Tue, Jun
2 New Articles

TechTip: The Need to Modernize IBM i Databases: Why and How?

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times
You can modernize IBM i databases without "breaking" what already works.


When speaking about the modernization of the IBM i, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the modernization of the user interface, since it's the visible part of the application. Although it's clear that the benefits of revamping the green-screen user interface are considerable, it's important to remember that the user interface is only a means to access and update the database. The database holds the information, which is the most important asset of any organization.


Upon examining the majority of the IBM i databases, one is compelled to admit that the need to modernize the database is as important as, if not more important than, the user interface.



Figure 1: A reply of "no" to one or more of the questions above indicates that your database is a good candidate for modernization.

Why IBM i Databases Are Not Modern

This is not to say that DB2 for i itself is not modern. On the contrary, it's one of the most feature-rich, efficient, and modern relational databases in the world! The problem is that all this amazing technology and power is severely underused. A good analogy would be purchasing a fabulous 450 horsepower automobile only to drive it at no more than 10 miles per hour!


This is due to the fact that the database on IBM i is embedded into the OS, which automatically administers the database, making it unnecessary to have a dedicated DBA, unlike other database systems. This is certainly an advantage, but it has resulted in the fact that insufficient attention and human resources have been invested to benefit from the continual technological and methodological advancements that have occurred during the exceptional longevity of the database. This situation is perhaps manageable when a database has just a few tables, but it represents a huge risk for the organization when the database expands to contain thousands of tables and tens of thousands of columns in the course of its enduring and amazing life span.


Database Modernization Benefits

Modernizing the database provides many substantial benefits in terms of speed, functionality, and reliability, which are essential for the development of modern applications and the enhancement of existing ones. The challenge is how to overcome the "if it isn't broken, don't mess with it" syndrome. The IBM-developed "LF Surrogate" methodology described below allows re-engineering from DDS to SQL without needing to modify or even recompile the existing applications. This allows you to benefit from the continual DB2 for i enhancements available only on SQL, as well as to add automatically maintained identity columns, record alteration time stamps, and use long descriptive names for columns and tables.


The IBM LF Surrogate Methodology

The methodology developed by IBM consists of replacing a physical file (PF) with an SQL table plus a logical file called the LF Surrogate and transforming the existing logical files. When this is executed properly, your applications will continue working without requiring any modification but will use the new SQL-defined tables to read and write the database.



Figure 2: This figure shows the difference between the old way and the transformed, modernized way.


  • Characteristics of the LF Surrogate: Same system name, columns, explicit key words, access path, format level identifier as the original PF, except that it now points to the new SQL table.
  • Characteristics of the Transformed Logical File(s): Same system name, columns, explicit keywords, access path, format level identifier as the original logical file, except that it now points to the new SQL table(s).
  • Characteristics of the SQL Table: Same columns, ownership, grants, journaling, compilation parameters as the original PF. Columns have long names, identity and auditing columns are added, and indexes are defined from the keys of the original PF and associated LF. After checking that the data in the original PF is valid, it's copied into the SQL table.

By using metadata and various APIs available from the OS, it's possible to create those objects manually. You should be aware that this process is labor-intensive and error-prone, and it requires a high level of expertise. In the Modernization Redbook, IBM recommends using automated tools to perform this task.


The Diagnostic Utility

The Xcase Diagnostic Utility is a free download that will examine your database and provide a report of the readiness of your database for modernization. It will simulate performing a database modernization using the IBM LF Surrogate approach and will identify and report any issues.


Beyond DDS to SQL Modernization

Reengineering from DDS to SQL is a big step toward a modern database, but many additional benefits can be obtained by discovering and implementing the relationships that are only implicit in most IBM i databases. To find out more, click here.

Elie Muyal

Elie Muyal is the CEO of Resolution Software, which has specialized in database modeling and modernization solutions for over 25 years. Elie is an Industrial Engineer who holds an M.Sc in Operations Research from Stanford University. You may reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 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. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) 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:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. 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:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot 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:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic 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.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: