Thursday, December 17, 2020

Db2 Utilities and Modern Data Management

Db2 utilities are the unappreciated, and often over-looked, workhorses of your mainframe Db2 environment. They perform the dirty work that has to be done to populate, organize, backup, and recover your vital mainframe data. Without them, building effective Db2 databases, managing data, optimizing performance, and even accessing mainframe data would be a lot more difficult than it currently is.

The Situation 
Think about the Db2 utility situation at your shop. If you are like most organizations you will have Db2 utilities regularly running all the time. There are load and unload tasks running to refresh data for development and testing, for moving data between environments for analysis and processing, and for various other purposes. The LOAD and UNLOAD utilities bear a lot of the hard work for data movement. 

You are also most likely reorganizing data using a REORG utility for most of your Db2 table spaces and probably indexes, too. In many cases reorganization jobs are scheduled to run on a regular basis: weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Frequently you just set these jobs up when the object is created. The job gets scheduled and is just run without anybody taking a look at them unless, or until there are performance problems. 

Then there are COPY and RECOVER utilities for backing up and recovering data when there are problems. The image copy backup jobs are running all the time, taking either full or incremental copies to ensure that you can recover data in case problems are encountered. The copies are running all the time, but the recover jobs (hopefully) are not running all the time! 

You are also going to be running the RUNSTATS utility to gather statistics for Db2 to use for query optimization. Depending on how often your data changes, you may be running RUNSTATS frequently or infrequently. Many times the same fate as REORG befalls RUNSTATS… that is, it is scheduled and forgotten about unless problems arise. 

There are other utilities, like CHECK which is used to verify the integrity of data. You are probably not running this one very often but when you need it you want it to run fast, right? 

So, all of these utilities are “out there” running and consuming CPU to move, copy, and manage your Db2 data. But are they being run effectively as possible? 

Moving to the Modern Db2 Utility Way 
I think by this point everybody will agree that utility type processing is not just critical, but mandatory for a Db2 environment. But just running with the bare basics is not the best approach. 

If we think about data movement with unload and load processing there are several things that you might want to consider for improvement. First of all, consider the speed and performance of the unload and load tasks. You probably want these jobs to run as fast as possible – that is, to consume as little elapsed time as possible to complete. After all, you are probably using these utilities to build environments or even refresh portions of an environment… and there will be developers and testers waiting to use that data as soon as it is available. Using the fastest utility programs available will minimize the wait time and make your developers and testers more productive. Furthermore, you want these tasks to consume as little CPU as possible to reduce your monthly mainframe bills! 

In some cases you might want to re-consider unloading and loading altogether, using alternate utilities and offerings that can clone an entire subsystem or move data outside the control of Db2 at the data set level. 

If we think about reorganization, it is likely that you are running REORG tasks that don’t need to be run, at least not as regularly as they are being run. At the same time, it is also likely that you are not running other REORG tasks as frequently as you should, thereby causing every other task that accessing the data to degrade. Fortunately, you can use RTS (real time statistics) to help guide when you should (and should not) reorganize your data. In the best case the utility itself relies on RTS to figure out if it needs to run and runs when it makes sense only. Failing this, you are again likely consuming more CPU than is necessary (either running unneeded REORGs or accessing poorly organized data, as the case may be). 

If you think about your backup and recovery situation, the issue is likely complexity. Sure you want COPY and RECOVER utilities that run fast and consume minimal CPU, but the big issue is analysis. By that I mean, when you need to recover you want to make sure that you can use the image copies (and, of course, the log) to recover and meet your RTOs (recovery time objectives). But creating recover jobs on-the-fly, in a probably complicated environment with inter-related tables and data, can be difficult. And doing so when there is an outage, which is usually the case, exacerbates the situation. Using intelligent utilities to create the right image copies and to automatically build an appropriate recovery strategy when needed should be the modern approach.

And not to neglect RUNSTATS and CHECK, you want both of those utilities to run as fast as possible, consuming minimal CPU, too. And you want guidance on when and how to run them using available RTS, statistics, and any system information available. 

What Can You Do? 
One approach is to use modern utilities, not only built for speed but that incorporate AI and machine learning to automate and improve the Db2 utility experience. BMC Software is once again on the vanguard with its BMC AMI utilities for Db2

The first question you probably have is "What the heck is AMI?" Well, AMI, which stands for Automated Mainframe Intelligence, is technology that is being infused into BMC’s product line to leverage AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics to achieve a self-managing mainframe. 

BMC AMI Utilities for Db2 are designed for modern complex Db2 environments. They use a centralized, intelligent architecture (see diagram below) designed specifically to handle the complexity facing IT today. Through intelligent policy-driven automation, you can use the AMI Utilities for Db2 to manage growing amounts of data with ease and, at the same time, deliver full application availability. 

Figure 1. BMC AMI Utilities for Db2

If you are looking to reduce CPU and elapsed time by as much as 75%, eliminate downtime while delivering full application availability, lower disk usage, eliminate sort in your REORGs, and simplify complex utility operations, then it makes sense to take a look at the BMC AMI Utilities for Db2. 


You might also want to take a look at this blog post from BMC that discusses how to Save Time and Money with Updated Unload Times 

And this analysis of the BMC next generation REORG technology from Ptak Associates