If All Else Fails… try Oracle Text

The last week or so I’ve spent doing some performance optimizations on our application in preparation for a data-intensive demo.

Everything was going well, caught some of the low hanging fruit (running things on the EDT, not batching requests, retrieving too much data, etc) but ran into a brick wall when trying to do a contains (%VALUE%) query on a table with 100k records joined to a table with 75million records.

ie) SELECT tableA.* from TableA tableA join TableB tableB on tableA.fk = tableB.pk WHERE tableB.sequence LIKE ‘%VALUE%’;

The explain plan (the DB in this instance was Oracle) didn’t look bad when doing the query on TableB, but when joining to TableA it absolutely blew up.

To cut to the chase here, I ended up creating a contextual index on the column using the Oracle Text package that was installed along with the DB. The explain plan complexity droped like a stone and things were good again.

In the end, a rather simple solution to a problem that was quite significant in our books. I don’t know enough about the Oracle Text package to say whether its a good thing or not. We’re doing context-based searches on long strings of characters, not the documents for which it appears to have been defined. Already I’ve found that a search for 3 characters takes magnitudes amount of time longer than a search for 4 characters (although this makes sense).

What I didn’t try was creating a straight index on the column but from people I talked to and what I read that wouldn’t have helped in the case of the %%. We had another case where an UPPER() function call was causing it to miss an index, but I believe in that case I should be able to create a index on the UPPER’d result or perhaps another column in the table and a trigger that always UPPER()’s the result in it.

Back to my regularly scheduled life as a developer, too much DB work for one day.

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