Thursday, October 23, 2014

DB2 SQL and Application Performance Tools

So far in this series of blog posts on DB2 performance tools, we have looked at system and database performance solutions. But perhaps the most important solution area involves monitoring and tuning application SQL statements.

Why do I say that? Well, the cause of most performance problems is usually due to bad SQL and application code. Not every problem, of course, but maybe as much as 70 to 80 percent of DB2 (and relational) performance issues is likely due to inefficient application code.

Writing SQL statements to access database tables is the responsibility of an application development team. However, the DBA usually gets involved when it comes to the performance of SQL. With SQL’s flexibility, the same request can be made in different ways. Because many of these methods are inefficient, application performance can fluctuate wildly unless the SQL is analyzed and tuned by an expert prior to implementation.

The EXPLAIN command provide information about the access paths used by SQL queries by parsing SQL in application programs and placing encoded output into a PLAN_TABLE or by producing a standard access path report. To gauge efficiency, a DBA must decode this data and determine if a more efficient access path is available.

SQL code reviews are required to ensure that optimal SQL design techniques are used. An application design walkthrough should be performed for each program before it moves to production. This is done to review all SQL statements, the selected access paths, and the program code in which the SQL is embedded. The review also includes an evaluation of database statistical information to ascertain whether production-level statistics were used at the time of the EXPLAIN.

A line-by-line review of application source code and EXPLAIN output is tedious and prone to error, and can cause application backlogs. SQL analysis tools greatly simplify this process by automating major portions of the code review process. The SQL analysis tool typically
  • Analyzes the SQL in an application program, describing the access paths chosen in a graphic format, an English description, or both.
  • Issues warnings when specific SQL constructs are encountered. For example, each time a sort is requested (by ORDER BY, GROUP BY, or DISTINCT), a message informs the user of the requisite sort.
  • Suggests alternative SQL solutions based on an “expert system” that reads SQL statements and their corresponding PLAN_TABLE entries and poses alternative SQL options.
  • Extends the rules used by the “expert system” to capture site-specific rules.
  • Analyzes at the subsystem, instance, server, application, plan, package, or SQL statement level.
  • Stores multiple versions of EXPLAIN output, creates performance comparisons, and plans history reports.

Tools that analyze the performance of the application code in which the SQL is embedded are available too. These tools usually capture in-depth information about programs as they are run and provide reports that specify which areas of the code consume the most resources. Unfortunately, most of these tools do not necessarily interface to SQL analysis tools. Why  might this be a problem?

Well, consider an application program that contains a singleton SELECT inside a loop. The singleton SELECT requests a single row based on a WHERE clause, checking for the primary key of that table. For each iteration of the loop, the program changes the primary key value being searched such that the entire table is read from the lowest key value to the highest key value.

SQL analysis tools will probably not target the SQL statement as inefficient because the predicate value is for the primary key, which should invoke indexed access. The application program analysis tool may flag the section of the code that accesses the data as inefficient, but it will not help you to fix it or tell you why it is inefficient.

A knowledgeable performance analyst or DBA would have to use both tools and interpret the output of each to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. For example, it could be more efficient to code a cursor, without a predicate, to retrieve every row of the table, and then fetch each row one by one. This method would eliminate index I/O, might use parallel access, and therefore should reduce I/O and elapsed time—thereby enhancing performance.

Only a trained analyst can catch this type of design problem during a code walkthrough. Although a plan analysis tool significantly reduces the effort involved in the code review process, it cannot eliminate it. 

So what should you look for in an SQL analysis tool? The first feature required of SQL analysis tools is the ability to read and interpret standard EXPLAIN or SHOW PLAN output. The tool should be able to read the plan table or interface directly with the DBMS command to obtain the output. It then must be able to automatically scan the EXPLAIN or SHOW PLAN data and report on the selected access paths and the predicted performance. Advanced tools will provide recommendations for improving the SQL by adding indexes or modifying the SQL.

Yet another category of tool can evaluate access paths as you REBIND programs and categorize them into changed and unchanged access paths. This helps to identify where SQL tuning may be required. Advanced forms of these tools also apply rules tot he changed SQL to indicate if the access path is better or worse than the prior access path. Such tools can be incredibly helpful for performing mass rebinds of your production programs.

SQL Monitors

An SQL monitoring solution can identify running SQL statements, filter the information, and display it in an appropriate order and configuration. For example, you can use an SQL monitor to identify the Top Ten CPU users over the past hour (or the past day, week, etc.) 

Usually, there is the on-line capability, that displays what is happening right now, and the historical capability, which can display details and trends over time.

An SQL monitor is particularly helpful when working to remediate production performance issues where hundreds or thousands (or more) of SQL statements can be running at any one time.

End-to-End Performance Tools

Modern applications require multiple system components and run across multiple networked devices to deliver functionality. When performance problems arise, it can be difficult to determine what, exactly, is causing the problem. Is it on the client or the server? Is it a networking problem? Is it a database issue or a code problem?

End-to-end performance monitoring tools exist that track an application request from initiation to completion. These solutions provide enhanced visibility specifically into application performance—giving organizations the power to understand both when and why performance has degraded, and the information needed to improve matters in a business-prioritized fashion.

By following the workload as it progresses across multiple pieces of hardware and software, problem determination becomes possible.

Workload Testing and Estimation

Another category of SQL performance tool allows you to identify a workload consisting of programs and transactions that are to be run during a specific timeframe. The tools help to identify performance issues that crop up only when the application is running at a production volume. 

Data Studio

Finally, no overview of application performance tools for DB2 would be complete without a brief mention of IBM's Data Studio. Data Studio is a free-of-charge tool for basic DB2 administration and development tasks. Data Studio offers an easy to use GUI interface for the following:
  • Designing data access queries and routines
  • Building, running, and tuning SQL
  • Building, testing, and deploying stored procedures (using SQL or Java)
  • Creating Web services in for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) solutions
  • Developing DB2 SQLJ applications
  • Managing database objects and authorizations

You can download Data Studio at IBM’s website. It is available as a stand-alone package geared mostly for DBAs, or as an IDE geared for both DBA and development work.

Of course, IBM sells other DB2 tools for a fee, some of whichcan integrate and work well with Data Studio. And there are other tools that compete with Data Studio that offer a lot more functionality than the basics provided by the free capabilities of Data Studio (such as Dell's Toad).


These past few posts have taken a broad overview look at the categories and types of performance tools available for managing the performance of your DB2 for z/OS environment. Many of the same categories of tools are available for DB2 for LUW (as well as other DBMS offerings).

Have I missed any important categories? If so, drop me a line or add a comment here to the blog. I'm always interested in getting feedback.

Thanks... and happy performance tuning!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Performance Tools That Operate on Databases and Database Objects

In our last blog post here, we covered DB2 system performance management tools - that is, tools that look at the performance at a  system or subsystem level. Today, we turn our attention to the database objects...

Most DBMSs do not provide an intelligent database analysis capability. Instead, the DBA or performance analyst must use system catalog views and queries, or a system catalog tool, to keep watch over each database and its objects. This is not an optimal solution because it relies on human intervention for efficient database organization, opening up the possibility for human error.

DB2 for z/OS, however, does provide Real Time Statistics that can be used to drive database optimization and maintenance. What are Real Time Statistics (or RTS)?
Well, RTS are similar to traditional database statistics that are accumulated using a utility programs (RUNSTATS), but the RTS are accumulated by DB2 “on the fly” as the database management system and its applications are running. That is to say, without having to run a utility program.

RTS are stored in two tables in the DB2 Catalog:
  • SYSIBM.SYSTABLESPACESTATS: Contains statistics on table spaces and table space partitions
  • SYSIBM.SYSINDEXSPACESTATS: Contains statistics on index spaces and index space partitions
But since this post is supposed to be talking about database-performance tools, I don’t want to get into a full blown discussion of RTS… after all, RTS are a built-in component of DB2. That said, the ability of DB2 to generate and store RTS enables database performance tools to make decisions based on actual, up-to-date performance metrics. Of course, DB2 is not the only DBMS with such metrics, but since this is a blog about DB2, I won’t get into any details of the other database systems.

Database Analysis Tools

At any rate, database analysis tools are available that can proactively and automatically monitor your database environment. These database analysis tools typically can: 
  • Collect statistics for tables and indexes: standard statistical information from the DBMS, extended statistics capturing more information (for example, data set extents), or a combination of both.
  • Read the underlying data sets for the database objects to capture current statistics, read the database statistics from the system catalog, read tables unique to the tool that captured the enhanced statistics, or any combination thereof.
  • Set thresholds based on database statistics whereby the automatic scheduling of database reorganization and other maintenance tasks can be invoked.
  • Provide a series of canned reports detailing the potential problems for specific database objects.
Database Utilities

Another category of performance tool that operates at the database (or database object) level are database utilities. Usually there are some number of rudimentary utilities that ship for free with the DBMS. These are usually simple, no-frills programs that are notorious for poor performance, especially on very large tables. However, these utilities are required to populate, administer, and organize your databases. The typical utilities that are provided are LOAD, UNLOAD, REORG, RUNSTATS, BACKUP, and RECOVER, as well as utilities for integrity checking.

Although I suppose it is possible to make an argument, at some level, for any and all of these utilities to have a performance aspect to them, REORG and RUNSTATS are the ones that definitely impact database performance.

RUNSTATS is used to gather statistics on the composition of the database and REORG is used to organize table space data optimally.

There are third-party vendors that provide support tools that replace the database utilities and provide the same or more functionality in a more efficient manner. For example, it is not unheard of for third-party vendors to claim that its utilities execute anywhere from four to ten times faster than the native DBMS utilities. These claims must be substantiated for the data and applications at your organization (but such claims are believable). Before committing to any third-party utility, the DBA should be sure that the product provides all of the basic functionality required.

When testing utility tools from different vendors, be sure to conduct fair tests. For example, always reload or recover prior to testing REORG utilities, or you may skew your results due to different levels of table organization. Additionally, always run the tests for each tool on the same object with the same amount of data, and make sure that the data cache is flushed between each test run. Finally, make sure that the workload on the system is the same (or as close as possible) when testing each product because concurrent workload can skew benchmark test results.

Yet another category of database-focused tool is the Utility management tool. This type of tool provides administrative support for the creation and execution of database utility jobstreams. These utility generation and management tools:
  • Automatically generate utility parameters, JCL, or command scripts.
  • Monitor the database utilities as they execute.
  • Automatically schedule utilities when exceptions are triggered.
  • Restart utilities with a minimum of intervention. For example, if a utility cannot be restarted, the utility manager should automatically terminate the utility before resubmitting it.
Space Management Tools

Most DBMSs provide basic statistics for space utilization, but the in-depth statistics required for both space management and performance tuning are usually inadequate for heavy duty administration. For example, most DBMSs lack the ability to monitor the requirements of the underlying files used by the DBMS. When these files go into extents or become defragmented, performance can suffer. Without a space management tool, the only way to monitor this information is with arcane and difficult-to-use operating system commands. This can be a tedious exercise.

Additionally, each DBMS allocates space differently. The manner in which the DBMS allocates this space can result in inefficient disk usage. Sometimes space is allocated, but the database will not use it. A space management tool is the only answer for ferreting out the amount of used space versus the amount of allocated space.

Space management tools often interface with other database and systems management tools such as operating system space management tools, database analysis tools, system catalog query and management tools, and database utility generators.

Compression Tools

A standard tool for reducing storage costs is the compression utility. This type of tool operates by applying an algorithm to the data in a table such that the data is encoded in a more compact area. By reducing the amount of area needed to store data, overall storage costs are decreased. Compression tools must compress the data when it is added to the table and subsequently modified, then expand the data when it is later retrieved.

In the earlier days of DB2, compression tools that used an exit routine were common. But ever since DB2 Version 3, which introduced the built-in, hardware-assisted compression capability of DB2, compression duties are handled quite efficiently with out-of-the-box DB2 functionality.

Additionally, some tools are available that compress database logs, enabling more log information to be retained on disk before it is offloaded to another medium.


So, there are a number of different categories of performance tools that function at the database or database object level that are worth considering. These differ from system performance tools (covered in the last blog post) and application performance tools (which will be covered in the next blog post).

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Database System Performance Tools

System performance tools examine the database server, its configuration, and usage. The most commonly used system performance tool is the performance monitor. Database performance monitoring and analysis tools support many types of performance-oriented requests in many ways. For example, system performance tools can operate:
  • In the background mode as a batch job that reports on performance statistics written by the DBMS trace facility
  • In the foreground mode as an online monitor that either traps trace information or captures information from the DBMS control blocks as applications execute
  • By sampling the database kernel and user address spaces as the program runs and by capturing information about the performance of the job, independent of database traces
  • By capturing database trace information and maintaining it in a history file (or table) for producing historical performance reports and for predicting performance trends
  • As a capacity planning device that gives statistical information about an application and the environment in which it will operate
  • As an after-the-fact analysis tool on a workstation, that analyzes and graphs all aspects of application performance and system-wide performance

Each database performance monitor supports one or more of these features. The evaluation of database performance monitors is a complex task. Sometimes more than one performance monitor is used at a single site—perhaps one for batch reporting and another for online event monitoring. Maybe an enterprise-wide monitoring solution has been implemented and one component of that solution is a database module that monitors your DBMS, but it lacks the details of a more sophisticated DBMS monitor. So, another performance monitor is purchased for daily DBA usage, while the module of the enterprise-wide monitoring solution is used for integrated monitoring by system administrators.

Modern database performance tools can set performance thresholds that, once reached, will alert the DBA, perform another task to report on, or actually fix the problem. These tools are typically agent-based. An agent is a piece of independent code that runs on the database server looking for problems. It interacts with, but does not rely on, a console running on another machine that is viewed by the DBA. This agent architecture enables efficient database monitoring because the agent is not tied to a workstation and can act independently. The agent sends information to the DBA only when required.

Additionally, some system performance tools are available that focus on a specific component of the DBMS such as the buffer pools (data cache). Such a tool can be used to model the memory requirements for database caching, to capture data cache utilization statistics, and perhaps even to make recommendations for improving the performance of the buffers.

Another type of performance optimization tool enables database configuration parameters to be changed without recycling the DBMS instance, subsystem, or server. These tools are useful when the changes require the DBMS to be stopped and restarted. Such tools can dramatically improve availability, especially if configuration parameters need to be changed frequently and the DBMS does not support dynamic parameter modification.

A few ISVs provide invasive system performance tools that enhance the performance of databases by adding functionality directly to the DBMS and interacting with the database kernel. Typically, these products take advantage of known DBMS shortcomings.

For example, products are available that enhance the performance of reading a database page or block or that optimize data caching by providing additional storage and control over buffers and their processing. Care must be taken when evaluating invasive performance tools. New releases of the DBMS may negate the need for these tools because functionality has been added or known shortcomings have been corrected. However, this does not mean that you should not consider invasive database performance tools. They can pay for themselves after only a short period of time. Discarding the tool when the DBMS supports its functionality is not a problem if the tool has already paid for itself in terms of better performance.

One final caution: Because invasive performance tools can interact very closely with the database kernel, be careful when migrating to a new DBMS release or a new release of the tool. Extra testing should be performed with these tools because of their intrusive nature.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

DB2 Performance Tuning Tools

Well, as I promised a post or two ago, in this and the next couple of posts we will take a look at database performance tools...

Database tools are helpful to enable organizations to effectively manage the performance of applications that access database data... and to help manage the DBMS itself. Some DBMS vendors provide embedded options and bundled tools to address database performance management. However, these tools are frequently insufficient for large-scale or heavily used database applications. Fortunately, many third-party tools will effectively manage the performance of mission-critical database applications. Tools that enable DBAs to tune databases fall into two major categories: performance management and performance optimization.

Many different types of performance management tools are available.

  • Performance monitors enable DBAs and performance analysts to gauge the performance of applications accessing databases in one (or more) of three ways: real time, near real time (intervals), or based on historical trends. The more advanced performance monitors are agent-based.
  • Performance estimation tools provide predictive performance estimation for entire programs and SQL statements based on access paths, operating environment, and a rules or inference engine.
  • Capacity planning tools enable DBAs to analyze the current environment and database design and perform “what-if” scenarios on both.
  • SQL analysis and tuning tools provide graphical and/or textual descriptions of query access paths as determined by the relational optimizer. These tools can execute against single SQL statements or entire programs.
  • Advisory tools augment SQL analysis and tuning tools by providing a knowledge base that provides tips on how to reformulate SQL for optimal performance. Advanced tools may automatically change the SQL (on request) based on the coding tips in the knowledge base.
  • System analysis and tuning tools enable the DBA to view and change database and system parameters using a graphical interface (e.g., cache and/or bufferpool tuning, log sizing).

In the performance optimization category, several tools can be used to tune databases.

  • Reorganization tools automate the process of rebuilding optimally organized databases. Databases can cause performance problems due to their internal organization (e.g., fragmentation, row ordering, storage allocation).
  • Caching tools work to buffer frequently used data in memory which can be accessed faster than secondary disk storage. These tools can augment the performance of the DBMS cache or, more commonly, integrate with the disk storage subsystem.
  • Compression tools enable DBAs to minimize the amount of disk storage used by databases, thereby reducing overall disk utilization and, possibly, elapsed query/program execution time, because fewer I/Os may be required. (Caution: Compression tools can also increase CPU consumption due to the overhead of their compress/decompress algorithms.)
  • Sorting tools can be used to sort data prior to loading databases to ensure that rows will be in a predetermined sequence. Additionally, sorting tools can be used in place of ORDER BY or GROUP BY SQL. Retrieving rows from a relational database is sometimes more efficient using SQL and ORDER BY rather than SQL alone followed by a standalone sort of the SQL results set.

The DBA will often need to use these tools in conjunction with one another—integrated and accessible from a central management console. This enables the DBA to perform core performance-oriented and database administration tasks from a single platform.

Many DBMS vendors provide solutions to manage their databases only; for example, Oracle provides Oracle Enterprise Manager, IBM offers Data Studio for DB2, and Microsoft provides SQL Server Management Studio for this purpose. Third-party vendors provide more robust options that act across heterogeneous environments such as multiple different database servers or operating systems. One example is Dell's Toad product family (there are others).

In general, it is only a good idea to use the DBMS vendor solution as your only management tool if your shop has just a single DBMS. Organizations with multiple DBMS engines running across multiple operating systems should investigate the third-party tool vendors with heterogeneous support (perhaps in addition to the single solution tools).

We will take a closer look at some of these types of tools, with a focus on DB2 for z/OS, in upcoming blog posts.