Monday, October 13, 2008


What Do a Few Bits Matter

I’ve mentioned several times that I strongly recommend running Oracle for Windows using 64-bit. I’ve had a number of questions about this, so I wanted to clarify the importance of 64-bit Oracle on Windows. If you look back, you will see that this is the subject of my first blog back in May of 2006.

Oracle on Microsoft Windows is unlike any other platform that Oracle supports. When Oracle was originally ported to windows, the decision was made to take advantage of Windows threads. A thread, sometimes known as a lightweight process shares the same context as the calling process, thus the context switch is replaced by a thread switch (which uses much less CPU resources). With Oracle for windows, all traditional processes (background and server) are implemented as threads. This provides for more efficient processing, but causes another problem.

Within the thread model, all threads within a process share the same virtual memory address space. With Windows 32-bit, this virtual address space is 3 GB in size (with /3GB flag, 2 GB otherwise). Thus all of the Oracle processes share the same 3 GB virtual memory limit. In a process environment such as Unix, each process has its own 3 GB virtual memory address space. This limitation can cause the virtual memory space to be completely used, thus causing failures. The symptom of this in 32-bit Oracle is a failure to allocate memory for new dedicated server processes.

This problem has been solved with the 64-bit version of Oracle for Windows. The 64-bit version of Oracle for Windows supports a 16 Terabyte virtual memory limit. In addition, memory above 4 GB can be accessed directly, indirect data buffers need not be used. This makes the use of memory above 4 GB much more efficient and faster.
When implementing Oracle with an SGA that is more than 4 GB in size I always recommend the use of large memory pages. Large memory pages are much more efficient for large SGAs and makes a huge performance difference, but that’s going to be the subject of my next blog. For information on how to use large memory pages in Oracle on Windows see Metalink note 422844.1.

The limitations in this article lead me to strongly recommend the use of 64-bit Oracle on 64-bit Windows. So, "Just say no, to Oracle on 32-bit Windows".

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