Universal Database DB2: The Sequel

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A couple of years ago, the relational database of the AS/400 had no name. Then, IBM referred to it as DB2/400. As of OS/400 V4R4, however, IBM has christened the relational-database-with-no-name as Universal Database (UDB). Find out the history of UDB and what new features will be coming with this new, improved database.

The AS/400’s integrated database in V4R4 has been renamed DB2 Universal Database (DB2 UDB). However, we AS/400 advocates know that DB2/400 by any other name would smell as sweet. So why the new name? Isn’t UDB just the same old DB2? UDB is the same database we have come to know and love but with a number of powerful new features. (These features won’t come immediately with V4R4, though; they will not be available until the third quarter of 1999.) DB2 UDB has become IBM’s cross-platform relational database (RDB). For us, this is a significant point because our good old DB2 is now on multiple hardware and software platforms, including Intel/Windows NT/98, Intel/OS/2, PowerPC/AIX, SPARC/Solaris, and HPPA/HPUX. With the increased interest in multiplatform Internet applications, our knowledge of DB2, and hence UDB, is becoming very marketable.

Get with the SQL Program

If you’re not an SQL proponent, stop reading, because all the enhancements to DB2/400 that come with its new name are available from SQL. But before you sign off, give me a moment to sell you on SQL. SQL is the true cross-platform language; DB2/400 is one of the few RDBs that allows you to create, read, update, delete, and otherwise maintain your data outside of SQL. Speed comparisons of record-level versus SQL access aside, SQL is the best way to describe your data, the best way to perform set-based processing, and the best way to perform ad hoc updates and retrievals. (And many SQL champions will argue the record-level access issue with you although they are experts in query optimization). When RDBs were first invented, the intended method for manipulating data was always relational algebra. Now, you can quit reading—that is, if you want to ignore the power and ubiquitousness of SQL.

A History Lesson

UDB was not developed recently; it has been on many IBM platforms for several years now. When UDB first became available, however, it was not called a universal

database but rather an object-relational database (ORDB). A half-dozen years ago, vendors of RDB systems (such as Oracle, IBM, and Computer Associcates) came out with ORDBs to compete with a new class of database systems—object-oriented databases (OODB). OODBs came into vogue with the advent of object-oriented programming languages, initially with the success of C++ but more recently with Java. These OO languages dealt with objects, which, conceptually, are data structures tightly coupled with the functions that manipulate the data of those structures. RDBs are also structures of data that can be mapped to OO languages. The problem, however, was that RDBs did not have the facilities to handle the nontraditional data types that modern applications required, such as images, movie clips, graphics, spreadsheets, and also lengthy character-based documents such as legal records or international shipping specifications.

I worked with an OODB for almost two years, and even though I am an OO champion, I was not an OODB advocate. OODBs had problems. They reflected a completely new technology filled with unforeseen glitches. But the biggest problem I had was that OODBs had no query facilities. There was no way to verify database update code without writing more code, and then who’s to say that the verification code was correct? Also, several years ago, there was no way to create ad hoc reports with OODBs. Today, even though OODBs are making query facilities available, they’re still kludgy. The point is, when I’m developing business applications using C++, Java, RPG, or some other programming language, I want my RDB.

Regardless of what I thought, OODBs were gaining in popularity, and to compete, RDB vendors developed what were initially called ORDBs, which provided BLOBs (binary large objects) and CLOBs (character large objects) to support the nontraditional data as well as user-defined data types and user-defined SQL functions. But ORDBs aren’t really object-oriented; they don’t have inheritance or polymorphism capabilities—hence, in my opinion, the change in name from object-relational database to universal database.

Today’s applications need controlled storage for large pieces of data. Just look at the C drive on your PC, and you’ll see a variety of data types, including spreadsheets, images, and documents. Now, associate these data types with applications. Consider a real estate application, for example, which might require the controlled storage of graphical images of homes along with spreadsheet analyses of cost estimates. In this same package, a mortgage application might have lengthy, character-based legal documents as well as signatures that are not quite as long but, being binary, are nontraditional. Current applications also need data types that are strongly typed. For instance, a data type called Money might be a fixed-point, two-decimal, 10-digit field. The Money data type would have type-safety because you can’t add an integer value of U.S. Postal Service code (ZIP code) to it. Applications today also need reusable functions that are more tightly coupled with data than with traditional application functions. UDB gives us these capabilities so we don’t have to resort to OODBs (and OO languages) to create modern applications.

Universal Appeal

IBM says its latest RDBs are universal because they have universal access, application support, extensibility, scalability, reliability, and management. They have universal access because UDB is accessible from a wide variety of protocols (see Figure
1). They have universal application support with Domino, Java, Net.Data, and legacy languages. They are universally extensible with their BLOBs, CLOBs, user-defined data types and functions, and datalinks (yet another strategy for supporting nontraditional data that I’ll get into later). These RBDs are universally scalable because of the symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) and very large database (VLDB) capabilities of IBM platforms (the AS/400, for instance, supports up to 128 terabytes of disk storage for data warehousing). They are universally reliable because of IBM’s history of stable platforms (the AS/400 is known for its 99.9 percent availability rate). They have universal management because UDB can be configured and maintained with a graphical interface that is the same regardless of the UDB platform.

The BLOB Meets Rochester

Going back to my real estate example, see Figure 2 for the SQL syntax required to create a file (table in SQL parlance) called House. It’s pretty much the same old SQL create- table syntax but for the BLOBs and CLOBs. The HouseImage field is defined as a 2-MB BLOB. The Contract field is a 1-MB CLOB. The Signature field is another BLOB field that proves John Doe did, in fact, sign the contract. But what about that SalesPerson field, with its Datalink datatype? Often, your LOBs may not reside on the same machine as your UDB, or you simply don’t want LOBs stored in your RDB. In UDB, the datalink data type allows you to specify the URL that refers to a LOB on your local or a remote machine. This allows you to keep LOBs in the Integrated File System (IFS), which is optimized for byte-stream nontraditional data-like images. The SalesPerson field can store a URL that points to the location of LOB data on some platform connected via the Internet.

User-defined Data Types

The House file does not contain a field for the sale price. Perhaps I should have created a field with the SQL data type of Decimal with the following:

SalePrice Decimal(10,2)

But remember that I talked about a Money data type, so why don’t I go ahead and create this new data type with the following SQL statement:


Now, I have a new data type called Money. The Decimal data type declaration that follows the AS clause is the source type; it must be one of SQL’s built-in data types. The WITH COMPARISONS clause serves as a reminder that instances of the new distinct type can be compared with each other using six comparison operators: =, <, <=, >, >=, and <>. This clause allows comparisons between fields of the same distinct type. Because they can be compared, so too can they be used by the SELECT statement’s ORDER BY, GROUP BY, and DISTINCT clauses.

The problem with user-defined data types is that the type-safety is so strong that you can’t easily perform mathematical operations on dissimilar data types. To add a standard decimal data type field to a type of field such as my new Money data type, for instance, you would need to use a technique known as casting. For example, suppose I want to increase all salaries by 5 percent. If the Salary field is of my Money type, I would have to use the following SQL statement:

UPDATE Employee SET Salary = Money(decimal(Salary) * 1.05);

The function called decimal casts the value of the Salary field to be of the decimal data type so it can be multiplied by one and five hundredths. The Money function takes the result of that calculation (a decimal value) and converts it to the Money data type. These two functions—the decimal function that converts a Money parameter to a decimal and the Money function that converts a decimal parameter into a Money value—were automatically generated when I created the distinct data type Money. You would think that these function calls increase processing, but in practice, they process very efficiently because, after all, the Money date type really is a decimal.

User-defined Functions

You might expect to be able to add two values typed as my new Money data type by taking the following approach:

SELECT “Total price: “, StickerPrice + RustProofing

WHERE Make = ‘HONDA’ AND Model = ‘CIVIC’ and YEAR = ‘1997’;

Not so, however. You need to think of the plus (+) operator as a function, the add function. When you want to add two integers together, SQL already has an add function to do that, but when you want to add two values of a user-defined data type, you need to create an add function. Thankfully, the process is pretty easy:

CREATE FUNCTION “+”(Money, Money)

SOURCE “+”(Decimal(), Decimal());

The SOURCE clause says to convert each Money parameter to a decimal value and to use the built-in decimal data type’s plus function to perform the addition operation. Optionally, I could have created a function called add:

CREATE FUNCTION add (Money, Money)

SOURCE “+”(Decimal(), Decimal());

But then the SELECT statement above would have to say add (StickerPrice, RustProofing). The use of the plus operator is more intuitive.

If you want to be able to multiply a Money value by an integer, you have to create a multiplication function:

CREATE FUNCTION “*”(Money, Integer)

SOURCE “*”(Decimal(), Integer);

And if you further want to perform aggregate functions, such as averaging, you have to explicitly define such functions:


SOURCE avg (Decimal());

So far, all the functions I have created turn around and ask SQL built-in functions to do the dirty work, but you can also program these functions yourself with your favorite high-level language (HLL). You may want to create functions that define behaviors that are significant to the distinct data type. For performance, you might want to create functions that execute some sort of predicate processing to decrease the resulting set before transferring the data to the client:

CREATE FUNCTION orderSelect (Money, Varchar(30))

RETURNS TABLE (orderNum Integer, customerNum Integer, total Money)



Cross-platform Databases, Applications, and Programmers

A couple of years ago, the AS/400 was considered a has-been. Now, the AS/400 has been reborn as a RISC-based, 64-bit, reliable, and secure operation system and an RDB that is standard across a wide variety of platforms and operating systems. Thanks to this rebirth, our applications and careers seem to have a bright future. DB2 UDB also gives us the vehicle to transport our applications, databases, and careers to other platforms. The only potential caveat is that we’ll have to use SQL to get there—a small asking price for the cost of admission.

ODBC Microsoft Windows Database Access Standard OLE DB Microsoft Windows Information Access Standard ADO Microsoft Windows Information Access Classes JDBC Java-based Database Connectivity
SQLJ Java-based Embedded SQL
SQL Standard SQL
DRDA X/Open Distributed Database Standard
CLI X/Open Database Access Standard
DAL Apple's RDB Standard APIs
Net.Data Internet Data Access

Figure 1: UDB has what IBM considers universal access with support for a wide variety of protocols.

Create Table House (

ContractNo Integer,

LastName Char ( 25 ),

FirstName Char ( 15 ),

MiddleInit Char ( 15 ),

HouseImage BLOB ( 2M ),

Contract CLOB ( 1M )

Signature BLOB ( 1M )

SalesPerson Datalink( 50)

Figure 2: The SQL syntax to create a table that contains character and binary large objects is simple.

Don Denoncourt

Don Denoncourt is a freelance consultant. He can be reached at

MC Press books written by Don Denoncourt available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Java Application Strategies for iSeries and AS/400 Java Application Strategies for iSeries and AS/400
Explore the realities of using Java to develop real-world OS/400 applications.
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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.



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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.