Friday, February 27, 2015

A Few DB2 Connect Guidelines

Here are a few guidelines for you to consider as you work to implement and optimize your usage of IBM's DB2 Connect gateway...

Consider DB2 Connect PE for Single Workstation Solutions  DB2 Connect PE can be a good choice for two-tier client/server applications running on desktop workstations that need to access data from mainframe DB2 databases. However, the personal edition is not suitable for deployment on multi-user systems and application servers.

If you have two people who share a workstation, DB2 Connect PE is a viable solution, because each person uses the workstation individually. That is, they cannot both use the workstation at the same time. Only one connection is required at any time for both of these users so only one license of DB2 Connect PE is required.
On the other hand, if you set up five workstations as dumb terminals making connections to a DB2 for z/OS server, you would need ten licenses of DB2 Connect PE. Of course, you could use DB2 Connect EE instead, too. Or setting up a client with a Type 4 driver can be sufficient.

Consider DB2 Connect EE for Multi-User Solutions  DB2 Connect EE is the required solution when a middle tier connectivity server is needed. DB2 Connect EE is suitable for environments where the number of concurrent users can be easily determined. However, DB2 Connect UE and ASE are preferable to EE for web-based applications and multi-tier client/server applications where the number of concurrent users is difficult, or impossible, to determine. This is so mostly due to the cost of licensing.

Again, using Type 4 drivers without a DB2 Connect gateway can be a sufficient solution for many organizations.
Setting Up the DDF for z/OS  You must set up the DDF as an application server to connect distributed applications to DB2 for z/OS. There are two ways of doing this:
  • INSERT the LUNAME of the remote system into the SYSIBM.LUNAMES table.

Be sure to perform a DDF update to the Boot Strap Data (BSDS) after making one of these changed. Because DDF will try to connect to VTAM you must ensure that VTAM is active when the DDF starts.

Configure Distributed Threads  Use the DSNZPARM CMTSTAT to control the behavior of distributed threads. CMTSTAT specifies whether a DDF thread is made active or inactive after it successfully commits or rolls back and holds no cursors. Consider setting CMTSTAT to INACTIVE because inactive connections consume less storage. A thread can become inactive only if it holds no cursors, has no temporary tables defined, and executes no statements from the dynamic statement cache.

If you specify ACTIVE, the thread remains active. Although this can improve performance it consumes system resources. If your installation supports a large number of connections, specify INACTIVE.

DB2 supports two different types of inactive threads:
  1. An inactive DBAT, previously called a type 1 inactive thread, has the same characteristics as inactive threads prior to DB2 V8. This type of thread remains associated with the connections, but DB2 minimizes the thread’s storage use as much as possible.
  2. An inactive connection, previously called a type 2 inactive thread, uses less storage than an inactive DBAT. In this case, the connections are disassociated from the thread. The thread can be pooled and reused for other connections, new or inactive. This provides better resource utilization because there are typically a small number of threads that can be used to service a large number of connections.

    Although inactive connections are preferable to inactive DBATs, not every thread can become an inactive connection. If a thread is to become inactive, DB2 tries to make it an inactive connection. If DB2 cannot make it an inactive connection, it tries to make it an inactive DBAT. If neither attempt is successful, the thread remains active.

Increasing Data Transfer Rates  In addition to blocking of rows for a query result set, DB2 can also return multiple query blocks in response to an OPEN or FETCH request to a remote client (such as DB2 Connect). Instead of repeatedly sending requests to DB2 for z/OS requesting one block of data at a time, DB2 Connect can optionally request that the server send back some number of extra query blocks. These extra query blocks allow the client to minimize network traffic, thereby improving performance. DB2 Connect can be set up to request extra query blocks from a mainframe DB2 server by default.

Use the EXTRA BLOCKS SRV parameter on the DB2 DDF installation panel to enable support for extra query blocks. The minimum value for this parameter is 0 and the maximum is 100. Favor keeping the parameter set to the default value, which is 100.

You can also set up the EXTRA BLOCK REQ installation parameter to limit the number of extra DRDA query blocks that DB2 is to request from a remote DRDA server. This parameter does not limit the size of the SQL query answer set. It simply controls the total amount of data that can be transmitted on a network exchange. The minimum value for this parameter is 0 and the maximum is 100, which is also the default.

On the client side, you activate support on a cursor or statement basis. It is controlled by a query rowset size for a cursor, or the value of n in the OPTIMIZE FOR n ROWS clause or FETCH FIRST n ROWS ONLY clause.
Specify Character Data Types with Care  When character data is accessed using DB2 Connect, the choice of CHAR versus VARCHAR will impact performance. VARCHAR is more efficient if the length varies significantly. If the size of data does not vary much, CHAR is more efficient because each VARCHAR column requires two bytes of length information to be transmitted along with the data.

Of course, DB2 Connect transmission performance is but one consideration when choosing a data type. Refer to Chapter 5 for additional considerations.

BIND the DB2 Connect Utilities  DB2 Connect comes with several utilities that use embedded SQL, and therefore their programs must be bound to a database server before they can be used with that system. The list of bind files required by these utilities is contained in the following ddcsmvs.lst file for DB2 for z/OS. If you do not use the DB2 Connect utilities, you do not have to BIND their programs to each of your DB2 for z/OS database servers.

If DB2 Connect Enterprise Edition is installed, the DB2 Connect utilities must be bound to each database server once from each type of client platform, before they can be used with that system. For example, if you have 5 Windows clients and 4 Linux clients connecting to DB2 for z/OS using DB2 Connect EE, then BIND the programs in ddcsmvs.lst from one of the Windows clients, as well as from one of the Linux clients, and then from the DB2 Connect server. If all the clients are not at the same service level, you might need to BIND from each client for each particular service level.

Beware of SQLCODE and SQLSTATE Differences  Different IBM relational DBMSs will not always produce the same SQLCODE values for the same or similar errors. This can be trouble­some in distributed applications. There are two ways of handling this situation:
  • Use SQLSTATE instead of SQLCODE. The SQLSTATE values have the same basic meaning across the IBM’s DBMS products.
  • Use SQLCODE mapping.

DB2 Connect can map SQLCODEs and tokens from each IBM mainframe or iSeries server to your appropriate DB2 UDB system. You can specify your own SQLCODE mapping file if you want to override the default mapping or you are using a non-IBM database server that does not have SQLCODE mapping.

SQLCODE mapping is enabled by default. If you want to turn off SQLCODE mapping, specify NOMAP in the parameter string of the DCS directory or the DCE routing information object.

Assign Authids per Application  Consider assigning each distributed application a dedicated authid. This approach is superior to simply using the same authid for all applications because:
  •  Each authid can be assigned only the permissions it needs.
  •  You can use WLM to assign each authid different priorities, as needed.
  •  For troubleshooting, it is easier to identify the offending application.
  •  You can measure application resource usage by authid. 

Assure Appropriate Distributed Logon Authority  Be sure that DB2 administrators have the required authority on the distributed platforms that interact with DB2 for z/OS. For example, a UNIX logon should be available for the performance analyst or DBA to view db2diag.log and web application logs.

In addition, the logon should have sufficient authority to execute appropriate commands as needed. For example, iostat and vmstat are useful commands that may need to be issued.

Similar considerations should be made for Windows servers.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Choosing Between DECIMAL and FLOAT Data Types

DB2 can use both DECIMAL and FLOAT data types to store non-integer numeric data. But the two are not equivalent. In general, use DECIMAL instead of FLOAT whenever you can. The main problem with floating point numbers is that they are not precise. DECIMAL values are precise. In other words, a FLOAT value will be an approximate value whereas a DECIMAL value will be an exact value.

At times, if 100 percent precision is not required, you might want to use floating point numbers to save on storage. DB2 provides a parameter to size the floating point column; n where the data type specification is FLOAT(n). If n is between 1 and 21, this is a single precision floating point number and the column will require 4 bytes of storage; if n is between 22 and 53, this is a double precision floating point number and it will require 8 bytes to store it. A single precision floating-point number is a short (32 bits) floating-point number. A double precision floating-point number is a long (64 bits) floating-point number.

For DECIMAL columns, the byte count is calculated as INTEGER(p/2)+1; where p is the precision of the DECIMAL column. So, a DECIMAL(10,2) column will require (10/2)+1 bytes = 6 bytes. An approximation of the same number could be stored in a FLOAT(21) column that would require only 4 bytes of storage.

For very large or very small numbers, though, you will have to use FLOAT columns. This is so because there is a limit of 31 on decimal precision. The following outlines the largest and smallest values that can be supported using DECIMAL and FLOAT data types:

  •   Smallest FLOAT value is about -7.2**75
  •   Largest FLOAT value is about 7.2**75
  •   Smallest positive FLOAT value is about 5.4**-79
  •   Largest negative FLOAT value is about -5.4**-79
  •   Smallest DECIMAL value is 1 – 10**31
  •   Largest DECIMAL value is 10**31 - 1

Note that the values for floating point numbers are approximations. The ** is used to indicate “raised to the power of”.

If you are moving the between platforms, there is an additional concern when using FLOAT. Mainframes use an IBM standard whereas other platforms use different standards. Since floating point numbers are imprecise to begin with this may not be a problem. However, if you want to make sure that a particular column will be exactly the same value regardless of platform, then floating point is not the way to go. 

There is a third, newer option called DECFLOAT. Introduced in DB2 9 for z/OS, DECFLOAT is a combination of the two data types discussed here, or a decimal floating-point data type. Specified as DECFLOAT(n), where the value of n can be either 16 or or 34, representing the number of significant digits that can be stored. If the n is not specified, then the DECFLOAT column can represent 34 significant digits.

A decimal floating-point value is an IEEE 754r number with a decimal point. The maximum precision is 34 digits and the range of a DECFLOAT number is as follows:

DECFLOAT(16) value can range from a low of: 

to a high of:

And a DECFLOAT(34) value can range from a low of:
-9.999999999999999999999999999999999 ×10**6144

to a high of:
9.999999999999999999999999999999999 ×10**6144

In addition, the DECFLOAT data type can be used to represent several special values that represent "non-number numbers," as follows:

  • Infinity - a value that represents a number whose magnitude is infinitely large.
  • Quiet NaN - a value that represents undefined results which does not cause an invalid number condition. NaN is not a number.
  • Signaling NaN - a value that represents undefined results which will cause an invalid number condition if used in any numerical operation.

So decimal-floating point values can be more flexible and precise with the ability to range lower and higher than floating point values (or decimal values). However, before using DECFLOAT be careful and plan ahead. If you use COBOL programs to operate on your DB2 for z/OS data because there is no way to specify the SQL DECFLOAT data type in COBOL.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Nulls Cannot Be Ignored!

NULLs are one of the more controversial things that a DB2 professional has to deal with. And I do mean HAS to deal with. 

Because of all the controversy about their usefulness, implementation, and confusing nature, some DB2 folks just decide to hide their head in the sand and ignore NULLs. The thinking goes something like this: “If I do not create any nullable columns in any of my DB2 tables, then I can blissfully ignore the whole NULL mess and be happy!”

Well, that is simply not true. You can follow this approach and still write a query that will return NULL. Don’t believe it? Run this query then:


PRSTAFF is defined as a DECIMAL(5,2) column and we are trying to find the average staffing for a specific department. The PRSTAFF column can contain nulls, but even if it could not, the result here would be the same. This query returns a NULL (unless someone inserted a row with the value of ‘XOX’ for DEPTNO at your site).

Why? There is no department ‘XOX’ in the sample databases (provided with DB2). So, the query is attempting to find an average for the empty set. This is NULL. Some folks think this query should return 0, but it won't! The sum of all PRSTAFF for the department ‘XOX’ is not zero, but is unknown…

So, take the time to understand how NULLs work in DB2, because they cannot be ignored!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Helping Out the DB2 Optimizer Using the VOLATILE Keyword

Do you know about the VOLATILE keyword? This keyword was added to DB2 for z/OS back in Version 8. It can be specified on a table using either the CREATE TABLE or ALTER TABLE statement.

By specifying VOLATILE, you are indicating that the volume of data in the table is not stable and is likely to fluctuate. In other words, it is volatile! One common scenario where VOLATILE will be helpful is for tables that are emptied nightly and then repopulated the next day, such as an input queue. 

When you specify the VOLATILE keyword on a table, BIND will favor using indexed access paths, even if the table was empty when RUNSTATS was run. It is ideal for single-index tables where you want DB2 to favor using the index.

ERP environments, such as SAP and Peoplesoft, with thousands of tables typically have some tables that meet these criteria. Even worse, it is not uncommon for DBAs to have no idea of the actual content or use for many of those thousands of tables generated by the ERP installation. At times, some of the ERP tables are not in use – depending on which modules of the ERP system you implement… but the tables get created anyway. Many DBAs simply maintain all of the tables provided with the ERP system, whether they are used or not, including running image copies and gathering RUNSTATS for them... and many are empty tables.

Collecting statistics on an empty table populates the catalog with stats indicating that the table contains no data. And, of course, when access paths are generated using those statistics DB2 will probably favor a scan because the table is small (how much smaller can you get than empty?) But some of those tables are volatile, going from empty to perhaps hundreds of thousands of rows during processing.

Of course, if the table is actually empty (or contains only a small amount of data), and VOLATILE is specified, DB2 will favor the use an index if one exists, which can degrade performance a bit. But that is a smaller price to pay than scanning thousands of rows, isn't it?

So one approach is to use the VOLATILE keyword for these types of tables... your users will be glad that you did.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Approaches to DB2 Access Path Management

BIND and REBIND are crucially important components as you attempt to assure efficient DB2 applications. Because the BIND/REBIND process determines exactly how your DB2 data is accessed it is important that you develop an appropriate strategy for when and how to REBIND your programs.

There are several common REBIND approaches taken by DB2 users. By far, the best approach is to REBIND your applications over time as the data changes. This approach involves some form of regular maintenance that keeps DB2 statistics up to date and formulates new access paths as data volumes and patterns change.

Other approaches include REBINDing only when a new version of DB2 is installed, or perhaps more ambitious, whenever new PTFs are applied to DB2. Another approach is to REBIND automatically after a regular period of time (days, weeks, months, etc.). This approach can work if the period of time is wisely chosen based on the application data – but it still can pose administrative issues.

The final approach can be summarized as “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” This is the worst of the several approaches discussed here. The biggest problem with this approach is that you are penalizing every program in your subsystem for fear that a program or two may have a degraded access path. This results in potentially many programs having sub-optimal performance because the optimizer never gets a chance to create better access paths as the data changes.

Of course, the possibility of degraded performance is real – and that is why this approach has been adopted at some sites. The problem is being able to find which statements have degraded. In an ideal world we would be to be able to review the access path changes beforehand to determine if they are better or worse. But DB2 itself does not provide any systematic method of administering access paths that way. There are third party tools that can help you achieve this though.

Anyway, let’s go back to the best approach again, and that is to REBIND on a regular basis as your data changes. This approach has become known as the Three Rs. To implement this approach you:
  1. Regularly reorganize the data to ensure that it is optimally structured.
  2. Follow that with RUNSTATS to be sure that the reorganized state of the data is reflected in the DB2 Catalog.
  3. And follow that with a REBIND for all the application programs that access the data structures impacted by the REORG and RUNSTATS.
At any rate, your goal should be to keep your access paths up-to-date with the current state of your data. Failing to do this means that DB2 is accessing data based upon false assumptions. DB2 is unlikely to make the same access path choice as your data grows – and as patterns within the data change.

By REBINDing you can generally improve the overall performance of your applications because the access paths will be better designed based on an accurate view of the data. Additionally, as DB2 changes are introduced (PTFs, new version/release) optimizer improvements and new access techniques can be incorporated into the access paths. That is, if you never REBIND, not only are you forgoing better access paths due to data changes but you are also forgoing better access paths due to changes to DB2 itself.

Adopting the Three R’s approach can pose additional questions. For example, when should you reorganize? In order to properly determine when a REORG is needed you’ll have to look at statistics. This means looking at either RUNSTATS or Real-Time Statistics (RTS). So, perhaps it should be at least 4 R’s – in other words:
  1. RTS (or RUNSTATS)
  2. REORG
Now it is true that some folks don’t rely on statistics to schedule a REORG. Instead, they just build the JCL to REORG their database objects when they create the object. So they create a table space then build the REORG job and schedule it to run monthly, or quarterly, or on some regular basis. This is better than no REORG at all, but it is probably not the best approach because you are most likely either reorganizing too soon (in which case you waste the CPU cycles to do the REORG) or you are reorganizing too late (in which case performance is suffering for a period of time before the REORG runs). Better to base your REORGs off of statistics and thresholds using either RUNSTATS or RTS.

Without accurate statistics there is little hope that the optimizer will formulate the best access path to retrieve your data. If the optimizer does not have accurate information on the size, organization, and particulars of your data then it will be creating access paths based on either default or inaccurate statistics. Incorrect statistics will cause bad choices to be made – such as choosing a merge-scan join when a nested loop join would be better, or failure to invoke sequential prefetch, or using the wrong index – or no index at all. And the problem of inaccurate statistics is pervasive. There are shops out there that never, or rarely, run RUNSTATS to gather up-to-date statistics. Make sure yours is not one of those shops!

When should you run RUNSTATS? One answer is “As frequently as possible based on how often your data changes.” To do this you will need to know a thing or two about your data growth patterns: what is its make-up, how is it used, how fast does it grow, and how often does it change? These patterns will differ for every table space in your system.

Next we need to decide when to REBIND? The best answer for this is when statistics have changed significantly enough to change access paths. When we know that data has significantly changed it makes sense to REBIND after the RUNSTATS completes. But the trick is determining exactly when we have a “significant” change in our data. Without an automated method of comparing and contrasting statistics (or even better yet, access paths) coming up with an answer in a manual way can be time-consuming and error-prone – especially if we have thousands of DB2 programs to manage.

As we REBIND, we always must be on alert for rogue access paths. A rogue access path is created when the optimizer formulates a new access path that performs worse than the previous access path. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Of course, number one is that the optimizer, though good, is not perfect. So mistakes can happen. Other factors can cause degraded access paths, too. The access paths for volatile tables depend on when you run the RUNSTATS. Volatile tables are those that start out empty, get rows added to them during processing, and are emptied out at the end of the day. And, of course, if the catalog or statistics are not accurate we can get problems, too.

So adopting the Four Rs approach implies that you will have to develop a methodology for reviewing your access paths and taking care of any “potential” problem access paths. Indeed, the Four Rs becomes The Five Rs as we add a step to review the access paths after REBINDing to make sure that there are no rogue access paths:
  1. Start with Real Time Stats (or RUNSTATS) to determine when to REORG.
  2. Then we Reorganize the needy table spaces (and indexes)
  3. After reorganizing, run RUNSTATS to pick up current statistics,
  4. Follow that with the BEBINDs.
  5. Then we need that fifth R – which is to Review the access paths generated by the REBIND.
The review is of utmost importance because the optimizer can make mistakes. And, of course, so can you. But your users will not call you when performance is better (or the same). They only dial your numbers when performance gets worse. As such, proactive shops will put best practices in place to test REBIND results comparing the before and after impact of the optimizer’s choices.