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TechTip: DB2 for i Optimization Strategies, Part 5

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Learn how to take an ax to common suboptimal SQL programming practices.

This series is almost done, yet there are so many illustrations of potential code improvements to offer to the DB2 for i development community. This tip discusses possible performance improvements when replacing legacy cursors with set operations and when using temporary tables. See the references at the end of this tip for links to prior tips in this series.

 

Avoid Unnecessary Cursors

A cursor is a control structure that allows database code to process a result set in a row-by-row fashion. However, database engines including DB2 are optimized to process data in sets rather than row by row. In most cases, processing data row by row with SQL should be avoided.

 

In the early years of DB2 for i SQL, there were many operations that required row-by-row processing, However, as the language improved with new features, the need to use cursors to accomplish a task diminished greatly.

 

To illustrate, consider a temporary table that stores a schedule of important events:

 

DECLARE GLOBAL TEMPORARY TABLE EVENT_SCHEDULE (

EVENT_ID INT,

EVENT_STAMP TIMESTAMP NOT NULL,

EVENT_DUR INT,

EVENT_DESC VARCHAR(50),

EVENT_INFO VARCHAR(2048))

WITH REPLACE

;

 

For the sake of example, say a stored procedure is required to populate this temporary table with this information. Thereafter, the EVENT_ID column should be assigned as a sequential number based on the sorting of the EVENT_STAMP column. Further, it is required that the EVENT_ID is reset to one when a new year is encountered. Here’s a procedure that does this work:

 

DECLARE @ROW_ID INT NOT NULL DEFAULT 0;

DECLARE @END_OF_DATA CHAR(1) DEFAULT 'N';

DECLARE @PRV_YEAR INT NOT NULL DEFAULT 0;

DECLARE @EVENT_ID INT;

DECLARE @EVENT_STAMP TIMESTAMP;

 

DECLARE TEMP CURSOR FOR

SELECT EVENT_ID,EVENT_STAMP

FROM SESSION.EVENT_SCHEDULE

ORDER BY EVENT_STAMP

FOR UPDATE OF EVENT_ID

;

DECLARE CONTINUE HANDLER FOR NOT FOUND

   SET @END_OF_DATA='Y';

 

-- Populate data in temporary table

INSERT INTO SESSION.EVENT_SCHEDULE

SELECT 0 AS EVENT_ID,

       SHOW_TIME,

       SHOW_DUR,

       SHOW_DESC,

       SHOW_INFO

FROM SHOW_SCHEDULE

WHERE CATEGORY='FAMILY'

ORDER BY SHOW_TIME;

 

-- Assign a sequential event id to each row

OPEN TEMP;

FETCH TEMP INTO @EVENT_ID,@EVENT_STAMP;

WHILE @END_OF_DATA='N' DO

   IF YEAR(@EVENT_STAMP)<>@PRV_YEAR THEN

       SET @PRV_YEAR=YEAR(@EVENT_STAMP);

       SET @ROW_ID=0;

   END IF;

   SET @ROW_ID=@ROW_ID+1;

 

   UPDATE SESSION.EVENT_SCHEDULE

       SET EVENT_ID=@ROW_ID>

     WHERE CURRENT OF TEMP;

EVENT_ID=@ROW_ID</span">

 

   FETCH TEMP INTO @EVENT_ID,@EVENT_STAMP;

END WHILE;

CLOSE TEMP;

 

The cursor in the example does nothing except read the temporary table and assign a sequential number to the EVENT_ID column, with the EVENT_ID being reset with each new calendar year encountered. However, since V5R4, there has been an easy way to accomplish this same task without a cursor by using the ROW_NUMBER function:

 

INSERT INTO SESSION.EVENT_SCHEDULE

SELECT ROW_NUMBER()

       OVER(PARTITION BY YEAR(SHOW_TIME)

           ORDER BY SHOW_TIME) AS EVENT_ID,

       SHOW_TIME,

       SHOW_DUR,

       SHOW_DESC,

       SHOW_INFO

FROM SHOW_SCHEDULE

WHERE CATEGORY='FAMILY'

ORDER BY SHOW_TIME;

 

Here, the ROW_NUMBER function does the same work that the cursor loop accomplished: It provides a sequential row number for the EVENT_ID column. The PARTITION BY causes the numbering sequence to be reset at the start of each new year. All of the work is done with the INSERT statement, and the looping logic and single row updates associated with the cursor are eliminated.

 

There are still some cases where a cursor is useful, such as calling a stored procedure for each row in a result set or bringing data into a COBOL program for legacy report generation. However, it’s still a good practice to review legacy cursor code to see if there are cursors that are eligible to be refactored as a set operation.

 

 

Incidentally, in IBM i 7.3, there are several new OLAP functions and features that allow developers to do marvelous things, such as create running total columns, calculate averages or percentages on a subset of rows within the result set, and look back or peek ahead to other row values within the result set. All of these features greatly reduce the number of circumstances where cursor logic is required.

 

Keep Temporary Tables Small and Filter, Filter, Filter

One important principle of using temporary tables is to keep their content to a minimum both in terms of row count (filtering) and row width. Row width refers to the average number of bytes it takes to store the data for a single row, and this factor depends on the number of columns and selected data types in the table definition,

 

What developers often forget is that the temporary table is supposed to give DB2 a break by giving it a small scratchpad to work with. However, if a developer builds a huge temporary table, this work area for DB2 is going to hog plenty of resources and offset any performance benefit that might be had by using it rather than directly accessing the application’s tables.

 

Let me illustrate one way that I see this principal ignored. In many reporting scenarios, a stored procedure is written to do complex data gathering and calculations for a report. The generic code flow is as follows:

  1. Query application tables and insert required data into temporary table.

  2. Perform complex operations on temporary table and update it with results.

  3. Return results to caller (based primarily on the temporary table’s content) for report rendering.

 

Say you’re tasked with writing an ugly report that tries to calculate the profit on items sold. For purchased items, there’s logic that attempts to correlate a sales order line amount with an averaged purchase order cost (or perhaps a more complicated calculation such as a FIFO cost). For manufactured items, there’s logic that attempts to correlate the sales order line amount with the cost of the work order(s) that built the item(s). In the end, the cost is deducted from the sales amount to determine the profit.

 

The first step in this process is to gather the data into a temporary table similar to the statement shown below:

 

DECLARE GLOBAL TEMPORARY TABLE SalesData

AS (

SELECT sod.SalesOrderId,sod.SalesOrderDetailId,sod.CarrierTrackingNumber,

       sod.OrderQty,sod.ProductId,sod.UnitPrice,

       soh.PurchaseOrderNumber,soh.AccountNumber,soh.CustomerId,

       soh.SalesPersonId,soh.TerritoryId,

       st.Name AS StoreName,

       t.Name AS TerritoryName,t.Group AS TerritoryGroup,

       p.Name As ProductName,p.ProductNumber,p.ListPrice,p.Color,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS NumberWorkOrders,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS NumberScrapItems,

       CAST(NULL AS DEC(19,4)) AS ScrapCost,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS LaborHours,

       CAST(NULL AS DEC(19,4)) AS AvgLaborCost,

       CAST(NULL AS DEC(19,4)) AS AvgMaterialCost,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS FirstWorkOrderId,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS LastWorkOrderId,

       CAST(NULL AS TIMESTAMP) AS FirstWorkOrderStartDate,

       CAST(NULL AS TIMESTAMP) AS LastWorkOrderStartDate,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS NoDaysToBuild,

       CAST(NULL AS DEC(38,4)) AS AvgPOCost,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS FirstPurchaseOrderId,

       CAST(NULL AS INT) AS LastPurchaseOrderId,

       CAST(NULL AS DATE) AS FirstPurchaseOrderDate,

       CAST(NULL AS DATE) AS LastPurchaseOrderDate

FROM SalesOrderDetail sod

JOIN SalesOrderHeader soh ON soh.SalesOrderId=sod.SalesOrderId

JOIN SalesTerritory t ON t.TerritoryId=soh.TerritoryId

JOIN Customer c ON c.CustomerId=soh.CustomerId

JOIN Store st ON st.BusinessEntityId=c.StoreId

JOIN Product p ON p.ProductId=sod.ProductId

WHERE soh.OrderDate BETWEEN '2005-01-01' AND '2008-12-31'

)

WITH DATA

WITH REPLACE

 

The columns in green (initialized with NULLs) represent storage for the calculations that need to be made and populated in the table. Next, consider the columns highlighted with red. This is the mistake that I often see: Temporary tables are asked to store too much data at the first step in the process. The columns in red are either not used in the report (SalesOrderDetailId) or are prematurely collected at this step.

 

Why do I say “prematurely”? Because the hypothetical stored procedure will have to process this table many times while doing the purchase order cost or manufacturing cost calculations. These extra columns add to the row width and therefore require disk and memory to store and process. If there are tens or hundreds of thousands of rows in the temporary table, that equates to more disk I/Os, a larger memory requirement to process the data, and more CPU time to process all of the rows in the table.

 

To improve efficiency, do not store columns like names and descriptions in your temporary tables unless the tables will be relatively small or the data is required for immediate use. In the above scenario, I wouldn’t retrieve the columns in red until the final step of the procedure that returns the result set to the caller.

 

One other item to consider about row width is that appropriately sized data types can help as well. Consider these column definitions:

 

CAST(NULL AS TIMESTAMP) AS FirstWorkOrderStartDate,

CAST(NULL AS TIMESTAMP) AS LastWorkOrderStartDate,

CAST(NULL AS INT) AS NoDaysToBuild,

CAST(NULL AS DEC(38,4)) AS AvgPOCost,

 

The developer may have picked these data types because they matched what was in the base table. However, many potential improvements can be made, such as changing a TIMESTAMP to a DATE (assuming the time portion isn’t required for the final report) and changing the “average PO cost” and “number of days to build” to reasonable sizes:

 

CAST(NULL AS DATE) AS FirstWorkOrderStartDate,

CAST(NULL AS DATE) AS LastWorkOrderStartDate,

CAST(NULL AS SMALLINT) AS NoDaysToBuild,

CAST(NULL AS DEC(13,4)) AS AvgPOCost,

 

By my calculation, the illustrated change in data types will save somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 bytes/row. I’ll discuss the importance of choosing appropriate data types in more detail in a future tip. For now, just note that reducing the number of bytes per row can allow the database engine to cram more rows on a single disk page, which also translates to lower memory and I/O usage when processing the table. For a table with a large number of columns and rows, this data type optimization can yield large benefits.

 

At election time, the joke “vote early, vote often” is often repeated. I have a similar phrase for SQL coding: “filter early, filter often,” which means filter as much data as possible as early as possible within the code.

 

Another suboptimal programming technique I see with temporary table usage is the removal of data from it, just after DB2 took the time to collect it and insert it! After an INSERT is done into a temporary table, sometimes I’ll see statements like this immediately following:

 

-- Remove misc items from temporary table

DELETE FROM session.SalesData s

WHERE EXISTS (

SELECT *

   FROM Product p

   WHERE p.ProductId=s.ProductId

     AND p.ProductType='M' -- Misc Item

)

 

This is a somewhat trivial example, but it does occur in production programs. The INSERT statement itself should filter out these rows! Besides making DB2 insert and then delete data, it can make processing less efficient if enough rows are deleted.

 

Recall that the database engine stores row data in “pages” on disk. If these disk pages are full, DB2 is going to be more efficient because each page read will give DB2 a maximal amount of row data to process. If, for the sake of argument, 20 percent of the rows are removed from the temporary table with a DELETE statement, when DB2 reads the table, for each page of data read from disk, DB2 is going to get only 80 percent of the rows that it could have retrieved had the disk page been completely full with row data. Again, this scenario isn’t too much of a concern if the data in the table is relatively small.

 

I would only consider the use of a separate DELETE statement if:

  • the criteria were so convoluted that it would make the INSERT statement very difficult to understand

  • it would hinder DB2 from creating an efficient access plan for the INSERT statement.

 

Allow DB2 to Do Easy Lifting

If your boss asks you to move a load of bricks from his car to the office basement (while still doing your normal work), would you hope for a big pile or a small pile? Obviously, if it’s a large pile, it’s gonna take a while and potentially delay completion of your other essential tasks. Likewise with DB2, the fewer pages (aka bricks) of data it has to process, the faster it can get the job done and serve other requests.

 

Avoiding cursor usage and optimizing temporary table usage are two good ways of giving DB2 for i “less to lift” in order to get its job done.

 

References

DB2 for i Optimization Strategies, Part 1

DB2 for i Optimization Strategies, Part 2

DB2 for i Optimization Strategies, Part 3

DB2 for i Optimization Strategies, Part 4

 

Michael Sansoterra is a DBA for Broadway Systems in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He can be contacted at sqlsleuth@gmail.com.


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  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have 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. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn 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

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    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.

     

     

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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.