Journal Management on the AS/400

IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS)
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Think of journal management as a tape recording of everything that happens to your data. These moment-by-moment changes to the database, whether by one user or by twenty, represent an almost bullet-proof audit trail. With journal management, you can actually rewind this tape to any particular point in time and replay the transactions, one by one. Even if the database file itself is lost, the journal management process can actually re-create the file's contents from the recorded transactions. For this reason alone, journal management is often considered the premier recovery strategy for the AS/400: The database can be resurrected to any point in time from the journal entries.

Journaling is also commonly discussed in the context of commitment control. Commitment control is one journal function extension that allows you to define and process multiple database transactions as a single unit, providing an application the ability to synchronize complex transactions. For example, let's say a user enters a complex order in which customer information, billing information, order information, and order line information are entered and numerous files are updated. What if the user wants to back out an order? A significant amount of programming would be required to back out the multiple transactions and synchronize the database. Commitment control greatly simplifies this effort. It's the creme de la creme of journal management utility. Consequently, after you've become familiar with the larger topic of journal management, you'll probably want to learn more about commitment control. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the full functionality of journal management. In a subsequent article, I'll show you how to use journaling with a hands-on example of commitment control programming.

Why spend so much time with journal management?

It's surprising how few AS/400 shops actually implement journaling. Even shops with transaction-logging requirements frequently miss out on the capabilities of journaling. Sometimes these shops spend months writing custom code to perform a limited set of the same transaction auditing facilities that journal management provides free. If these same shops spent just a little bit of time looking at journaling, they could save their companies months of programming time.

I'll explain how journaling works and discuss all the various underlying capabilities that this feature of OS/400 enables. When I'm done, you ought to be able to revisit the topic of journal management with a better appreciation of how to make this powerful function work for you.

Journaling is a built-in OS/400 process. Anytime a user sends an instruction to change an object, OS/400 is watching. If you've set up journal management for the object, a notification is sent to a journal-a special kind of OS/400 object-and a journal entry is created. The journal entry is a picture of the event that OS/400 is monitoring. The entry is then written to a specifically designed, unalterable object called a journal receiver.

The journal receiver-the container into which OS/400 writes its journal entries-is a true audit trail: no one on the system can manually modify its contents, so there's never any question about its accuracy. You can, however, display the contents of the journal receiver anytime. Inside, you'll discover a surprising number of different types of entries, including a time stamp, a user ID, a job ID, and (if the journaled object is a database file) a picture of the actual record after it was changed. You can also configure the journal receiver to maintain a picture of the record before the record is changed.

Journal receivers are the keys to the functionality of journal management. Within a journal receiver, OS/400 can store the transaction logs of multiple database files that are intimately related-for instance, all A/R detail and master modifications. Displaying the journal receivers for these files would show you every action affecting these files: who, what, where, when, and how.

But more importantly-beyond merely showing-the journal receiver contains the actual transactions themselves, in a strict sequential order. These transactions are like recorded "keystrokes" in a compressed format that you can display but not alter. Most significantly, you can replay these key-strokes to re-create events when necessary.

Why would anyone want to record the moment-by-moment life of a database file? Who, besides an auditor, would really want to be a database voyeur?

Many basic, highly functional OS/400 features are facilitated by the capabilities of journaling. Some features use journaling in a very transparent manner-allowing OS/400 itself to manage the journaling process. Others-depending on Rochester's integration of journaling-require you to set up and maintain the journaling process. Here's a list of the functions facilitated by journaling.

Save While Active: The Save While Active function allows you to back up a database file even while your users are still pounding it to death with new transactions. Save While Active uses a journal receiver to capture all the keystrokes and commands sent to the file being saved. While those keystrokes are being captured, however, the actual database file is locked by the system and being saved into a Save File. When the system finishes the save, the journal receiver reattaches to the file, and the system applies the journal entries, updating the file.

SMAPP: The System Managed Access Path Protection function of V3R1 is also facilitated by journaling. SMAPP cuts down on how long it takes to IPL after an abnormal power down by automatically maintaining a journal receiver of the most highly volatile access paths. Instead of rebuilding all the access paths that were in transition when the lights went out, SMAPP plays back the transactions from a system-maintained journal receiver. This function can significantly cut IPL time and get your users back on the system quickly.

Backup and Recovery Strategies: Most often, journaling and journal management are the keystones of well-constructed backup and recovery strategies for critical data. Journal receivers are created for files that are critical to the organization's work flow and then are saved at specific intervals. When a catastrophe strikes-due to natural or man-made causes-you can count on the saved journal receivers to contain the accurate play-by-play recording of the most important data. At any time, you can apply the journal receivers to the most recent backup to make the company's database current. And, since you can maintain multiple journal receivers simultaneously in two separate auxiliary storage pools (ASPs), the potential for a hardware corruption of the data is substantially decreased.

Commitment Control: Journaling makes possible one of the AS/400's most powerful database orchestration tools: commitment control. Commitment control allows the programmer to modify records across multiple files-on multiple AS/400s-with the most complete control of any operating system of any midrange system. If the process of updating any individual record fails-because of hardware problems, a communications error, or just plain operator blunder-the programmer can halt the multifaceted transaction and actually "back out" the modifications to the affected files. Journaling facilitates this finely tuned and highly robust capability by acting as the auditor of each transaction. If the programmer doesn't like how a complicated set of transactions is progressing, journaling and commitment control allow him to change his mind midstream.

Setting up journal management involves three basic technical steps:

1. Using the Create Journal Receiver (CRT-JRNRCV) command to create the journal receiver object to hold the journal entries.

2. Using the Create Journal (CRTJRN) command to create the journal object that controls the journaling process to the journal receiver.

3. Using the Start Journal Physical File (STRJRNPF) command to identify the database files to be journaled.

Following these steps creates a process by which OS/400 updates files, as shown in 1. In this figure, two programs update physical files A and B through the journaling process. OS/400 sends the updated data first to the journal, which writes an entry to the journal receiver, and then back to the file. There are both good and bad implications to this structure.

Following these steps creates a process by which OS/400 updates files, as shown in Figure 1. In this figure, two programs update physical files A and B through the journaling process. OS/400 sends the updated data first to the journal, which writes an entry to the journal receiver, and then back to the file. There are both good and bad implications to this structure.

First, the good news: there's absolutely no physical way that a journaled file (such as File A in the figure) can be changed without writing an entry to the journal receiver. This includes any change by any program, even if that program is a PC program running through the network. The journal receiver can even contain an entry for every time a file is opened for update. This removes the need to continually maintain and track all the potential programs and utilities that access the files. It also means there's no opportunity for an incomplete update of the audit trail.

The bad news is exactly the same as the good news, however. If a journal receiver eats up all the DASD assigned to it, there's absolutely no way for any program to update the files that are being journaled. This means that journaling requires management, planning, and-when journal receivers become filled-operator intervention.

To cope with some of the inherent management requirements, V3R1 has now significantly enhanced OS/400's ability to automatically manage the journaling process. For instance, you can set the journal receiver to automatically inform OS/400 when a threshold of journal entries has been exceeded. OS/400 can then automatically detach the journal receiver and create a new one to hold the next group of entries. The process can remain transparent to the system operator, or you can configure it to send a message to the operator telling him to load a tape and save the filled journal receiver. These management enhancements allow journaling to become part of the regular work flow of the system operator.

Beyond the logistics of managing the journal receivers, programmers have larger questions to answer-most importantly, which files should be considered for journaling.

Generally, you can use the following criteria to identify files that are potential candidates for journaling:

o Files that receive a high volume of transactions between save operations.

o Files that would be difficult to reconstruct if lost.

o Files that are critical to the operation of the application, such as master files.

o Files with complicated or entrenched interrelationships, such as order entry/sales/accounts receivable/inventory relationships.

By the same token, you should analyze the situation carefully when considering journaling for the following:

o Files that use triggers or referential constraints. IBM wisely chose to alter the manner by which triggers and referential constraints function during the journal entry reapplication. You wouldn't want triggers automatically firing off during a recovery, nor would you want the recovery halted by referential constraint violations. IBM's implementations of these functions during journaling are still fully supported (indeed, journaling enhances their functionality), but there are some detailed differences in the steps by which they achieve their objectives. You may want to look at the IBM DB2/400 Redbook Database 2/400 Advanced Database Functions to bone up on the differences.

o Database source files. Programs like SEU, which replace the entire source member when an edit is completed, create journal entries for every record-even those that have not been modified. This activity could quickly push the journal receiver to its threshold or-if no threshold has been configured-consume all available DASD on the journal receiver's assigned ASP.

There are other management concerns as well:

o Should you journal objects that the system does not journal, such as a data queue or a data area? OS/400 doesn't provide a built-in means of writing journal entries for these unique OS/400 objects, but that doesn't mean they're not important. To accomplish this function, you'd have to write your own program to create the journal entry, and then use the journaling API to send that entry into the journal receiver.

o Should you use access path journaling? This could save you a lot of IPL time after an abnormal shutdown, but the downside is that you must also journal the associated physical files. Also, only those access paths related to keyed physical files can take advantage of journaling. (SMAPP, however, doesn't have the same constraints, and you might want to check it out as a specific feature.)

o How should files be assigned to journals? You could have one journal receiver handle all the journal entries for all of your files. Alternatively, you could create multiple journal receivers to spread the load for the entire system. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. A single journal is simple to maintain but could create a performance bottleneck. Look again at 1. The journal receiver gets updated before the database file. Now, imagine the performance hit your system would experience if all of your updates were passing through a single journal. On the other hand, the multiple journals for separate files could seriously complicate your recovery strategy, especially if two separate journals were logging out transactions for two separate-but intimately linked-database processes.

o How should files be assigned to journals? You could have one journal receiver handle all the journal entries for all of your files. Alternatively, you could create multiple journal receivers to spread the load for the entire system. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. A single journal is simple to maintain but could create a performance bottleneck. Look again at Figure 1. The journal receiver gets updated before the database file. Now, imagine the performance hit your system would experience if all of your updates were passing through a single journal. On the other hand, the multiple journals for separate files could seriously complicate your recovery strategy, especially if two separate journals were logging out transactions for two separate-but intimately linked-database processes.

o Should you journal before-images? You can take snapshots of a transaction both before and after the updating, but it doubles the DASD required.

o Should you use dual receivers? This option allows a journal to write the same journal entry to two synchronized journal receivers.The advantage is that you can shove one journal receiver onto one ASP and keep the other completely separate. If you lose a disk drive or if one of the journal receivers gets damaged, you have a second shot at recovering your data. The disadvantage is, simply, it doubles the DASD required.

o Should your journal receivers be in a user ASP? The journals themselves must reside in the same ASP as the database file, but the journal receivers can reside in a separate ASP. This can be both a performance and a safety advantage. By slipping the journal receiver into a nonlibrary ASP, the I/O associated with a record update is spread across multiple disk's arms, eliminating performance bottlenecks.

In a word, yes! AS/400 shops that don't use journal management are simply not using OS/400's unique architecture to its fullest. Journal management is essential for a well-rounded backup and recovery plan, and-at the very least-it's a significant change management tool for those who have the intelligence and wisdom to use it. It can increase system availability to your users by making certain every transaction is captured and recoverable. It can monitor the access to your system without making you write a single lick of code. But, most importantly, it's not some add-in conceived and implemented in a moment of security panic. It's a real, live, powerful, robust, systemwide implementation of a magnificent database function. And it comes to us free, compliments of OS/400. Thanks IBM! Here's one you really got right.

Thomas M. Stockwell is a senior technical editor for Midrange Computing. He can be reached by E-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Database 2/400 Advanced Database Functions (GG24-4249, CD-ROM GG244249).

Journal Management on the AS/400

Figure 1: Processing Files with Journaling

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is an independent IT analyst and writer. He is the former Editor in Chief of MC Press Online and Midrange Computing magazine and has over 20 years of experience as a programmer, systems engineer, IT director, industry analyst, author, speaker, consultant, and editor.  


Tom works from his home in the Napa Valley in California. He can be reached at









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    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.