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ORA-04030: Out of Process Memory

Many problems in database management can be broken down into a couple of primary categories. If you have read through additional sources of information explaining how to solve other errors, you may have come across this dichotomy. Essentially, the bulk of problems that arise in databases can be split between user errors that derive from syntax mistakes, copy and paste errors or misunderstanding query protocol, and hardware errors that involve insufficient memory space or network connection errors.
The benefit of making this distinction is that the user can change their focus from looking through lines of code to searching through hardware parameters (or vice versa) and using a different frame to navigate their correction process. In the case of the ORA-04030 error, this is very much an issue of memory, hardware, and parameter concepts. These factors need to be investigated in order to ensure that a proper edit will rid your servers of this error.

The Problem
The ORA-04030 is an error caused by a shortage of RAM on a dedicated (non-shared server) environment. Basically, the error is an “out of process memory” error, where Oracle is unable to acquire the RAM needed to complete the operations. It can also be caused by too small of a Program Global Area (PGA) and by not setting parameters large enough to allow enough RAM for processing. It is a common error when running an import as well. The error can occur when attempting to execute an external job or when running a data pump import.

The ORA-04030 is common on older 32-bit servers that are unable to allocate more than two gigabytes of RAM. Depending on your edition and the release of Oracle, there are a few different options that will resolve the error. Let us turn our attention towards these and look at how to implement them.

The Solution
The first move to make when assessing the ORA-04030 error is to query a couple of subjects. First, start by targeting the v$pgastat. This provides PGA memory usage stats as well as stats about the automatic PGA memory manager when it is enabled. The cumulative values in the v$pgastat are accumulated at the startup. Next, take a look at the v$pga_target_advice. This query will predict how the cache hit percentage and over allocation count stats displayed by the v$pgastat would be affected by a change in parameters. The user can utilize the background information from these initial assessments to determine how to proceed.
Once the issue is examined within the context of the system, the user can decide between one of three options and proceed with a solution. The first option is increasing the pga_aggregate_target. The aforementioned v$pga_target_advice query will allow the user to determine how this increase will affect the RAM and whether or not it will be best for the performance of the system. The second option is to move to a multi-threaded server (also known as a shared server). This effort will provide more RAM for the PGA. The final option is to upgrade the server. As stated, the ORA-04030 is common for older 32-bit servers. By upgrading to a 64-bit server, more RAM can be allocated for Oracle database tasks.

Looking forward
Moving ahead, some basic moves and concepts can help users prevent these types of errors. When possible, monitoring memory, both in raw terms and in allocation, will obviously provide the greatest buffer against these problems. In addition, when possible, it can be a wise idea to upgrade outdated equipment. In the case of RAM questions, having up-to-date hardware can really save an overwhelming amount of time in regards to both hedging against errors and performance. If you have any additional questions about the error or how to proceed with implementing some of these changes to your database network, it is highly recommended to contact a licensed Oracle database consultant for more information.