Disk Configuration for
Online Log Files

Our tip Why Raw Log Files explains why LGWR performance is important, and why it is best to use raw log files instead of file system based log files. That tip should be reviewed before reading this one.

Should you stripe your log files?

There is normally no benefit in striping the log files. Most log writes are small, and so the response time is dominated by the rotational latency, rather than the transfer time. Striping reduces the transfer time but increases the average rotational latency, so it actually degrades the performance of log writes in most cases. The one exception is where log writes are large relative to the average track length. This only occurs in situations where the commit rate is very low and the maximum physical I/O size is large.

Should you use mirroring or multiplexing?

Your log files must be protected, because they are essential to instance recovery. If available, hardware mirroring should be used in preference to Oracle's log file multiplexing, to avoid the CPU cost of multiple writes. Otherwise, multiplexing should be used in preference to software mirroring, to avoid the cost of dirty region logging. However, log file multiplexing should only be used if asynchronous writes are available. Otherwise writes to each member of the log file group will have to be completed in series for every log write, resulting in a dramatic reduction in LGWR performance.

Using fast disks

The best way to optimize individual log file writes is to use a disk array with a large write cache. If your disk array is tunable, you may be able to disable read caching for the log files and dedicate the entire cache allocation for those disks to write caching. You may also be able to allocate a disproportionate amount of cache to those disks.

If you don't have the luxury of a disk array with a large cache to optimize log file writes, then the next best thing is to use fast disks. When we speak of fast disks, it is the rotational speed that is important rather than the average seek time, because log file writes are logically sequential (and should be physically sequential too).

Should log files be alternated between disks?

Log file disks should be dedicated to a single log file to ensure that no other process, not even ARCn, will access the log file disks while LGWR is writing to them. Let us repeat the point to make this advice explicit. We are not advising you to alternate multiple log files between two or three disks. We are advising you not to. Rather, you should ensure that the ARCn processes will always be able to archive each online log file more quickly than LGWR can write through the remaining log files (as discussed in the next tip).

If redo generation is light, then just two large log files on two separate disk pairs will be sufficient. However, we recommend three large log files on three separate mirrored pairs for most instances. This allows for moderately fast redo generation and the occasional use of the ALTER SYSTEM SWITCH LOGFILE command. For instances that must support sustained fast redo generation, or that archive the log files to multiple destinations, four or more log files, each on separate mirrored disk pairs, may be required. However, it is often better to increase the stripe breadth of the archive destination area to improve archival performance, than to use a larger number of online log file disks to increase the archival window.

Also, given that you are using a whole disk for each log file, that log file should of course be created at the beginning of the disk (on the outside cylinders) where the transfer rate is optimal. The rest of the disk should not be left vacant, lest somebody decide to use it. We recommend that you create a tablespace called DONT_TOUCH and fill it up with old copies of some application data so that it looks like an archival area, and then make it read-only and forget about it. Some people prefer to use the rest of the log file disks for a file system that is reserved for exports. However, it is much more difficult to keep itchy fingers away from a large unused file system than a large full tablespace, and better export space is normally available elsewhere, such as in the archive destination file systems.

Why should you use dedicated controllers?

A further optimization that is recommended for log files is to have a dedicated disk controller for each log file disk. The difference between the peak and sustained transfer rates that can be achieved through an I/O controller is largely due to arbitration between multiple devices sharing that controller. Having a dedicated controller removes the arbitration overhead from log file I/O resulting in response time improvements of up to 35%. Failing that, you should at least ensure that the log file disks have the highest priority addresses on the controller's bus. For the SCSI protocols, the controller itself has the highest priority address, which is 7, and the device with ID 6 has the next highest priority and so on. Also, if you do have to share a controller with other disks, you should ensure that they are of the same type. One slow disk, or worse still a tape drive, can dramatically increase the arbitration overhead.

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