Goodbye Log Triggers Welcome Flashback Data Archive


I would like to talk about Flashback Data Archive (or Flashback Archive – FBA) in 12c. FBA was introduced in 11g. It is not new but it has very important new features that allow us to use FBA very efficiently and for free.  I would like to talk about new features more than what it does and and how it works but let’s give a quick look.

What is FBA?

Basically FBA is a module that let you store historical information about data in your table. When you enable FBA for a table then Oracle will start to watch this table and store every change on the table. this is a large definition and it is not wrong because all the DML changes will be started to log but also physical changes will be recorded too. you will be able to flashback your table before truncate or any other table alter. if you dropped a column, you can take it back or vice versa.

What is new in 12c?

First of all, and I believe the most important one, it is free anymore! in 11g FBA was using compressed tables by default which requires “Advanced Compression License” and that means additional costs. in 12c this is an optional feature. By default Oracle does not create those table as compressed so you don’t have to pay anything unless you don’t want to use compression option.

Secondly, FBA can store context information along the data changes anymore which I needed most and couldn’t use it in 11g just because of that. if you have a web application then probably  application will be using a common user and managing users itself. this causes you not to identify sessions because they are all same users but if you have a good developer team then you can ask them to set some context information like client_identifier. This data can be used to separate sessions and identify real users for example. With 12c FBA is able to store those information with changes and when we check historical data we can see all context information too.

Is FBA better than Log Triggers?

In my opinion, YES! of course there are many things to check but I will try to make a demonstration about performance of FBA.

This is my test case:

So we have two tables, TMP and TMP_FBA. I created a logging trigger on TMP and write every DML into TMP_LOG table with some context information like, client identifier, os_user, terminal etc. In this point you can see that my trigger is a for each row trigger and it will be writing every change one by one to log table. Some might use a compound trigger and store changed rows into a collection write it to log table at after statement section. This can optimize your logging while using Bulk DMLs but if your DMLs change too much rows then this can cause you consume too much PGA and memory problems. So I didn’t use it in my example. By the way to provide stability I created T_Base_Data table and I will use this to insert my original test tables.

My FBA is not compressed one (I didn’t use “optimize data” clause) as well as my Tmp_Log table too. I will do some DML and compare the performance. Also I want to compare size of the tables it will give useful information too. First I will insert some data with “insert select” statement then insert same data row by row using a for loop.

When we check timings, we see unbelievable  difference:

Trigger Bulk Insert: 22.13 seconds
FBA Bulk Insert       : 00.07 seconds

Trigger Row By Row Insert: 33.62 seconds
FBA Row By Row Insert       : 05.12 seconds

so for performance of our Insert statements, winner is definitely FBA. if we check log sizes, Our log table which is inserted by trigger, has reach to 112MB but FBA related objects are 35MB. One of the best things about FBA is it does not generate much INSERT log records because the original data is already in our table. This feature has already given us a lot of space. So we can say that about logging size FBA is winner again!

PS: While running my codes, I want you to know that only FBA table is Tmp_FBA so while checking size of FBA related object I used “object_name like ‘SYS_FBA%” condition. I will explain those objects at the end.

Let’s run some UPDATE:

Trigger Update : 53.38 seconds
FBA Update        : 02.25 seconds

Trigger Log Size : 96 MB (208 – 112)
FBA Log Size        : 91 MB (126 – 35)

Winner is still FBA.


Trigger Delete : 48.24 seconds
FBA Delete        : 01.92 seconds

Trigger Log Size : 104 MB (312-208)
FBA Log Size        : 48 MB (174-126)

and winner is again FBA!

Everything is awesome but how can we see our logs in FBA? where are those logs? of course we can check the tables that FBA created automatically but there is a better way to see logs, Flashback Query:

you don’t even need to find the log table, just a flashback query will be enough to see historical data.

In my example I inserted 2 times all dba_objects into t_base_data table and I used this table to insert 2 times again into Tmp_FBA, that is why you see 4 COL$ tables.

finally, if you want to see FBA tables:

SYS_FBA_DDL_COLMAP_nnnnn is used to store column changes.
SYS_FBA_TCRV_nnnnn is used to store transaction informations.
SYS_FBA_HIST_nnnnn is used to store data changes.

also there are 2 default indexes on those tables.

Why FBA is so much faster?

trigger logging cause 2 actions. first calling a trigger which is a plsql object and then running an another insert statement. That means too much job to complete and context switch between sql and plsql.

FBA is using UNDO segments so basically it does no extra job! whenever you run a DML statement, Oracle copies all data which you are about to change to undo segments. if you commit, undo segments become obsolete (unless there is no select actively running) but if you rollback then all data in undo segments copied back to original table blocks. that is why commit is too fast but rollback is slow. Anyway, FBA reads undo segments which means your DML already generated undo blocks and FBA just read and save them. That’s all.

How about the Security?

One more time, FBA is the winner! You can not modify FBA related tables and by saying modify we mean any DML or DDL. even if SYS user can not drop or delete FBA related tables:

any user with drop any table or delete any table can delete your trigger base logging table but not with FBA! that brings a huge security advantage. of course a user who has flashback archive administer privilege can remove FBA from your table but this will be an obvious action because previous data will be also lost!

In Conclusion

Based on results of my test case I decided to convert all my log structure to FBA but there are a few more tests that I must complete first like checking PMOs (partition management operation), compression on FBA (since I have advanced compression license) etc.

thanks for reading.

15 thoughts on “Goodbye Log Triggers Welcome Flashback Data Archive

  1. Hy

    I gave it a try and realized the the flasback query gets inaceptabel slow if sys_context Information grows.

    Therefore a gave up this attempt. Do you made other experiences ?

  2. Mustafa

    Hi Peter,

    thanks for your comment. I use FDA for a customer who has no problem until now. of course it is not fast as you are selecting the main table but performance difference is not worse than old trigger based logging (writing whole dml into another table and querying it).

    As a developer I did not use it in an application so I did not measure the performance but I will check it out. I don’t think your context size is the issue on this because, mostly, table data is much more bigger than the context data. so it just causes a little more extra storage on FDA tables.

  3. Dear Mustafa
    Sorry I had to describe the problem more clear. I am working mainly with 3tier applications where I get the user from client_identified and therefore I needed the feature
    exec dbms_flashback_archive.set_context_level(level => ‘ALL’);
    This is what makes the flashback query to find out who did the change incredible slow!

    are more disadvantages and problems described

  4. Mustafa

    Hi Peter,

    nice to hear from you again. I looked at what you point. The tables I added to FDA are mostly definition tables so I didn’t realize how much affected of performance. Also I have just learn something from you(link that you provide), I never realized about SYS_FBA_CONTEXT_AUD table and it is huge!

    I just wanted to test it with a big table but on my local database I got a strange error (ORA-01405: fetched column value is NULL) when I tried to get a context value. so I can’t do it now but my first impression is SYS_FBA_CONTEXT_AUD table has no indexes and probably it is queried by XID column so adding an index on that column can increase the performance. of course SYS objects shouldn’t be touched but even support has no documentation about this table. so I will try this and probably write another post.

    thanks for informing me about those subjects. also holding SYS_FBA_CONTEXT_AUD table at system tablespace is a huge mistake for Oracle. at least they should allow to move it to another tablespace.

  5. Madhan Subbiah

    Thanks for above explanation.

    In above example and in case of update, I am seeing only ‘U’ records but I have a requirement where for one update I need to capture before update rows and after update rows in this flashback tables. Is that possible?

    If yes kindly share example to achieve that.

    • Mustafa

      Hi Madhan,

      thanks for asking. here is a simple example:

      create table tmp (id number, mydata varchar2(80));
      alter table tmp flashback archive fda_test;
      insert into tmp values (1, 'test1');
      exec dbms_lock.sleep(5);
      update tmp set mydata = 'test1-update1' where id = 1;
      exec dbms_lock.sleep(5);
      update tmp set mydata = 'test1-update2' where id = 1;
      exec dbms_lock.sleep(5);
      select Versions_Starttime, versions_endtime, Versions_Operation, tmp.* from tmp versions between scn minvalue and maxvalue
      order by Versions_Starttime;

      output of this code is:
      ———————————– ———————————– – ———- ——————–
      25-OCT-20 PM 25-OCT-20 PM I 1 test1
      25-OCT-20 PM 25-OCT-20 PM U 1 test1-update1
      25-OCT-20 PM U 1 test1-update2

      so, FDA does not store “before&after” information. it would be unnecessary information to store. “before update” row is the previous version (previous update or insert which means previous row) in this result.
      “before update” of first update (test1-update1) is insert row and “before update” of second update (test1-update2) is first update. I ordered results using versions_starttime so you can follow the hierarchy.

      • Madhan

        Thanks for your quick reply. My Current application does further processing based on before update and after update using CDC. i.e. when single update occurs in tmp(table) it makes two entries in cdc_tmp(cdctable) with
        operation as “UU”(before update) and operation as “UN”(after update) by copying all column values from tmp table. Believe in this Flash back archive option, we wont get this type of dataset(list how cdc providing today).
        Do we have any other options to achieve this ?(don’t want to go to trigger as it impact performance)

        • Mustafa

          Hi Madhan,

          it is not a good idea to store “before&after” data both because it will double your log size, you will store some data twice. if you want to see data as before and after you can join your flashback query twice:

          select as before_id, t_before.mydata as before_mydata,
 as after_id, t_after.mydata as after_mydata,
          t_after.Versions_Starttime, t_after.versions_endtime, t_after.Versions_Operation
          from tmp versions between scn minvalue and maxvalue t_before
          join tmp versions between scn minvalue and maxvalue t_after on = and t_before.versions_endtime = t_after.versions_starttime
          order by t_after.Versions_Starttime;

          I hope this helps.

          • Madhan

            We dont keep it for long. cdc_tmp(CDC) table is like a normal table. once application consumes/processed the data from cdc_tmp(CDC), it purge the transaction from cdc_tmp.
            Thanks for your query. Seems to be it is not displaying ‘I’ operation records.
            Golden gate one of the option but seeing if we have any other alternative.

        • Mustafa

          it is just a matter of sql now. use full join:

          select as before_id, t_before.mydata as before_mydata,
 as after_id, t_after.mydata as after_mydata,
          t_after.Versions_Starttime, t_after.versions_endtime, t_after.Versions_Operation
          from tmp versions between scn minvalue and maxvalue t_before
          full join tmp versions between scn minvalue and maxvalue t_after on = and t_before.versions_endtime = t_after.versions_starttime
          order by t_after.Versions_Starttime;

          you can get any data in any format. it is up to you.

          • Madhan

            Appreciate your help.

            1) If below is the seq of transaction in tmp
            Seq1: insert
            Seq2: update 1
            Seq3: update 2
            Seq4: delete

            Then need output in below format From

            Row1: insert
            Row2:before update
            Row3: after update
            Row4: before update
            Row5: after update
            Row6: delete

            2) possible to include rowid and rsid$ In the output From archive table?

            Please advise

          • Mustafa

            Hi Madhan,

            this kind of questions should be asked on since this is just a blog 🙂 but I would like to help you of course and as I said earlier, you have the data with flashback archive and the rest is just an sql command here is an example for what you asked for:

            with mydata (id, mydata,type,Versions_Starttime,Versions_endtime, Versions_Operation, time_order) as (
            select , t1.mydata, Decode(Versions_Operation, 'D', 'DELETE', 'I', 'INSERT', 'AFTER UPDATE') type,t1.Versions_Starttime, t1.versions_endtime, t1.Versions_Operation, t1.Versions_Starttime time_order
            from tmp versions between scn minvalue and maxvalue t1
            union all
            select, t2.mydata, Decode(mydata.Versions_Operation, 'D', 'BEFORE DELETE', 'BEFORE UPDATE'), t2.Versions_Starttime, t2.versions_endtime, t2.Versions_Operation, mydata.Versions_Starttime time_order
            from tmp versions between scn minvalue and maxvalue t2, mydata
            where =
            and t2.versions_endtime = mydata.versions_starttime
            and mydata.type in ('AFTER UPDATE', 'DELETE', 'INSERT')
            and t2.Versions_Operation <> 'D'
            select * from mydata
            order by time_order, versions_starttime;

            have a nice day.

            edit: I edited my reply for better “before&after” representation.

          • Madhan Subbiah

            Thanks a lot. I am back.
            can we give a table_name for this archive table and then same can be deleted like a normal table?
            Your flashback really helping me to replace CDC. In current design, i pick transactions from CDC table and then purge it once i processed those and hence looking if we have an similar option in this flash back design.

            Don’t want to create separate program to do this. Please let me know if any option available in this.

            Please assist on this.

  6. oj

    VERSIONS_STARTTIME / VERSIONS_ENDTIME are both TIMESTAMP(9) columns – how come we don’t see fractions of a second ?

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