Overview of Logical Database Structures

This section discusses logical storage structures: data blocks, extents, segments, and tablespaces. These logical storage structures enable Oracle Database to have fine-grained control of disk space use.


This section includes the following topics:

  • Oracle Database Data Blocks
  • Extents
  • Segments
  • Tablespaces


Oracle Database Data Blocks

At the finest level of granularity, Oracle Database data is stored in data blocks. One data block corresponds to a specific number of bytes of physical database space on disk. The standard block size is specified by the DB_BLOCK_SIZE initialization parameter. In addition, you can specify up to four other block sizes. A database uses and allocates free database space in Oracle Database data blocks.



The next level of logical database space is an extent. An extent is a specific number of contiguous data blocks, obtained in a single allocation, used to store a specific type of information.



Above extents, the level of logical database storage is a segment. A segment is a set of extents allocated for a table, index, rollback segment, or for temporary use by a session, transaction, or SQL parser. In relation to physical database structures, all extents belonging to a segment exist in the same tablespace, but they may be in different data files.

When the extents of a segment are full, Oracle Database dynamically allocates another extent for that segment. Because extents are allocated as needed, the extents of a segment may or may not be contiguous on disk.



A database is divided into logical storage units called tablespaces, which group related data blocks, extents, and segments. For example, tablespaces commonly group together all application objects to simplify some administrative operations.

Each database is logically divided into two or more tablespaces. One or more datafiles are explicitly created for each tablespace to physically store the data of all logical structures in a tablespace. The combined size of the datafiles in a tablespace is the total storage capacity of the tablespace.

Every Oracle database contains a SYSTEM tablespace and a SYSAUX tablespace. Oracle Database creates them automatically when the database is created. The system default is to create a smallfile tablespace, which is the traditional type of Oracle tablespace. The SYSTEM and SYSAUX tablespaces are created as smallfile tablespaces.

Oracle Database also lets you create bigfile tablespaces, which are made up of single large file rather than numerous smaller ones. Bigfile tablespaces let Oracle Database utilize the ability of 64-bit systems to create and manage ultralarge files. As a result, Oracle Database can scale up to 8 exabytes in size. With Oracle-Managed Files, bigfile tablespaces make datafiles completely transparent for users. In other words, you can perform operations on tablespaces, rather than the underlying datafiles.