscient god-like idol are all that healthy for the IT ecosystem. So, for that reason alone I have presented these findings. I hope it makes at least a couple of DBAs aware of how this licensed feature differs from other high-dollar features like Real Application Clusters in exactly what it takes to “use” the feature–and, moreover, how to prevent stepping on a landmine as it were.


…and now, I’m done with this series.



EMC Employee Disclaimer

The opinions and interests expressed on EMC employee blogs are the employees' own and do not necessarily represent EMC's positions, strategies or views. EMC makes no representation or warranties about employee blogs or the accuracy or reliability of such blogs. When you access employee blogs, even though they may contain the EMC logo and content regarding EMC products and services, employee blogs are independent of EMC and EMC does not control their content or operation. In addition, a link to a blog does not mean that EMC endorses that blog or has responsibility for its content or use.

This disclaimer was put into place on March 23, 2011.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,982 other followers

Oracle ACE Program Status

Click It

website metrics

Fond Memories


All content is © Kevin Closson and "Kevin Closson's Blog: Platforms, Databases, and Storage", 2006-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Closson and Kevin Closson's Blog: Platforms, Databases, and Storage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,982 other followers