Monday, May 21, 2018

The Db2 12 for z/OS Blog Series - Part 22: Function Levels 501 and 502 (Continuous Delivery)

If you have heard anything about Db2 Version 12 chances are that you have heard about continuous delivery. Instead of waiting 2 to 3 years for a new version of Db2 to be released, new functionality will be continuously delivered on a regular basis. The idea is to bring Db2 into the modern age of development practices where releases are small and quick, instead of large and slow.

So instead of waiting for the next version, Db2 professionals now wait on new Function Levels, where a Function Level identifies a set of new enhancements that can be enabled in Db2 for z/OS.

Of course, this means that a lot of internal practices and procedures had to be re-engineered and established at IBM, so there have not been many new Function Levels since Db2 12 was first released back in October 2016. There was Function Level 501 in early 2017, which basically added a simple new built-in function, LISTAGG.

The LISTAGG built-in function produces a list of all values in a group. An optional separator argument can delimit items in the result list. For example, specifying a comma as the separator produces a comma-separated list. An optional ordering can also be specified for the items within the group. So for example:

             AS EMPLOYEES

This will return a comma-separated list of employee last names by department number.

Unless you needed the capability of LISTAGG in your applications there was no reason to migrate to Function Level 501. Except, of course, to test out moving to a new Function Level, which is the primary reason that IBM released LISTAGG as a Function Level. And that was it until recently…

Function Level 502 (FL502) was made available by IBM in late April 2018. This is the first “real” Function Level with multiple new capabilities that may entice your shop to implement it. 

Here are the capabilities introduced in FL502:

The first new feature bolsters DFSMS data set encryption (which is part of the Pervasive Encryption for IBM Z solution introduced with the z14). With FL502 we get KEYLABEL management capability for z/OS DFSMS data set encryption. You can manage the key labels for z/OS DFSMS data set encryption to transparently encrypt Db2 data sets. 

DFSMS can be used to encrypt various types of Db2 data sets including Db2-managed table space and index space data sets, data sets that are used by Db2 utilities, and sequential input and output data sets. 

After moving to FL502 an administrator (DBA, security admin, system admin or storage admin depending on your shop) can enable z/OS DFSMS data set encryption for your Db2 data sets.

Additionally, IBM offers a free tool, IBM z Systems Batch Network Analyzer (zBNA), which can be used to help estimate the costs of DFSMS data set encryption for your Db2 data sets. Additionally, the Db2 Statitistics Trace has been enhanced to report CPU time, which you can look at to help determine which data sets to encrypt.

The second enhancement enabled with FL502 is the ability to cast an explicit numeric value to a graphic string value. All of the numeric data types are supported. So you can use the GRAPHIC or VARGRAPHIC built-in functions and/or the CAST specification to cast numeric values to graphic string values. Regardless of whether CAST or GRAPHIC/VARGAPHIC functions are used, the result is Unicode (UTF-16), and the context must support Unicode data.

Implementing Function Level 502

You can activate Function Level 502 from Function Level 501, 500, 100, or as part of migration from Db2 11 (with z/OSMF only). Function level 502 requires catalog level 502, and tailoring the catalog for level 502 requires function level 500 or 501. Take care before activating any new Function level by making sure that you understand what Function Levels are, how they are delivered, and the current state of your Db2 subsystems.

You can easily view the current state of your Db2 subsystems by using the -DISPLAY GROUP command. It will show you the current Function Level, the high Function Level ever activated (which might be higher than current if you fell back), and the highest possible Function Level (based on the APARs that have been applied to your Db2 system).

What's Next?

Things are likely to speed up in terms of new Function Levels for Db2. Now that IBM has had time to implement new internal development proceudres and get them all test out appropriately, we should start seeing new capabilities more frequently than once a year... perhaps as frequently as quarterly. So make sure that you are ready to review every new Function Level as it is made available and make plans to activate the ones that deliver functionality that you need.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Function Levels are cumulative. So you cannot implment say, Function Level 502, without also getting the capabiltiies of all previous Function Levels (in this case, just 501). So be prepared and understand what activating a new Function Level means!

Welcome to the new world of continuous delivery in Db2 for z/OS… and take a look at how the new capabilities in Function Levels 501 and 502 might be useful at your shop and to your applications.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Improving Performance by Caching Select Statement Results

A significant trend in the database world these days is moving more data management and processing into memory. If you can bypass disk I/O you can achieve tremendous performance gains. There are many reasons for this, but of course, the most important reason is that disk access is much slower than memory access.

It is orders of magnitude more efficient to access data from computer memory than it is to read it from disk. Memory access is usually measured in microseconds, whereas disk access is measured in milliseconds (1 millisecond equals 1000 microseconds).

So, it makes sense to process as much data as we can in memory. This is the reason that most popular RDBMS use buffer pools to cache data in memory. But buffer pools are not always sufficient for caching everything that is needed. Just take a look at IBM Db2 12 for z/OS and the index FTB feature, which caches unique index structures in memory – not in any buffer pool.

FTBs, or Fast Traverse Blocks, provide in-memory index optimization. FTBs are stored in a separate area outside of your buffer pools. You must allocate additional real memory for it in Db2 12. This memory is an optimized structure for fast index lookups that provide random index access. The FTB contains the non-leaf structure of the index.

QuickSelect for Db2

Of course, FTBs are just one technique to optimize your memory usage. Another technique you might consider is to deploy QuickSelect for Db2, an in-memory optimization product from Log-On Software (an Israeli company that has been providing tools and services to the mainframe market for decades). QuickSelect for Db2 caches query results in memory. This is a different concept than buffer pools which cache table and index space pages or in-memory tables which cache entire tables.

By caching the results of frequently run queries in memory with QuickSelect for Db2, you can optimize the SQL statements that recur frequently in your environment. QuickSelect runs as a started task and it automatically caches repetitive query results in self-managed memory above the bar (64-bit).

QuickSelect returns the same data DB2 would – but from its cache. QuickSelect will identify and cache only frequently used data via a threshold parameter. This saves both CPU and I/O, and therefore can reduce elapsed time and improve application response times. All other requests are satisfied as usual by Db2.

Which leads to the question: which queries should be cached? QuickSelect helps you to identify ideal queries with its Survey mode which automatically finds SQL queries suitable for caching.

The results cached by QuickSelect are the actual data retrieved by Db2 queries. So the next time that same query runs (with the same host variable values) the results are quickly returned from the QuickSelect cache instead of invoking process-heavy disk I/O operations. Think of all the repetitive SQL that you are running in your shop every day – and all of the redundant I/O that is used to read that data over and over again.

But, you may be asking, what happens if the data changes? Well, QuickSelect is aware of all changes that are made, whether by a Db2 utility like Load, Reorg and Recover, or by your applications issuing Insert, Update, Delete, and Truncate statements. Data changes on the tables that are cached are detected by QuickSelect in real-time using various techniques. QuickSelect invalidates the cached data for the updated tables automatically, thus data integrity is preserved. Further queries will cause QuickSelect to cache the updated data, thereby continuing to save. QuickSelect runs in a multiple LPAR environment and supports update sensitivity by using XCF functions.

In other words, QuickSelect returns the same answer as Db2 does… only faster. And, of course, that is the most important thing.

If you were paying attention as you read through this so far you will have noticed that there are no application changes required whatsoever to enable QuickSelect. And you do not have to Rebind your programs to take advantage of QuickSelect, either!

What happens if you shut down QuickSelect? There should be no impact on your application programs; processing reverts entirely back to Db2. The data will no longer be returned from the QuickSelect cache, instead it will again be retrieved by Db2 just like before you used QuickSelect.

QuickSelect: The Latest Features

Log-On Software is not resting on its laurels; new features are added to QuickSelect on a regular basis. For example, in Febrauary 2018 auto-configuration was added to QuickSelect, thereby easing configuration in a Data Sharing environment.

With auto-configuration the QuickSelect group configuration is dynamically determined. It is no longer required to pre-configure QuickSelect groups. QuickSelect now automatically detects the active members in the Db2 group, if any, and automatically establishes a connection between all QuickSelect servers that correlate to the current Db2 configuration. This is much simpler than the previous requirement of hard-coding QuickSelect grouping using pre-defined parameters.  

The Bottom Line

QuickSelect for Db2 offers a different approach to in-memory caching by focusing on query results. QuickSelect for Db2 customers have been able to significantly reduce CPU during peak times – the times set by the rolling four-hour average that impact your monthly IBM software bill.

For example, one customer, a large European commercial Bank was able to turn off an entire CPU after installing QuickSelect in production due to the CPU savings they achieved. In this case, the customer was saving more than 10 billion SQL statements during a typical 12-hour window.

The bottom line is that in-memory processing can save CPU, improve performance and save money. Wise organizations will look into multiple ways of exploiting memory to achieve results, including potentially looking at novel software solutions like QuickSelect for Db2.