Monday, October 19, 2009

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Learn All About DB2 X for z/OS

IBM is hosting a free webinar on November 3, 2009, offering a technical preview of the next version of DB2 for z/OS, currently known as DB2 X (but we all know, err, ah, think it will be called DB2 10).

If you work with DB2 on the mainframe you will want to set aside some time to attend this informative DB2 X webinar. It will have information for DBAs, as well as for Managers, Application Architects, Developers, System Administrators, System Programmers, and System Architects... and that is just about anyone who works with DB2.

The speaker will be IBM Distinguished Engineer, Jeff Josten.

How do you participate, you may be asking? Well, that is easy. Simply click on over to DB2 X for z/OS Technical Preview and register yourself.

The webinar will be held on November 3, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, 4:00 p.m. UTC.

Monday, October 12, 2009

On The Importance of Choosing the Correct Data Type

Most DBAs have grappled with the pros and cons of choosing one data type versus another. Sometimes the decision is easy, whereas sometimes the decision is a little bit more difficult. In today's blog entry, we'll discuss both situations.

Data type and length are the most fundamental integrity constraints applied to data in a database. Simply by specifying the data type for each column when a table is created, DB2 automatically ensures that only the correct type of data is stored in that column. Processes that attempt to insert or update the data to a non-conforming value will be rejected. Furthermore, a maximum length is assigned to the column to prohibit larger values from being stored in the table.

The DBA must choose the data type and length of each column wisely. The general rule of thumb for choosing a data type for the columns in your tables is to choose the data type that most closely matches the domain of correct values for the column. That means you should try to adhere to the following rules:
  • If the data is numeric, favor SMALLINT, INTEGER, BIGINT, or DECIMAL data types. DECFLOAT and FLOAT are also options for very large numbers.
  • If the data is character, use CHAR or VARCHAR data types.
  • If the data is date and time, use DATE, TIME, and TIMESTAMP data types.
  • If the data is multimedia, use GRAPHIC, VARGRAPHIC, BLOB, CLOB, or DBCLOB data types.
But, of course, there are always exceptions. For example, what about social security number? That is a numeric column, but you won't be performing calculations using it. And, to format it correctly requires hyphens, which cannot be stored in a numeric data type. So, perhaps, SSN is an exception.

Leading Zeroes

Let's consider another typical situation: the desire to display leading zeroes. Maybe the application requires a four-byte code that is used to identify products, accounts, or some other business object, and all of the codes are numeric and will stay that way. But, for reporting purposes, the users want the codes to print out with leading zeroes. So, the users request that the column be defined as CHAR(4) to ensure that leading zeroes are always shown. But what are the drawbacks of doing this?

Well, there are drawbacks! Without proper edit checks, inserts and updates could place invalid alphabetic characters into the product code. This can be a very valid concern if ad hoc data modifications are permitted. This is rare in production databases, but data problems can still occur if the proper edit checks are not coded into every program that can modify the data. But let's assume that proper edit checks are coded and will never be bypassed. This removes the data integrity question (yeah, right!).

There is another problem that is related to performance and filter factors. Consider the possible number of values that a CHAR(4) column and a SMALLINT column can assume. Even if edit checks are coded for each, DB2 is not aware of these and assumes that all combinations of characters are permitted. DB2 uses base 37 math when it determines access paths for character columns, under the assumption that 26 alphabetic letters, 10 numeric digits, and a space will be used. This adds up to 37 possible characters. For a four-byte character column there are 374 or 1,874,161 possible values.

A SMALLINT column can range from -32,768 to 32,767 producing 65,536 possible small integer values. The drawback here is that negative or 5 digit product codes could be entered. However, if we adhere to our proper edit check assumption, the data integrity problems will be avoided here, as well. And we can always code a simple CHECK constraint to ensure that the code is always greater than zero.

DB2 will use the HIGH2KEY and LOW2KEY values to calculate filter factors. For character columns, the range between HIGH2KEY and LOW2KEY is larger than numeric columns because there are more total values. The filter factor will be larger for the numeric data type than for the character data type which may influence DB2 to choose a different access path. For this reason, favor the SMALLINT over the CHAR(4) definition.

The leading zeroes problem might be able to be solved using other methods. If you are using a report writer, most of them have quick methods of displaying leading zeroes. When using QMF, you can ensure that leading zeroes are shown by using the "J" edit code. Report programs can be coded to display leading zeroes easily enough by moving the host variables to appropriate display fields. Ad hoc access through other reporting tools typically provide a parameter that can enable leading zeroes to be displayed.

In general, it is wise to choose a data type which is closest to the domain for the column. IF the column is to store numeric data, favor choosing a numeric data type: SMALLINT, INTEGER, DECIMAL, or floating point. In addition, always be sure to code appropriate edit checks to ensure data integrity.

A DATE with DB2

What about dates? In my opinion, you should always use a DATE data type for date data. Why anyone would ever store a date or time in a DB2 table any other format than DATE, TIME, or TIMESTAMP is beyond me. But, oh, they do it all the time. And it causes all sorts of headaches. The benefits of using the proper DB2 data type are many, including:
  • Ensuring data integrity because DB2 will ensure that only valid date and time values are stored
  • The ability to use date and time arithmetic
  • A vast array of built-in functions to operate on and transform date and time values
  • Multiple formatting choices
Additionally, you have multiple built-in functions at your disposal for manipulating date and time data, but only when the data is stored as DATE, TIME, and TIMESTAMP data types. The time-related DB2 functions include CHAR, DATE, DAY, DAYOFMONTH, DAYOFWEEK, DAYOFYEAR, DAYS, HOUR, JULIAN_DAY, MICROSECOND, MIDNIGHT_SECONDS, MINUTE, MONTH, QUARTER, SECOND, TIME, TIMESTAMP, WEEK, WEEK_ISO, and YEAR.

I get questions all the time from folks who've stored dates using character data types; they ask all kinds of integrity and manipulation questions and I always, always, always start my reply with "You shouldn't have done that!"... and then I try to help them out, if I can. Don't fall into the trap of storing dates using anything but a DATE data type... you'll thank me later.


There is a lot more that can be said about choosing appropriate data types, but I think we've covered enough for today. The bottom line on data types is to use them to protect the integrity of your DB2 data and to simplify your job by taking advantage of DB2’s built-in capabilities. By choosing that data type that most closely matches your data you will be doing yourself, your systems, and your users a big favor.

Friday, October 02, 2009

IDUG Europe is Right Around the Corner

Just a quick post today to remind everybody that the annual European IDUG conference will be held next week (the week of October 5, 2009) in Rome, Italy. And it is not too late to ensure that you will be there to hear the latest and greatest news, tips, tricks, and guidelines on our favorite DBMS - IBM's DB2!

For those of you not lucky enough to be there keep an eye on my DB2portal blog here where I will attempt to summarize the key events of the week.

And if you are a Twitter aficionado, be sure to follow me on Twitter as I will try to make regular Tweets about the event (as long as my Blackberry works in Rome).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Limiting the Number of Rows Fetched

Application developers frequently need to retrieve a limited number of qualifying rows from a table. For example, maybe you need to list the top ten best selling items from inventory, or a list of the top five most expensive products (i.e., highest price tag). There are several ways to accomplish this prior to DB2 V7 using SQL, but they are not necessarily efficient.

The first reaction is to simply use the WHERE clause to eliminate non-qualifying rows. But this is simplistic, and often is not sufficient to produce the results desired in an optimal manner. What if the program only requires that the top ten results be returned? This can be a somewhat difficult request to formulate using SQL alone.

Consider, for example, an application that needs to retrieve only the top ten most highly paid employees from the EMP sample table. You could simply issue a SQL request that retrieves all of the employees in order by salary, but only use the first ten retrieved. That is easy; for example:


You must specify the ORDER BY clause with the DESC key word. This sorts the results into descending order, instead of the default, which is ascending. Without the DESC key word, the "top ten" would be at the very end of the results set, not at the beginning.

But that does not really satisfy the requirement - retrieving only the top ten. It merely sorts the results into descending sequence. So the results would still be all employees in the table, but in the correct order so you can view the "top ten" salaries very easily. The ideal solution should return only the top ten employees with the highest salary and not merely a sorted list of all employees.

You can code some "tricky" SQL to support this request for all versions of DB2, such as the following:


This SQL is portable from DB2 to other DBMSs, such as Oracle or SQL Server. And, of course, you can change the constant 10 to any number you wish, thereby retrieving the top 20, or top 5, as deemed necessary by the needs of your application.

Since the SALARY column is nullable in the EMP table, you must remove the nulls from the results set. And the ORDER BY is required to sort the results in the right order. If it is removed from the query, the results will still contain the top ten, but they will be in no particular order.

But DB2, as of V7, provides an easier and less complicated way to limit the results of a SELECT statement - the FIRST key word. You can code FETCH FIRST n ROWS which will limit the number of rows that are fetched and returned by a SELECT statement.

Additionally, you can specify a new clause -- FETCH FIRST ROW ONLY clause -- on SELECT INTO statements when the query can return more than one row in the answer set. Doing so informs DB2 to ignore the other rows.

There is one difference between the new V7 formulation and the other SELECT statement we reviewed, and that is the way "ties" are handled. A tie occurs when more than one row contains the same value. The previous query we examined may return more than 10 rows if there are multiple rows with the same value for price within the top ten.

Using the FIRST key word DB2 will limit the number of rows returned to ten, even if there are other rows with the same value for price as the number ten row in the results set. The needs of your application will dictate whether ties are to be ignored or included in the result set. If all "ties" need to be included in the results set, which would mean that more than 10 rows would be needed, the new V7 feature may not prove to be helpful.

And it is also important to note that as of DB2 9, you can include the FETCH FIRST clause in a subselect. ORDER BY is allowed in a subselect, too. The subselect MUST be enclosed in parentheses and the FETCH FIRST (or ORDER BY) cannot be in the outermost fullselect of a view, or in a materialized query table.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Dynamic SQL Causing Lock Escalation?

Lock escalation is the promotion of a lock from a row, page or LOB lock to a table space lock because the number of page locks that are concurrently held on a given resource exceeds a preset limit.

But lock escalation can cause problems. Yes, when fewer locks are taken, CPU cost and memory usage can be reduced. On the other hand, escalating the size of a lock causes more resources to be locked... and that impacts concurrency with the most likely result being applications experiencing lock timeouts or deadlocks.

When lock escalation occurs, DB2 writes messages to the system log. So when complaints inevitably arrive about failing transactions you can look for the appropriate lock escalation message indicating that it could be the culprit.

But such simple steps are typically not sufficient to track down the root cause and take corrective actions. You need to be able to determine what SQL statement in what program and under what circumstances is causing the escalation. Doing so involves tracing and using performance monitoring tools.

For those interested in this topic, (indeed, the primary purpose of this blog post) you should seek out the IBM TechDoc titled Identifying the dynamic SQL statement which is causing a
lock escalation in DB2 for z/OS
. For those who don't know what a TechDoc is, don't worry, it isn't that complicated. It is basically a published piece of technical documentation that isn't part of a larger manual or IBM RedBook. They can be short papers, product flashes, presentations, etc.

This particular TechDoc details a methodology for identifying dynamic SQL statements involved in a lock escalation. It describes which traces to start, and which jobs to run to analyze the collected traces. It also explains how to analyze the trace report to find the problematic SQL statement.

You can search all of IBM's TechDocs by following this link.

Happy reading!