Build a Searchable Web-Service Using OmniFind Text Search Server for DB2 for i

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Discover the advantages offered by full-text search capabilities in modern applications.


In modern IT infrastructures, data stored in DB2 for i is often accessed and interpreted using web interfaces. In order to be successful, these interfaces need to be simple to use and still deliver exceptional value. For some applications, a necessary step in making this a reality is searching and ordering unstructured text data that is stored in a database column, using user-provided search terms. This article presents a sample human resources web service that needs text search capabilities and explains how to implement text searches using embedded SQL within an RPG procedure.


Full text search using DB2 for i requires that OmniFind Text Search Server for DB2 for i (5733-OMF) be installed. Although the OmniFind product is provided at no additional charge, it's not shipped as part of the base operating system and must be ordered separately (product 5733-OMF). OmniFind Text Search Server for DB2 for i is available starting with DB2 for i 6.1. Additionally, the capabilities of the product have been significantly enhanced in the V1R2 release available for DB2 for i 7.1.


Figure 1 illustrates an example SQL schema; a human resource department might use this schema to recruit prospective new employees. For simplicity, this model assumes that each applicant has a name and resume, and applies for exactly one position in the company. The resume column in the applicant table is a BLOB column that contains the applicants' resumes; the resumes are stored as unstructured text, using common formats such as Microsoft Word, PDF, OpenOffice, Rich Text Format (RTF), etc. The position table contains the title, department, and a unique job code for each position.



Figure 1: This is the RESUME_APP schema for a human resources application.


Using this model, it's straightforward to write an SQL query that returns all of the applicants that have applied for a specific position in the company. Listing 1 shows an SQL query that that could be utilized within a web service. The query returns applicants that have applied for a specific job (using the job's code). The result set contains columns for the applicant's name and a URL that might be used by the user of the service to retrieve the applicant's resume. This example assumes that the web service to retrieve the resume document already exists and that the URL for the service has the form where applicant_id is the applicant_id column's value from the applicant table.


SELECT AS "Applicant Name",
'' ||
               CAST(applicant.applicant_id AS VARCHAR(10)) AS "Resume URL"
FROM resume_app.applicant applicant
     resume_app.position job USING (position_id)
job.job_code = 'JB001'

Listing 1: The SQL query returns applicants for job 'JB001'.


Figure 2 shows a sample set of results for the query in Listing 1. It's easy to see that this SQL query is not going to provide results that will satisfy a user of the service. The query returns such a large number of applicants that it would be impossible to review all of the resumes. In addition, the alphabetical ordering of the results is not helpful in determining the best candidates for the position.

Figure 2: The results from SQL query in Listing 1 are not specific enough to be helpful.


The query would be much more usable if it included the capability to return only the rows with resumes that matched some keywords that are supplied by the user of the service. A query that ordered the resulting rows by relevance to the keywords would be even more powerful.


Searching the unstructured text contained within the resume documents and ordering the results requires some advanced capabilities. To understand why, consider a search for variations of the phrase "Agile Methodology." A typical user would expect both of the documents shown in Figure 3 to match this search. Matching these documents is non-trivial; the resume on the left (for an applicant named Frances Allen) is a PDF and contains only a variation on the word Methodology (Methodologies). The document on the right (for an applicant named Edgar Codd) is a Microsoft Word document and uses a very different document layout for similar information.



Figure 3: Both documents contain the keywords "Agile" and "Methodology."


This is where the OmniFind Text Search Server for DB2 for i product shines. OmniFind implements the SQL built-in CONTAINS and SCORE functions for searching these documents and ordering the results by relevance.


In order to use the CONTAINS and SCORE functions to perform searches and orderings, a text search index must first be created and updated. This setup can be performed using IBM i Navigator, or in SQL, using the SYSTS_CREATE and SYSTS_UPDATE stored procedures. Due to the performance considerations of the indexing process, text search indexes are not immediately maintained; however, a text index can be either explicitly updated or scheduled to automatically update on a regular basis. IBM STG Lab Services has published a white paper that discusses the necessary steps for creating and configuring a text index.


For this example, a text search index was created over the resume column, and an update was performed using the SQL statements shown in Listing 2. When the index was created, the FORMAT INSO option was used to indicate to OmniFind that the column contains "rich text" documents such as Microsoft Word, RTF, PDF, OpenOffice, etc. The update process will then automatically extract the text from the documents for indexing.


                         'FORMAT INSO');

', '');

Listing 2: These SQL procedure calls create and update a text search index.


Once the index has been created and updated, the SQL CONTAINS function can be used to search the documents for keywords. The CONTAINS function returns a value of 1 if the document matches the keyword or a 0 if it does not.


While the CONTAINS function indicates whether a document matches a search phrase, the SCORE function can be used to determine how well a document matches the search phrase, in comparison to other documents in the index. The value returned will be between 0 and 1, where 0 is not at all relevant and 1 is extremely relevant. The actual result of the SCORE function is usually used only for ordering search results by relevance; the score value is not meaningful by itself.


Listing 3 shows how the SQL query in Listing 1 can be modified to incorporate the CONTAINS and SCORE functions.


SELECT                               AS "Applicant Name",
SCORE(applicant.resume, 'Agile Methodology') AS "Score value",
'' ||
   CAST(applicant.applicant_id AS VARCHAR(10)) AS "Resume URL"
FROM resume_app.applicant applicant
     INNER JOIN resume_app.position job USING (position_id)
WHERE job.job_code = 'JB001' AND
     CONTAINS(applicant.resume, 'Agile Methodology') = 1
ORDER BY SCORE(applicant.resume, 'Agile Methodology') DESC;

Listing 3: This SQL query uses CONTAINS and SCORE to filter and order the results.


Figure 4 shows the results of the query that was shown in Listing 3. In comparison to Figure 2, the result set includes only the relevant rows, and the most relevant rows appear first in the result set.



Figure 4: Listing 3 delivers these results.


Embedding the query in Listing 3 into a CGI program that exports the results shown in Figure 4 as HTML is a straightforward task. Listing 4 illustrates an RPG procedure that could be used as part of a CGI program. The procedure takes two parameters as input: a job code and search string. The procedure in Listing 4 runs an SQL query and returns the results as a string containing HTML code. In the result string, each row from the result set becomes a row in an HTML table. For simplicity, the example ignores some trivial tasks, such as escaping characters with special meanings for HTML (such as '<') in the output string.


The most interesting bit of code in Listing 4 is the APPLICANTS_CSR cursor, which is defined in a similar way as the query shown in Listing 3. Using static SQL improves performance by preparing the query at precompile time. In addition, the use of host variables reduces the risk of problems due to malevolent user-provided search phrases. Unlike the query in Figure 3, the score value is used only for ordering and does not appear in the result set; this is because the exact score value is not meaningful to the user of the service.


     *Implementation of a Function to do a search
     P doSearch       B
     D                 PI         16000A   varying
     D SqlJobCode                   5A   const
     D SqlSearchStr               255A   varying const

     D ApplicantNM     S           200A   varying
     D URLForResume   S           4096A   varying

     D resultStr       S         16000A   varying

     * CRLF is a newline character
     D CRLF           C                   x'0d25'

       // These DECLARE statements tell SQL what the ccsid of the
       // input or output character variables will be.

       // define the cursor that is used to retrieve the results
                   '' ||
                   CAST(applicant.applicant_id AS VARCHAR(10)) AS url
           FROM   resume_app.applicant applicant
                   INNER JOIN resume_app.position job USING (position_id)
           WHERE job.job_code = :SqlJobCode AND
                   CONTAINS(applicant.resume, :SqlSearchStr) = 1
           ORDER BY SCORE(applicant.resume, :SqlSearchStr) DESC;

       // open cursor

       // Initialize result with an HTML table tag and headers
       resultStr =
       '<b> Job Code: </b><I>' + SqlJobCode + '</I><BR/>' + CRLF +
       '<b> Search Phrase: </b><I> ' + SqlSearchStr + '</I><HR>' + CRLF +
       '<table border=1>' + CRLF +
       '<tr><td><b>Applicant Name</b></td>' +
       '<td><b>Resume URL </b></td></tr>' + CRLF;

       // fetch first row

       // Loop over each row that is retrieved from the cursor until no
       // more rows.
       // For each row, build a string with HTML code for the table's row
       DOW SQLCOD = 0;

         resultStr = resultStr +
                     '<tr>' + CRLF +
                     ' <td>' + ApplicantNM + ' </td> ' + CRLF +
                     ' <td><a href="' + URLForResume   +
                     '"> Resume </a></td>' + CRLF +
                     '</tr>' + CRLF;

         // fetch next row
             :ApplicantNM, :URLForResume;


       // close cursor

       // close HTML table tag
       resultStr = resultStr + '</table>' + CRLF;

       // return results
       return resultStr;

     P                E          


Listing 4: RPG procedure to perform search and return the results as an HTML table


Figure 5 shows how the HTML string that is returned by the procedure in Listing 4 might appear in a web browser.

Figure 5: Here's the web-browser view of the result from the RPG procedure.


An important idea is that the CONTAINS and SCORE functions are understood by the DB2 for i optimizer; thus, the optimizer knows how to optimize the SQL query with them in mind.


Figure 6 shows a "visual explain" for the SQL query that ran within the RPG function shown in Listing 4. In this query, the DB2 for i optimizer was able to combine the CONTAINS and SCORE function calls into a single SCORE call and was further able to rewrite the query so that the function call was implemented as a table function. In this example, the optimizer has determined that the join between the applicant table and the table function is faster than a scalar function call for each row in the applicant table. The ability of the optimizer to optimize an SQL query that involves a full text search is a strong motivation to use the built-in CONTAINS and SCORE functions, rather than external solutions for which the optimizer has no awareness.



Figure 6: Visual explain shows how the CONTAINS and SCORE functions have been optimized.


This article has shown why text search capabilities can be an advantage and how these capabilities can be integrated into an application by using DB2 for i and OmniFind Text Search Server for DB2 for i. The OmniFind Text Search server product provides an efficient way to index and search text data in a database column, even when that data is stored in rich text documents such as Microsoft Word or PDF.


It's also worthwhile to look at the OmniFind documentation in the Information Center.


You'll also benefit from looking into the new functionality that was added to OmniFind Text Search Server for DB2 for i 7.1. OmniFind V1R2 and DB2 for i 7.1 add extensive capabilities for searching XML data. In addition, there are new capabilities to index Integrated File System (IFS) stream files (also called UNIX or PC files), members of source physical files, and spooled files. The following links are for articles that provide more details on these topics:




Customers interested in the latest and greatest enhancements for OmniFind may find the resources on DeveloperWorks interesting.


Nicholas Lawrence

Nick Lawrence is an IBM Advisory Software Engineer working on DB2 for i in Rochester, Minnesota. His responsibilities include enhancements for full text search, SQL, and SQL/XML. You can reach Nick at





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    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.