UTL_FILE Operation fails with ORA-29283

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A process that called ”UTL_FILE” was failing in the test system, but worked fine with exactly the same set up in production. Why? The error was ORA-29283: invalid file operation. How do we find out exactly why it was failing?

MY_DIRECTORY is a directory, owned by SYS with READ and WRITE privileges granted to a schema that uses it to create, write and read files in that location.

The oracle account on the server can create and read files in the directory location, touch and cat prove this.

Running a PL/SQL package, however, fails. The failing code was reduced to the following test sample:

declare
 v_fd utl_file.file_type;
begin
 v_fd:=utl_file.fopen('MY_DIRECTORY','norman.txt','w');
 utl_file.fclose(v_fd);
end;
/

Which blows up with the less than helpful message:

ERROR at line 1:
ORA-29283: invalid file operation
ORA-06512: at "SYS.UTL_FILE", line 536
ORA-29283: invalid file operation
ORA-06512: at line 4

Here’s a nice trick, stolen blatantly from Michael Schwalm at http://blog.dbi-services.com/troubleshooting-ora-29283-when-oracle-is-member-of-a-group-with-readwrite-privileges/ which shows how to actually see what the real underlying problem is for this exception.

SQL> -- Change define, we need to use an ampersand.
SQL> set define #

SQL> -- Get my current process ID into a variable.
SQL> column spid new_value unix_pid
SQL> select spid from v$process p 
  2  join v$session s on p.addr=s.paddr 
  3  and s.sid=sys_context('userenv','sid');

SPID
------------------------
121080

SQL> -- Trace open calls from my session. 
SQL> -- Without the &, the host call never returns!
SQL> -- We know that it is the utl_file.fopen call that is 
SQL> -- failing, so only trace open calls.
SQL> host strace -e trace=open -p #unix_pid & echo $! > tmp.pid
Process 121080 attached - interrupt to quit

SQL> -- Paste in the offending code...
SQL> declare
  2    v_fd utl_file.file_type;
  3  begin
  4    v_fd:=utl_file.fopen('MY_DIRECTORY','norman.txt','w');
  5    utl_file.fclose(v_fd);
  6 end;
  7 /

That throws up the following helpful message, followed closely by the expected Oracle exception message again (not shown):

open(" /logfiles/MYDB/norman.txt", O_WRONLY|O_CREAT|O_TRUNC, 0666) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)

At this point, I need to press CTRL-C to detach the strace session.

SQL> ^C
Process 121080 detached

Looking at the above message, I can see (almost) straight away that the file path has a leading space. This implies that whoever set up the original directory, created it with a minor typo that is hard to detect when looking at DBA_DIRECTORIES.

The fix was simple:

SQL> create or replace directory MY_DIRECTORY as '/logfiles/MYDB';
SQL> grant  read, write on directory MY_DIRECTORY to [whoever needs it];

And now, past in the offending code again, and it “just works”:

SQL> declare
  2    v_fd utl_file.file_type;
  3  begin
  4    v_fd:=utl_file.fopen('MY_DIRECTORY','norman.txt','w');
  5    utl_file.fclose(v_fd);
  6 end;
  7 /

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

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