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Loads and Unloads in SAP HANA Environments Interview Questions and Answers

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Loads and Unloads in SAP HANA Environments Interview Questions and Answers

What are loads and unloads in SAP HANA environments?

When a column is loaded, it is copied from persistence into SAP HANA column store memory.

Unloads are table column displacements from column store memory.

Tables in row store are typically loaded during startup and remain in memory permanently.

Which indications exist for SAP HANA load and unload issues?

While loads usually don't indicate issues, unloads are critical for the following reasons: They are often indicators of memory bottlenecks and they introduce overhead because unloaded column may have to be reloaded after some time.

The following SAP HANA alerts indicate problems in the unload area:





Columnstore unloads

Determines how many columns in columnstore tables have been unloaded from memory. This can indicate performance issues.

SQL: "HANA_Configuration_MiniChecks" (SAP docs 1969700, 1999993) returns a potentially critical issue (C = 'X') for one of the following individual checks:

Check ID



Number of low memory column unloads (last day)


Time since last low memory column unload (days)


Number of shrink column unloads (days)

When do loads happen?

Columns are loaded into memory in the following situations:



Explicit access

When a table column is accessed and it doesn't reside in memory, yet, it is loaded into memory.

  • Hybrid LOB columns are not loaded into memory when they exceed the configured memory threshold.
  • Paged attributes are only partially loaded into memory.

Time spent for loading table columns during SQL statement preparation can be identified via column TOTAL_TABLE_LOAD_TIME_DURING_PREPARATION in monitoring view M_SQL_PLAN_CACHE. Time spent for loading table columns during SQL statement execution is not inidividually displayed.

Explicit load

You can use the following options to load tables into memory explicitly:



LOAD "<table>" ALL
SAP HANA Studio -> <system> -> Catalog -> <schema> -> <table> -> "Load into memory..."

Load all table columns of one table into memory

LOAD "<table>" ("<column>")

LOAD "<table>" ("column1>", ..., "<columnN>")

Load the defined table columns into memory

LOAD "<table>" DELTA

Load the delta storage of the table into memory

LOAD "<table>" HISTORY ...

When the key word HISTORY is added after <table>, the load is related to the history part of a temporal table.

If you want to load all tables into memory, you can use the following Python script available as part of the SAP HANA installation:
This tool should only be used in exceptional situations, because loading all tables into memory can result in memory and CPU bottlenecks.

Reload after startup (explicitly configured tables)

The following commands can be used to define tables that should be loaded directly after startup:




Set the reload flag for all columns of the table

ALTER TABLE "<table>" PRELOAD ("<column>")
ALTER TABLE "<table>" PRELOAD ("<column1>", ..., "<columnN>")

Set the reload flag for the defined columns of the table


Unsets the reload flag for all columns of the table

You can check for tables and / or columns with an activated reload flag in the following ways:

  • SQL: "HANA_Tables_ColumnStore_PreloadActive" 

Loading columns flagged with PRELOAD has precedence over columns marked for pre-warming (see below).

Reload after startup (pre-warming based on columns previously loaded)
Automatic load of columns on secondary system of system replication environment
Automatic load of columns on standby node during auto host failover

The following SAP HANA parameters control column loads during SAP HANA startup and on the secondary system of a system replication scenario based on columns loaded into memory before the shutdown:





indexserver.ini -> [sql] -> reload_tables



If set to 'true', SAP HANA loads columns into memory during startup, which were located in memory before shutdown. This can be considered as pre-warming in order to make sure that column loads are not required when the table is accessed the first time explicitly.

indexserver.ini -> [parallel] -> tables_preloaded_in_parallel



Number of tables loaded in parallel after startup
A higher value typically results in quicker reloads, but a higher CPU consumption, so it is a trade-off between load time and resource consumption. If you want to adjust it, you should perform some tests to find an optimal value to fulfill your needs.
Starting with SAP HANA 2.00.010 this parameter is also considered for reload on secondary system replication sites. With earlier release levels it is performed sequentially.

global.ini -> [system_replication] -> preload_column_tables



Per default SAP HANA loads the columns into the memory of the secondary system of a system replication scenario during normal uptime. This has the advantage that a reload is not required at failover time. If you want to disable this feature (e.g. because only limited memory is available on the secondary side), you can set the preload_column_tables parameter to 'false'.
The effect of this parameter depends on the system where it is set:

  • Primary system: Information about loaded tables is collected and persisted in the system replication related snapshot.
  • Secondary system: The load information from primary is evaluated and the tables are loaded accordingly.

You can check for tables currently part of this reload information using the following hdbcons command :
tablepreload c -f

Index load / recreation after optimize compression

An implicit index load / creation can happen when all of the following conditions are met:

  • optimize compression is executed for the underlying table
  • Explicit or implicit single column index exists for a column
  • Compression type of this column is changed during optimize compression run

The related call stack modules typically include:
 These loads may cause lock situations (e.g. AttributeValueContainer readLock, AttributeValueContainer writeLock) and aren't recorded in monitoring view M_CS_LOADS.

How can reload information for startup, host auto failover and system replication be collected?

The following parameter is used to control the collection of reload information:





global.ini -> [persistence] -> tablepreload_write_interval

3600 (Rev. 69 and below)
86400 (Rev. 70 and above)


This parameter defines the frequency of collecting table load information for reloads during startup and on the secondary system replication side.
Collection of the data is disabled by setting the value to 0.

In exceptional cases you can manually execute the following hdbcons command in order to collect the current load state:

tablepreload w

When do unloads happen?

The following table lists the main reasons for unloads. You can determine the reason of an unload via column REASON of monitoring view M_CS_UNLOADS.




SAP HANA automatically performs column unloads as part of resource container shrinks when memory becomes scarce. Typical reasons are:

  • A memory request can't be fulfilled because it would exceed the defined SAP HANA allocation limit.
  • SAP HANA <= The resource container reaches the limit defined with parameter indexserver.ini -> [memoryobjects] -> unload_upper_bound
  • SAP HANA <= An explicit "resman shrink" is executed with hdbcons.

This is typically critical for performance and should be avoided whenever possible.
Starting with SAP HANA situation 2 and 3 are mapped to unload reason SHRINK, see below.


Tables can be unloaded explicitly using the following SQL command:
UNLOAD "<table_name>"
Alternatively you can use SAP HANA Studio for that purpose:
SAP HANA Studio -> <system> -> Catalog -> <schema> -> <table> -> "Unload from memory..."
Starting with SAP HANA 2.00 it is possible to unload dedicated partitions of a table:
UNLOAD "<table_name>" PARTITION <part_id1> [, ..., <part_idN>]


The following parameters can be used to trigger unloads whenever a column wasn't used for a specific time:





global.ini -> [memoryobjects] -> unused_retention_period

0 (disabled)


Number of seconds after which an unused object can be unloaded

global.ini -> [memoryobjects] -> unused_retention_period_check_interval



Check frequency for objects exceeding the retention time

On table level you can activate an unused retention period with the following command:
ALTER TABLE "<table_name>" WITH PARAMETERS ( 'UNUSED_RETENTION_PERIOD' = '<unused_retention_period_s>' )
Deactivation is possible via:
Configuring a retention for unloads typically provides no advantage and increases the risk of unnecessary unloads and loads. Therefore these parameters should only be set in exceptional situations.


If a column is loaded and unloaded purely for merge reasons, you will find the unload reason MERGE as of SAP HANA SPS 12. See SAP doc 2057046 for more information related to SAP HANA delta merges.


In order to be able to differentiate between OOM situations and resource container shrinks the new unload reason SHRINK was introduced with SAP HANA that covers the following situations:

  • The resource container reaches the limit defined with parameter indexserver.ini -> [memoryobjects] -> unload_upper_bound (SAP doc 2301382).
  • An explicit "resman shrink" is executed with hdbcons (SAP doc 2222218).

If a rather low limit is used, an unnecessary high amount of unloads may be performed. You can check with SQL: "HANA_Memory_ResourceContainerConfiguration" (SAP doc 1969700) if the configured settings can be adjusted.

In which sequence are columns unloaded?

Usually unloads happen based on a "least recently used" (LRU) approach, so the columns having not being used for the longest time are unloaded first.

If there are tables that should in general be replaced earlier or later, you can prioritize unloads using the UNLOAD PRIORITY setting:

ALTER TABLE "<table_name>" UNLOAD PRIORITY <priority>

The priority can vary between 0 and 9. Tables with a higher priority are unloaded earlier than tables with a lower priority. SAP HANA considers both the last access time and the unload priority for the proper sequence of unloads, so both factors are important.

The unload priority of a table can be checked via:


What are typical unload priorities for tables in SAP environments?

The following table unload priorities are typically used in SAP environments:

Unload priority

Table type



Temporary tables
System tables

All temporary tables (TABLES.IS_TEMPORARY = 'TRUE', created with NO LOGGING) must not be unloaded and therefore always have unload priority 0. If you want to define a higher unload priority, you receive the following error:
SQL error 257: sql syntax error: invalid unload priority for temporary table, only 0 is allowed 



Per default tables are delivered with a medium unload priority of 5.


BW tables (DSO, PSA)

Some BW DSO (/BIC/A*) and PSA (/BIC/B*) can typically be unloaded earlier than other tables and are therefore configured with unload priority 7. Be aware that it depends significantly on the type of DSO and PSA, so it is normal that there are also DSO and PSA tables with unload priority 5.

You can use SQL: "HANA_Tables_ColumnStore_UnloadPriorities" in order to evaluate existing unload priorities and check for tables with unload priorities different from the standard.

How can unloads be monitored?

You can monitor unloads in the following way:

  • Monitoring view M_CS_UNLOADS
  • SAP HANA Studio -> Administration -> Performance -> Load -> Column Unloads
  • SQL: "HANA_Tables_ColumnStore_UnloadsAndLoads" 
  • SQL: "HANA_LoadHistory_Services"

Where is unload information recorded?

Unload information is recorded in unload trace files on disk level. M_CS_UNLOADS is based on these trace files. Typically up to 10 * 10 MB trace files can be written per host and service. As a consequence unload information is still available, even if SAP HANA is restarted.

How granular can loads and unloads be performed?

The fines granularities of loads and unloads are:





per column

per table
SAP HANA >= 2.00: per table and partition


per column and partition
Paged attribute: per page

per column and partition
Paged attribute : per page

How can I check for errors during column loads?

The monitoring view M_CS_LOADS doesn't contain an error information. Whenever a column load is triggered, it is recorded in M_CS_LOADS, independent if it was successful or if it failed (e.g. due to a lack of memory or an inconsistency).

If you want to monitor failed column loads, you can check the trace files for entries starting with "load failed:", e.g.:

[224524]{340032}[291/-1] 2016-02-03 18:37:39.190596 e attributes AttributeValueContainer.cpp(03563) : load failed: exception 1: no.70000000


ste::Exception type AttributeStoreFile error 'ISAPSR3T000AAattribute_203.bin': AttributeEngine: error reading file message additionalInfo $ADDINFO$

exception throw location:

1: 0x00007f43076400c7 in ste::Exception::Exception(char const*, char const*, char const*, int, char const*)+0x53 at Exception.cpp:12 (
2: 0x00007f42fc5c8e94 in AttributeEngine::AttributeStoreReadFile::throwError(int, char const*, long, bool)+0x130 at AttributeStoreFile.h:142 (

You can use SQL: "HANA_TraceFiles_Content" (TRACE_TEXT = 'load failed:%') available via SAP doc 1969700 for that purpose.

Be aware that load failures with the following error codes can be a consequence of cancellations of sessions while performing a column load (e.g. when connections to the database are established at a time when the column store isn't completely loaded, yet):

6900: Attribute engine failed
6923: Attribute load failed

This is usually harmless, but you should better avoid it (e.g. by starting the SAP application servers after the column store has completely loaded).

What is a typical performance of the column store load after startup?

The actual performance of the column store load after startup depends on factors like the configured parallelism (indexserver.ini -> [parallel] -> tables_preloaded_in_parallel), the I/O performance (SAP doc 1999930) and the available system resources. In optimal scenarios, a load throughput of around 200 GB per minute is possible.

Example: (load of 8 TB column store within 40 minutes, 200 GB / minute)

[16899]{-1}[12/-1] 2016-12-04 01:35:35.302222 i TableReload      TRexApiSystem.cpp(00628) : Now reloading 45209 tables (loading up to 14 tables in parallel)
[16899]{-1}[12/-1] 2016-12-04 02:15:47.178840 i TableReload      TRexApiSystem.cpp(00659) : Finished table reloading
|2016/12/04 02:15|   9156|
|2016/12/04 02:14|   9126|
|2016/12/04 02:13|   9085|
|2016/12/04 02:12|   9014|
|2016/12/04 02:11|   8899|
|2016/12/04 02:10|   8700|
|2016/12/04 02:09|   8462|
|2016/12/04 01:41|   1586|
|2016/12/04 01:40|   1370|
|2016/12/04 01:39|   1101|
|2016/12/04 01:38|    854|
|2016/12/04 01:37|    680|
|2016/12/04 01:36|    648|
|2016/12/04 01:35|    657|
|2016/12/04 01:34|    625|
|2016/12/04 01:33|    186|

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