Apex and Jet – a fairy tale

In the old times, when it was still of some use to wish for the thing one wanted, there lived a King named Joel R. whose daughters were all handsome, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun himself, who has seen so much, wondered each time he shone over her because of her beauty. The name of the little girl was Apex.

Near the royal castle build with bricks of Forms there was a great dark wood where birds were twittering and many squirrels were running up the trees. In the bark of some trees there were mysterious inscriptions from the foreign county of Java. And in the wood under an old js-tree was a font; and when the day was hot, the King’s daughter used to go forth into the wood and sit by the brink of the cool font. The font was simply awesome and if the time seemed long, she would take out a golden chart, and throw it up and catch it again, and this was her favourite pastime.

On her 12th Birthday Apex looked into a codemirror and saw Apex 5.1 always wearing beautiful purple boots. Now it happened one day that her boots were strapped so tight that the chart, instead of falling back into the maiden’s little hand which had sent it aloft, dropped to the ground near the edge of the well and rolled in. The king’s daughter followed it with her mobile-UI as it sank, but the well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen. Then she began to weep, and she wept and wept as if she could never be comforted. And in the midst of her weeping she heard a voice saying to her: “What ails thee, king’s daughter Apex? Thy tears would melt a heart of stone.” And when she looked to see where the voice came from, there was nothing but a Toad stretching his thick ugly head out of the water. – “I weep because my golden chart has fallen into the font.” – “Never mind, do not weep,” answered the Toad, “I can help you; but what will you give me if I fetch up your chart again?” – “Whatever you like, dear toad,” said she, “any of my wizards, dynamic actions and interactive reports, or even the golden cloud that I wear.” – “Thy wizards, thy dynamic actions and interactive reports, and thy golden cloud are not for me,” answered the Toad, “but if thou wouldst love me, and have me for thy companion and play-fellow, and let me sit by thee at the Universal Theme, and eat from thy tables, and drink from thy views, and sleep in thy little pages, if thou wouldst promise all this, then would I dive below the water and fetch thee thy golden chart again.” – “Oh yes,” Apex answered, “I will promise it all, whatever you want, if you will only get me my chart again.” But she thought to herself: What nonsense he talks! As if he could do anything but sit in the water and croak with the other frogs, or could possibly be any one’s companion.

But the Toad, as soon as he heard her promise, drew his head under the font and sank down out of sight, but after a while he came to the surface again with the chart in his mouth, and he threw it on a nearby Peake. The King’s daughter was overjoyed to see her pretty plaything again, and she required it up and ran off with it. “Stop, stop!” cried the Toad, “take me up too. I cannot run as fast as you!” But it was of no use, Apex had no listener for him, and made haste home, and very soon forgot all about the poor Toad.

The next day, when the King’s daughter was sitting at table with the King and all the court, and eating from her golden plate, there came something up the marble stairs, and then there came a knockout at the door, and a voice crying: “Apex, Apex, let me in!” And she got up and ran to see who it could be, but when she opened the door, there was the Toad sitting outside. Then she shut the door hastily and went back to her server, feeling very uneasy. King Joel noticed how quickly her heart was beating, and said: “My child, what are you afraid of? Is there a giant Page Designer standing at the door ready to carry you away?” – “Oh no,” answered she, “no Page Designer, but a horrid Toad.” – “And what does the Toad want?” asked the King. “O dear father,” answered she, “when I was sitting by the font yesterday, and playing with my golden chart, it fell into the water, and while I was crying for the loss of it, the Toad came and got it again for me on condition I would let him be my companion, but I never thought that he could leave the application server and come after me; but now there he is outside the door, and he wants to come in to me.” And then they all heard him hammering the second time and crying:

“Youngest King’s daughter,
Open to me!
By the fonts water
What promised you me?
Youngest King’s daughter
Now open to me!”

“That which thou hast promised must thou perform,” said King Joel, “so go now and require him in.” So she went and opened the door, and the Toad hopped in. Then he stopped and cried: “Lift me up to install beside you.” But she delayed doing so until the King ordered her. When once the Toad was on the chair, he wanted to get on the table, and there he sat and said: “Now push your page a little nearer, so that we may eat together.” And so she did, but everybody might see how unwilling she was, and the Toad feasted heartily, but every jquery seemed to stick in her throat. “I have had enough now,” said the Toad at last, “and as I am tired, you must deploy me onto your server, and make ready your image folder, and we will lie down and go to sleep.” Then the King’s daughter began to weep, and was afraid of the cold Toad, that nothing would satisfy him but he must sleep in her pretty clean workspace. Now the King grew angry with her, saying: “That which thou hast promised in thy time of necessity, must thou now perform.” So she picked up the Toad with her finger and thumb, carried him upstairs and put him in a corner, and when she had lain down to sleep, he came creeping up, saying: “I am tired and want sleep as much as you; take me up, or I will tell your father.” Then she felt beside herself with rage, and picking him up, she threw him with all her strength against the browser, crying: “Now will you be quiet, you horrid Toad!”

But as he fell, he ceased to be a Toad, and became all at once a prince with beautiful kind shapes. And he told her his name was Jet and how the wicked witch of ADF had bound him by her spells, and how no one but she alone could have released him. Apex soon forgot about her old pal AnyChart and only had an UI for the young and beautiful Jet. And they two would go together to his father’s kingdom. And there came to the door an interactive grid, and behind the grid was standing faithful John Snyders, the servant of the young prince Jet. Now, faithful John had suffered such care and pain when his master was turned into a Toad, that he had been obliged to wear three iron libraries over his heart, to keep it from breaking with trouble and anxiety. When the grid started to take prince Jet to his kingdom, and faithful John had helped them both in, he got up behind, and was full of joy at his master’s deliverance.

And when they had gone a part of the way, the prince heard a sound at the back of the interactive grid, as if something had broken, and he turned round and cried:

“John, the other real data service must be breaking!”

“The ORDS does not break,
‘Tis the library round my heart
That, to lessen its ache,
When I grieved for your sake,
I bound round my heart.”

Again, and yet once again there was the same sound, and the prince thought it must be some ORDS breaking, but it was the breaking of the other library from faithful John’s heart, because he was now so relieved and happy.

The End

Other fairy tales to come:

Patrick Wolf and the seven little Shakeebs

Align topbar divs horizontally in Apex 5 UT

Using the 12 column grid in Apex 5, we can easily position regions (=divs) as we want.

Unfortunately this is not possible in the title bar where the breadcrumbs reside. There simply is no column grid in the breadcrumb bar. But sometimes it is useful to add some regions or DIVs there.

Here is an example how two regions look that are added to the breadcrumb bar.

default vertical alignment

They are always aligned one below the other. To use the space available we often want to stack the divs beside each other.

A tiny little bit of css can change this alignment. Add this on page level to the css section.

.syn-app--topbarcontainer, div#R_TOPBAR {
  border-spacing: 2px 2px;
  border: 0px solid;
  display: -webkit-flex;
  display: -ms-flexbox;
  display: flex;
  flex-direction: row;

The main trick here is to use a flex display with direction row. This will try to align all child divs in a horizontal row.

More infos about flex property: http://www.w3schools.com/cssref/css3_pr_flex-direction.asp

The css class “syn-app–topbarcontainer” then needs to be applied to a parent region. This region should have the “Blank with Attributes” template (Apex 5.1).

Alternatively the region can use R_TOPBAR as a region alias.

The two Regions A and B are subregions. The subregions can be used with any template. The example uses the standard template with some minified settings.

region settings

And this is how it looks in the application:

horizontal alignment

This works in Apex 5.0 and also in Apex 5.1 (early adopter).

Be aware that this is not a responsive layout. So when the browser window size is lessened, then the regions will not position below each other.

SQL parse time issue – use “minified hinted outlines”

problem description

Recently I encountered a simple looking query that returned a very small result set, but used to take more than 5 seconds time to execute. When executing it a second time it was fast (less than 0.01 second). When adding a comment then the execution time was bad again (5 seconds). Adding a comment forces the optimizer to parse the query again. However cached blocks can be reused. So this simple test gives a good indication where the time is spent.

The query was simple looking at first but turned out to be a complex set of views within views with nested subqueries, union all combinations and so on. However the execution plan was all nested loops, the filter criteria was correctly pushed down through all the sub layers.


The problem was that the complex sql took a very long time to hard parse.
Executing the plan was fast, but creating the execution plan was eating up the time. The CBO had trouble finding the best execution plan. The more tables are joined, the more different join orders are possible and need to be considered. This is called permutations (see tuning section below). It can take a considerably long time.



This was the query

      ,case when
         count(*) over (partition by r.streamid )                                        -- Number of wells
         =                                                                               -- equals
         count(case when r.status = 'SUCCESS' then 1 end) over (partition by r.streamid) -- number of successfull wells
         then 'FULFILLED'
         else 'NOT'
         end  as platestatus
from v_lnk_check_part_order_results r
where orderid = :orderid
order by streamid, labwareitemid;

Now how can we demonstrate that the parsing time is the problem?

To get a clear picture would be to trace your statement and run a TKPROF report for it. This is often something that is very hard to do for developers, because they do not have access to the OS and are not able without DBA privs to enable and disable the tracing and above all to run the TKPROF command. Here is a tutorial from John Watson that shows how to trace and use tkprof.

The way described at the beginning only gives us an indication. First run the statement several times until the timings are stable. This means the data blocks are cached in the buffer cache. Then slightly modify the statement, for example by adding a comment, adding a meaningless where condition (2=2) or removing one column from the output. This will lead to a new cursor and to a new hard parse. Run the same statement a second time and it should be fast again. The difference in execution time gives an approximization for the time needed to hard parse.

It is not perfect, but is a solid “educated guess”. I didn’t see an easy way in SQL developer to show those statistics using typical developer privs only.

the solution

Adding the following hint to the select solved the issue

OSM@SEL$12 O@SEL$12 S@SEL$12 LI@SEL$12)

What this hint does and how to get it is explained below.

I call it the “minified hinted outline” approach. Although “Extrem lead hinting” was a close runner up.

tuning effort

We already identified the hard parsing as the point where the CBO spends its time. And more specifically it is the point where the CBO creates multiple execution plans and compares them.

Source:Oracle Docs – Query Optimizer Concepts

To understand the problem that the CBO faces, here is a table that lists the number of potential table combinations that the CBO needs to consider. The permutations go up exponentially with the number of tables.

permutation considerations

# tables join permutations to consider
2 2! = 2, table A => table B & table B => table A
3 3! = 6, A=>B=>C & A=>C=>B & B=>A=>C & B=>C=>A & C=>A=>B & C=>B=>A
4 4! = 24
5 5! = 120
6 6! = 720
7 7! = 5040
15 15! = 1,307,674,368,000

There is a maximum number of permutations that the CBO considers.
This maximum number is 2000 (default since 11g). It can be influenced by the hidden parameter _optimizer_max_permutations. In older database version this was a normal init.ora parameter, but it was deprecated in 9i and replaced by the “hidden” parameter (http://oracleinaction.com/undocumented-params-11g/
). It might be that this maximum number is per query block. The documentation is not perfectly clear about it. A query block can be an independent subquery, a non-merged/inline view or a WITH clause section. So for ten query blocks, it might be that the maximum number of permutations to consider is 20000. I didn’t test that hypothesis but there are some indications that this happened in this specific case.

As we can see from the list this magical number of 2000 permutations is already reached when 7 tables are joined. After that the optimizer will stop looking at other combinations. Btw: that is why the table order in the FROM clause can still make a difference! So put the main tables at the beginning of the FROM clause, so that the CBO considers them correctly in its access path permutations.

general approaches

  • Stored outlines and SQL plan management
  • global table hints

stored outlines

A stored outline will store the execution plan for one specific SQL statement. They are mostly used for plan stability, however a nice side effect is, that the hard parse phase is shortend when a stored outline is found.
A good introduction about stored outlines can be found in the 10g documentation: https://docs.oracle.com/cd/B19306_01/server.102/b14211/outlines.htm#i30836 . Stored outlines are available since 9i at least. The modern version of a stored outline is a SQL plan baseline and SQL plan management (SPM).

Further reading:
Oracle white paper: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/database/bi-datawarehousing/twp-sql-plan-mgmt-12c-1963237.pdf#22

Blog “Insight into the workings of the Optimizer”: https://blogs.oracle.com/optimizer/entry/how_to_use_sql_plan

global table hints

Essentially what stored outlines do is to set a couple of hints.

We can do this directly ourselfs by using global table hints.
The normal way to provide a hint, is to add it to the section where it is relevant for. But when views are involved, you probably won’t want to change the view definitions and cutter them with hints. First of all the views might belong to some other schema. Also they are used in different points in the application, so a hint that my be good for one specific SQL might not be good for another SQL using the same view.

Global table hints come to the rescue! A global table hint is able to “inject” a hint into the deeper layers of a view.

Quick and not so dirty solution

As already mentioned adding the following hint to the select solved the issue

OSM@SEL$12 O@SEL$12 S@SEL$12 LI@SEL$12)

All we need to get such a hint is clever usage of the Oracle SQL Developer.

how to

Using SQL developer we can check the execution plan for our query (F10).
In the lower section of the plan there is a section “Other XML” and in this section is a long list of HINTs. This section can be exported.

OR we can use the explain plan command and after that do this:

select *
from table(dbms_xplan.display(
             format=>'BASIC ALIAS OUTLINE'

“OUTLINE” will show the complete sql outline. Which is the sum of all hints that need to be applied to get this specific plan.
“ALIAS” will show the query block names that are used.
“BASIC” is just to focus on the relevant parts for this example.

A solid first test strategy is to copy and paste the complete outline section into the sql statement and see if it is now fast when using all the hints.

However this list is way to long and we can eliminate step by step most hints. I would recommend to keep only the leading hints. Remember, we just want to reduce the complexity for the high number of table permutations. The leading hints (and a few others like merge/no_merge) are responsible for freezing the join orders. Make sure to get all leading hints. If one of them is missing, the whole order of execution might break.

If the query is still reasonably fast then we can work with them only. In my case the execution time slightly increased to 0.15 seconds. Which is still way below the full 5 seconds when calling it without a hint.

The result may look like this:


Ok lets look more closely at one of the leading hints that we have:

@SEL$5B04CACE is a named query block. Where oracle itself had choosen the name. We can see those query block names when using the “ALIAS” setting during explain plan creation. I believe those query block names could potentially change when useing the same statement on a different database (e.g. moving the code from DEV to TEST DB). Therefore the goal is to get rid of those aliases for query blocks.

SOA@SEL$13 is the table(or view) alias “SOA” and SEL$13 is the 13th SELECT command in our query. Including the outermost select call that we issue ourselfs. So the table order is SOA before CE inside the query block “SEL$5B04CACE”.

We can then combine all those leading hints into one single leading hint. The order is relevant. Sometimes it needs a little testing to find the proper order of the hints. This is because the starting points, the query block names need to be removed when only one hint is used. In my case the “@SEL$5461C9FE” was the outermost block (the select itself), so the leading tables that came after that block were the first ones to consider. This outermost block can be identified by studying the ALIAS section of the execution plan.


“minified hinted outlines” are a quick solution for a very specific type of problem. Typically when using complex queries on views we might want to consider such a solution. It is a quick solution as an alternativ to stored outlines or SPM.


This solution freezes parts of the execution plan. But in a less invasive way than a real stored outline would do. For example we do not say which index to use, instead the CBO still decides about the best way how to access a specific table. It is just that the order of the tables and subquery blocks is hinted and by that frozen.

If the select or the views change, then the leading hint needs to be regenerated. However this concept was working sucessfully even when moving the query including hint from test to a production environment.