Adding a DEFAULT column in 12C

I was at a talk recently, and there was an update by Jason Arneil about adding columns to tables with DEFAULT values in Oracle 12C. The NOT NULL restriction has been lifted and now Oracle cleverly intercepts the null value and replaces it with the DEFAULT meta-data without storing it in the table. To repeat the 11G experiment I ran recently:

 

SQL> alter table ncha.tab1 add (filler_default char(1000) default 'EXPAND' not null);
Table altered.

SQL> select table_name,num_rows,blocks,avg_space,avg_row_len 
      from user_tables where table_name = 'TAB1';
TABLE_NAME NUM_ROWS       BLOCKS  AVG_SPACE AVG_ROW_LEN
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----------
TAB1            10000       1504          0        2017


In both releases we then issue:
SQL> alter table ncha.tab1 modify (filler_default null);
Table altered.


IN 11G
SQL> select table_name,num_rows,blocks,avg_space,avg_row_len
      from user_tables where table_name = 'TAB1';

TABLE_NAME NUM_ROWS       BLOCKS  AVG_SPACE AVG_ROW_LEN
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----------
TAB1            10000       3394          0        2017

BUT IN 12C
SQL> select table_name,num_rows,blocks,avg_space,avg_row_len
      from user_tables where table_name = 'TAB1';
TABLE_NAME NUM_ROWS       BLOCKS  AVG_SPACE AVG_ROW_LEN
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----------
TAB1            10000       1504          0        2017

So, as we can see, making the column NULLABLE in 12C didn’t cause it to go through and update every row in the way it must in 11G. It’s still a chained-row update accident waiting to happen, but its a more flexible accident 🙂

However, I think it’s worth pointing out that you only get “free data storage” when you add the column. When inserting a record, simply having a column with a DEFAULT value means that the DEFAULT gets physically stored with the record if it is not specified. The meta-data effect is ONLY for subsequently added columns with DEFAULT values.

SQL> create table ncha.tab1 (pk number, c2 timestamp, filler char(1000), filler2 char(1000) DEFAULT 'FILLER2' NOT NULL) pctfree 1;
Table created.

SQL> alter table ncha.tab1 add constraint tab1_pk primary key (pk);
Table altered.

Insert 10,000 rows into the table, but not into FILLER2 with the DEFAULT
SQL> insert into ncha.tab1 (pk, c2, filler) select rownum id, sysdate, 'A' from dual connect by level <= 10000;
commit;
Commit complete.

Gather some stats and have a look after loading the table. Check for chained rows at the same time.
SQL> exec dbms_stats.gather_table_stats('NCHA','TAB1',null,100);
PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL> select table_name,num_rows,blocks,avg_space,avg_row_len
     from user_tables where table_name = 'TAB1';

TABLE_NAME   NUM_ROWS	  BLOCKS  AVG_SPACE AVG_ROW_LEN
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----------
TAB1		10000	    3394	  0	   2017

For a bit of fun, I thought I would see just how weird the stats might look if I played around with adding defaults

SQL> drop table ncha.tab1;
Table dropped.

SQL> create table ncha.tab1 (pk number) pctfree 1;
Table created.

SQL> alter table ncha.tab1 add constraint tab1_pk primary key (pk);
Table altered.

Insert 10,000 rows into the table

SQL> insert into ncha.tab1 (pk) select rownum id from dual connect by level <= 10000;
commit;
Commit complete.

Gather some stats and have a look after loading the table. Check for chained rows at the same time.
SQL> exec dbms_stats.gather_table_stats('NCHA','TAB1',null,100);

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL> select table_name,num_rows,blocks,avg_space,avg_row_len
  2    from user_tables
  3   where table_name = 'TAB1';

TABLE_NAME   NUM_ROWS	  BLOCKS  AVG_SPACE AVG_ROW_LEN
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----------
TAB1		10000	      20	  0	      4

Now lets add a lot of defaults
SQL> alter table ncha.tab1 add (filler_1 char(2000) default 'F1' not null, filler_2 char(2000) default 'F2' null, filler_3 char(2000) default 'F3', filler_4 char(2000) default 'how big?' null );
Table altered.

Gather some stats and have a look after adding the column. Check for chained rows at the same time.
SQL> exec dbms_stats.gather_table_stats('NCHA','TAB1',null,100);

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL> select table_name,num_rows,blocks,avg_space,avg_row_len
  2    from user_tables
  3   where table_name = 'TAB1';

TABLE_NAME   NUM_ROWS	  BLOCKS  AVG_SPACE AVG_ROW_LEN
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----------
TAB1		10000	      20	  0	   8008

10,000 rows with an AVG_ROW_LEN of 8008, all in 20 blocks. Magic!

Just to finish off, lets update each DEFAULT column so the table expands….

SQL> select filler_1, filler_2, filler_3, filler_4,count(*) from ncha.tab1 group by filler_1,filler_2,filler_3,filler_4;

FILLER_1   FILLER_2   FILLER_3	 FILLER_4     COUNT(*)
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
F1	   F2	      F3	 how big?	 10000

So it's all there. The metadata is intercepting the nulls and converting them to the default on the fly, rather than storing them in the blocks.
So what happens if we actually UPDATE the table?

SQL> update ncha.tab1 set filler_1 = 'EXPAND', filler_2 = 'EXPAND', filler_3='EXPAND', filler_4='THIS BIG!';
10000 rows updated.

SQL> select filler_1, filler_2, filler_3, filler_4,count(*) from ncha.tab1 group by filler_1,filler_2,filler_3,filler_4;

FILLER_1   FILLER_2   FILLER_3	 FILLER_4     COUNT(*)
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
EXPAND	   EXPAND     EXPAND	 THIS BIG!	 10000

Gather some stats and have a look after the update, checking for chained rows at the same time.
SQL> exec dbms_stats.gather_table_stats('NCHA','TAB1',null,100);

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL> select table_name,num_rows,blocks,avg_space,avg_row_len
     from user_tables where table_name = 'TAB1';

TABLE_NAME   NUM_ROWS	  BLOCKS  AVG_SPACE AVG_ROW_LEN
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----------
TAB1		10000	   19277	  0	   8010

SQL> 
SQL> analyze table tab1 list chained rows into chained_rows;

Table analyzed.

SQL> select count(*) CHAINED_ROWS from chained_rows;

CHAINED_ROWS
------------
       10000

Yep. That’s bigger.

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