There was a question in Oracle-L about where is the LOB data actually stored (in the row or the LOB segments) and what are the exact conditions when a switch from one to another may happen. The documentation isn’t fully clear about this and the “4000 bytes” number may mislead people to think that you can store 4000 bytes of your data in a LOB item before it must move out-of-line.
I clarified this in my post in Oracle-L, but will post it here too. First check this diagram:
If you create the LOB column with DISABLE STORAGE IN ROW, then the LOB data is always stored out-of-line. LOB index is always used. Only the LOB ID is stored inline, and the ID is looked up in LOB index, where you’ll get the pointers to actual LOB chunk blocks.
If you create the LOB column with ENABLE STORAGE IN ROW, then the LOB data may be stored in-line or out-of-line.
If the total LOB data + overhead <= 4000 bytes, then the LOB item will be stored in-line. No LOB index is used, even if you modify the LOB later on as everything is stored in-line with the row and versioning/rollback is achieved with undo data.
If the total LOB data + overhead > 4000 bytes, then the LOB item will be stored out-of-line. If the LOB fits into 12 x LOB_chunk_size, then no LOB index entries are created, because the in-line LOB locator can store up to 12 pointers to the LOB chunk blocks for each lob item. So if your LOB chunk size is 8kB, you can store LOB items up to 96kB in size without inserting anything to LOB index. However if the LOB item is bigger, then no pointers are stored in-row and all pointers will be put to the LOB index.
Note that once you modify an existing LOB item (which is bigger than 4000 bytes with its overhead), but smaller than 12 x chunk_size, then LOB index will still be used after the first LOB change operation as pointers to the old LOB chunk versions have to be stored in it (LOB segments don’t rely on undo for rollback & consistency, but just use LOB chunk versioning managed by LOB index).
The “overhead” of an in-line LOB item is 36 bytes, so the actual LOB data must be 4000 – 36 = 3964 bytes or less in order to fully fit in-row. And note that we are talking about bytes here, not characters. With multibyte character sets a character in a CLOB may take multiple bytes.
I wrote a presentation about LOB internals quite some time ago, back when Oracle 10.1 came out I think – check it here:
P.S. The next Advanced Oracle Troubleshooting v2.0 class will start in 3 weeks! (I just added the online payment option back too for convenience:)