Optimizing Undo Retention in Oracle Databases: A Practical Guide

Optimizing Undo Retention in Oracle Databases

We will explain how to optimize the undo_retention parameter in Oracle databases using the SQL command ALTER SYSTEM SET undo_retention = 500 SCOPE = MEMORY;. Understanding this parameter is crucial for effective transaction management, rollback capabilities, and maintaining read consistency. Learn how to fine-tune it based on your workload, ensuring sufficient undo information is retained without negatively impacting performance.

Note: undo_retntion is in seconds.

Sample SQL Command

1alter system set undo_retention=500 scope=memory;


This Oracle Database command is pivotal for controlling the undo_retention parameter. This parameter defines the minimum time (in seconds) that undo information is guaranteed to be kept in the undo tablespace. Undo information is crucial for:

  • Transaction Rollbacks: Undoing changes if a transaction fails or is deliberately rolled back.
  • Read Consistency: Ensuring users see a consistent snapshot of data, even as other transactions are updating it.
  • Flashback Queries: Retrieving past states of data using flashback features.

Breakdown of the Command:

  • ALTER SYSTEM: This keyword signals that we're changing a system-level setting.
  • SET undo_retention = 500: We're setting the undo_retention value to 500 seconds (8 minutes and 20 seconds). This is the minimum guaranteed retention time.
  • SCOPE = MEMORY: Specifies that the change takes effect immediately in memory, without requiring a database restart.

Key Points and Insights:

  1. Minimum Retention, Not Maximum: While 500 seconds is the minimum retention, Oracle might keep undo information for longer if there's enough space in the undo tablespace.
  2. Performance Impact: Setting the value too high can lead to excessive space consumption in the undo tablespace, potentially affecting performance.
  3. Tuning Considerations: The ideal undo_retention value depends on your workload. Consider:
    • Longest Expected Transaction Times: Undo retention should be longer than your longest-running transactions to ensure successful rollbacks.
    • Flashback Requirements: If you heavily utilize flashback features, set a higher retention to access older data versions.
    • Undo Tablespace Size: Regularly monitor undo tablespace usage to prevent it from filling up.

Explanations and Recommendations:

  • Tuning for Long Transactions: If you have long-running transactions, set undo_retention to exceed their expected duration by a safe margin.
  • Monitoring Undo Tablespace: Use Oracle Enterprise Manager or SQL queries (e.g., SELECT * FROM v$undostat) to track undo tablespace utilization.
  • Avoid Frequent Changes: Changing undo_retention too often can cause unnecessary overhead. Tune it based on your typical workload patterns.

Important Reference Links:

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