Friday, August 15, 2014

Join the Transaction TweetChat

Today's blog post is an invitation to join me -- and several of my esteemed colleagues -- on Twitter on August 20, 2014 for a TweetChat on transactions.

Now that sentence may have caused some of you to have a couple questions. First of all, what is a TweetChat? Well, a TweetChat is a pre-arranged conversation that happens on Twitter. It is arranged by an organizer (for this one, that would be IBM) and features several invited "experts" to discuss the topic at hand.

The featured guests for this TweetChat are:
  • Scott Hayes – @srhayes
  • Craig Mullins  @craigmullins
  • Kelly Schlamb  @KSchlamb
But everybody can participate. All that you need is a Twitter account and the hashtag, which for this event is #Transactions. You can search for the #Transactions hashtag, and all of the tweets using that hashtag will show up. You can participate in the TweetChat simply by including the hashtag #Transactions in your tweets.

So if you are interested in the conversation topic -- transactions -- be sure to join us and participate in the discussion... or at least just listen in to hear what folks think...

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Monday, August 04, 2014

A Short Report from SHARE in Pittsburgh

Today’s blog post will be a short review of SHARE posted directly from the conference floor in Pittsburgh!

What is SHARE
For those of you who are not aware of SHARE, it is an independent, volunteer run association providing enterprise technology professionals with continuous education and training, valuable professional networking and effective industry influence. SHARE has existed for almost 60 years. It was established in 1955 and is the oldest organization of computing professionals.
The group conducts two conferences every year. Earlier in 2014 the first event was held in Anaheim, and this week (the week of August 3rd) the second annual event is being held in my original hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. Now I’ve been attending SHARE, more regularly in the past than lately, since the 1990’s. But with the event being held in Pittsburgh I just had to participate!
The keynote (or general) session today started up at 8:00 AM. It was titled “Beyond Silicon: Cognition and Much, Much More”  and it was delivered by Dr. Bernard S.Meyerson, IBM Fellow and VP, Innovation.  Meyerson delighted the crowd with his entertaining and educational session.

Next up was “Enterprise Computing: The Present and the Future”, an entertaining session that focused on what IBM believes are the four biggest driving trends in IT/computing: cloud, analytics, mobile, and social media. And, indeed, these trends are pervasive and interact with one another to create the infrastructure of most modern development efforts. Bryan Foley Program Director, System z Strategy at IBM delivered the presentation and unloaded a number of interesting stats on the audience, including:
  • Mainframe is experiencing 31 percent growth
  • Mainframes process 30 billion business transactions daily
  • The mainframe is the ultimate virtualized system
  • System z is the most heavily instrumented platform in the world
  • The mainframe is an excellent platform for analytics because that’s where the data is

Clearly, if you are a mainframer, there is a lot to digest… and a lot to celebrate. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit shared by Foley is that “PC is the new legacy!” He backed this up with a stat claiming that mobile Internet users are projected to surpass PC Internet users in 2015. Interesting, no?

Now those of you that know me know that I am a DB2 guy, but I have not yet attended much DB2 stuff. I sat in on an intro to MQ and I’m currently prepping for my presentation this afternoon – “Ten Breakthroughs That Changed DB2 Forever.”

The presentation is based on a series of articles I wrote a couple years ago, but I am continually tweaking it to keep it up to date and relevant. So even if you’ve read the article, if you are at SHARE and a DB2 person, stop by Room 402 at 3:00PM… and if you’re not here, the articles will have to do!

That's all for now... gotta get back to reviewing my presentation... hope to see you at SHARE this week... or, if not, somewhere else out there in DB2-land!

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Friday, August 01, 2014

DB2 Health Checks - Part Two

In the first part of this series on DB2 health checks, DB2 Health Checks - Part One, I discussed the general concept of a health check and their basic importance in terms of maintaining a smooth-running DB2 environment.

Today, I want to briefly look at how DB2 health checks are usually done... if they are done at all.

The Scope of a DB2 Health Check

Some people mistakenly view a DB2 Health Check as being performance-focused only. Yes, performance is an important aspect of a health check -- and I admit that performance is generally the area that causes an organization to undergo the health check process. But the overall health of the DB2 environment needs to be addressed by the health check. In addition to performance-related issues (system, database and application), this can include:

  • availability
  • fault tolerance
  • recoverability
  • use of automation
  • process review
  • documentation
  • people skills (DBA, sysprog, development, etc.)
Considerations Before Undergoing a DB2 Health Check

DB2 health checks are important and crucial to the on-going stability of your systems, but there are issues:
  • Health checks can be costly (consulting engagements)
  • When a consulting company conducts a health check the analysis usually is done off-site, so your DBAs do not learn the techniques used by the consultants as they massage and analyze the data
  • Health checks generally are valid for a specific point-in-time and can become obsolete quickly

Conducting DB2 Health Checks

DB2 health checks typically are conducted by IBM personnel, a DB2 consultant, or a larger services firm. The engagement begins with experts/consultants interviewing the DBAs, submitting questionnaires as needed and collecting data from DB2. After collecting the data the consulting team goes off site and analyzes the reams of collected data. There may be intermittent communication between the consulting team and the on-site DBAs to clear up any lingering questions or to clarify things during the analysis phase. After some time (usually a week or more), a report on the health of your DB2 environment, perhaps with some recommendations to implement, is delivered.

What happens next is all up to you. After reading the report you can ignore it, implement some or all of the recommendations, conduct further in-house investigation for the feasibility of implementing the recommendations, or send it along to management for their perusal. But there is a deadline involved. After all, your systems are not static. So the health check report is only as good as the point-in-time for which it was delivered. Time, as it always does, will creep up on you. If you wait too long, the recommendations become stale and you might not be doing the proper thing for your environment by implementing changes based on old information.

Of course, when too much time has gone by after the health check, you could always engage with the services company and consultants again, requiring additional spending.

Is another way? 

Stay tuned, as we'll look at some other options in upcoming installments of this blog series on DB2 health checking...

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Happy DBA Day!

Hey everybody, time to celebrate... today, July 25, 2014 is SysAdmin day! For the past 15 years, the last Friday in June has been set aside to recognize the hard work done by System Administrators. This is known as System Administrator Appreciation Day

As a DBA, I have regularly co-opted the day to include DBAs because, after all, we are a special type of system administrator -- the system we administer is the DBMS!

So if you are a SysAdmin, DBA, Network Admin, etc. have an extra cup of Joe and a donut or two. Hang up a sign on your cubicle telling people it is SysAdmin Day. And hopefully get a little respect and appreciation for all you do every day of the year!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

DB2 Health Checks - Part 1

Left to their own devices, DB2 databases and applications will accumulate problems over time. Things that used to work, stop working. This can happen for various reasons including the addition of more data, a reduction in some aspect of business data, different types of data, more users, changes in busy periods, business shifts, software changes, hardware changes… you get the idea.

And there is always the possibility of remnants from the past causing issues with your DB2 environment. Some things may have been implemented sub-optimally from the start, perhaps many years ago… or perhaps more recently. Furthermore, DB2 is not a static piece of software; it changes over time with new versions, features and functionality. As new capabilities are introduced, older means of performing similar functionality become suboptimal, and in some cases, even obsolete. Identifying these artifacts can be troublesome and is not likely to be something that a DBA will do on a daily basis.

Nonetheless, the performance and availability of your DB2 environment – and therefore the business systems that rely on DB2 – can suffer if you do not pay attention to the health and welfare of your DB2 databases and applications.

Health Checking Your DB2
The general notion of a health check is well known in the IT world, especially within the realm of DB2 for z/OS. The purpose of a DB2 health check is to assess the stability, performance, and availability of your DB2 environment. Health checks are conducted by gathering together all of the pertinent details about your DB2-based systems and reviewing them to ascertain their appropriateness and effectiveness. You may narrow down a health check to focus on specific aspects of your infrastructure, for example, concentrating on just availability and performance, or on other aspects such as recoverability, security, and so on.

At any rate, scheduling regular independent reviews of your DB2 environment is an important aspect of assuring the viability and robustness of your implementation. Simply migrating DB2 applications to production and then neglecting to review them until or unless there are complaints from the end users is not a best practice for delivering good service to your business. Just like a car requires regular maintenance, so too does your DB2 environment. Regular analysis and health check with an overall goal should of identifying weaknesses and targeting inefficiencies, can save your organization time and money, as well as reduce the daily effort involved in implementing and maintaining your DB2 applications.

Think about the health of your DB2 system the same way you think about your health. A regular health check helps to identify and eliminate problems. And it helps you to perform the daily operational tasks on your DB2 databases and applications with the peace of mind that only regular, in-depth, knowledgeable analysis can deliver.

Check Back Soon
Later in this series we'll uncover more aspects of health checking and look at some software that might be able to assist. So stay tuned...

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