Monitoring Oracle with Statspack


At some point, you’re going to need to know what’s wrong with your Oracle instance. While there are a lot of monitoring tools around, there’s always some reason why third party monitoring tools can’t be installed. Oracle has shipped with something called Statspack that provides DBAs with some ability to monitor their Oracle instance.

Statspack: It's like an eye exam for Oracle
Statspack: It’s like an eye exam for Oracle

What Is Oracle Statspack?

Statspack is a set of tools for collecting performance data that Oracle began shipping with Oracle 8i. This isn’t a full monitoring framework, but it helps DBAs isolate poor performance within a time window. Once installed, Statspack can collect snapshots of Oracle performance. This will run on all editions of Oracle – there’s no requirement for Enterprise Edition or any Performance Pack.

Statspack does not set up any kind of regular schedule when it’s first configured. It’s up to you, the DBA, to figure out how often you need to be running Statspack. Since data has to be collected and then written somewhere, make sure you aren’t collecting data too frequently – you will be adding some load to the server.

Do I Need Special Access to Install Statspack?

Depending on how you look at it, either no special permissions are needed to install Statspack or else very high privileges are needed. Basically, you need to able to connect to Oracle with sysdba privileges. Any Oracle DBA responsible should be able to install Statspack. The only thing that might cause some issue is if OS level access is needed for scheduling data collection.

Since Statspack was originally designed for Oracle 8i, there are some changes that need to be made if you are deploying on Oracle 12c. Take a look at the comments on Statspack Examples for help getting Statspack installed on Oracle 12c.

What Kind of Data Does Statspack Collect?

Statspack can collect a lot of information about Oracle. Users can define just how much data they want to collect. The documentation goes to great length to remind DBAs that collecting too much data can slow down the database server.

Statspack collects data based on several configurable SQL thresholds. You can see the thresholds in the perfstat.stats$statspack_parameter table. When a query passes at least one of these thresholds, performance data will be collected.

Multiple levels of data can be collected. Oracle defines five levels of performance data collection – 0, 5, 6, 7, 10.

  • Level 0 Basic performance statistics about locks, waits, buffer pool information, and general background information.
  • Level 5 All of Level 0 plus SQL statement level details like number of executions, reads, number of parses (compiles in SQL Server speak), and memory usage.
  • Level 6 Everything from Level 5 plus execution plans.
  • Level 7 Disk metrics for particular segments that cross a threshold.
  • Level 10 COLLECT ALL THE THINGS! Plus collect information about latching. Typically you shouldn’t be doing this unless someone at Oracle has suggested it. Or youreally know what you’re doing.

This data gets stored in the Statspack tables whenever a snapshot is collected. Over time, these tables will grow so make sure that there’s enough space allocated for their tablespace or else purge out older data using the statspack.purge() function.

How Do I Use Statspack?

To collect data, either use the DBMS_JOB or Oracle Scheduler interface (depending on Oracle version) or use an operating system native task scheduler.

Once you have at least two snapshots you can report on the collected data by running $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/admin/spreport.sql and supplying a start and end snapshot. Statspack is going to churn for a while and spit back a bunch of information. Since Statspack reports can be many thousands of lines long, spreport.sql will write to a file.

As you look through the file, you’ll find information about I/O, locking, waits, slowest queries running (but not which users/sessions are slow), and potentially a lot more, depending on how much information you’re collecting.

For the uninitiated, Oracle ships with a bunch of scripts installed in the server’s file system. These scripts can be invoked from inside your favorite SQL tool.

You thought this would be simple?
You thought this would be simple?

Limitations of Oracle Statspack

This isn’t a silver bullet, or even a bronze bullet. But it is a bullet for shooting trouble.

Statspack isn’t an automatic process. More sophisticated tools use an agent process to automatically start collecting data once they’re installed. Statspack is not that sophisticated. It requires manual configuration – a DBA needs to set up a schedule for Statspack collection and Statspack purging.

While Statspack reports on an entire server, things get a bit weird when you start bringing Oracle RAC and Oracle 12c Multitenant into the mix. With RAC, Statspack is only reporting on a single node of the cluster – to get full cluster statistics, you should look at other tooling. Statspack can also potentially cause problems on RAC that can lead to cluster instability. With Multitenant functionality, Statspack will report on the server as a whole, but you’ll have to alter the installation scripts to take full advantage of Statspack.

Another limitation of Statspack is the granularity of the data. Performance data is collected at various DBA-specified levels and at a DBA-specified interval – the DBA needs to have good knowledge of how load may vary across a day and schedule Statspack collection appropriately. Statspack metrics can also be skewed – long running events will be reported as occurring in the Statspack interval where the SQL finally finishes. If you are collecting data every 5 minutes and an I/O intensive task runs for thirty minutes, it may look like there’s a significant I/O load in a single 5 minute period.

It may require a practiced eye to correctly interpret the Statspack reports and avoid falsely attributing heavy load to a small time window.

Finally, these metrics can’t be tied back to a single session. It’s possible to see which piece of SQL is causing problems. Frequently that can be enough, but it may still be difficult to determine if it’s a problem on the whole or a problem with a single user’s session. Other tools, such as ASH and AWR can be used to provide finer grained monitoring, depending on the licensing level of Oracle.

Summarizing Statspack

Oracle Statspack can provide good enough performance metrics for many common DBA tasks. By interpreting Statspack reports, a DBA can discover any number of things about the Oracle system they’re in charge of without having to use third party tooling or purchase additional features and options. This can be especially important for those with Oracle Standard Edition systems.

For more information, check out the ORA FAQ article about Statspack and Jonathan Lewis’s collection of Statspack examples.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • I think a healthy warning should go up here that Statspack isn’t really being maintained by Oracle any more, and becomes more obsolete with every new Oracle release. As Jeremiah has mentioned, Statspack isn’t really compatible with RAC instances (at least it won’t give you much beyond that single instance) and you have to “rig it” to work with 12c multi-tenant. It’s probably only still included in the Oracle install because Oracle feels like they have to at least give you some free tool to diagnose problems. But it’s really not very useful anymore, except maybe on simple single-instance, no-frills installs.

    It’s replacement, AWR, is maintained with every release and adds any new metrics that go along with new features that are added to the database software. While it’s true that you have to pay the license for the Diagnostics Pack in order to use AWR, an argument can be made that if you can’t afford the Diag Pack add-on, you probably shouldn’t be using Oracle.

    • Very true. Although in talking with clients, many people still seem to have 10.2 – 11.2 in production.

      And, on licensing, I hear that most people get Diagnostics Pack thrown in “for free” when they buy their EE licenses.

  • George Johnston
    September 18, 2014 3:13 pm


    If you haven’t heard of it I’d like to point you gents towards an amazing free oracle monitoring tool written by the genius that is tanel poder. It’s called snapper and its essentially like the top unix utility only it shows you the sql_id of the top sql running in your instance right then.



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