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The CL Corner: Incrementing a Numeric Value Across Jobs

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You probably won't need Compare and Swap (CMPSWP) often, but when you do, you'll appreciate its high level of performance.

 

There are some types of data, an invoice number for instance, that have characteristics such that the "next" value...

•     needs to be generated concurrently by several jobs,

•     needs to be unique within the application,

•     and is generally sequential in nature.

 

This type of data requirement historically has been satisfied with approaches such as using a data area (*DTAARA) to store and share the next available invoice number across the users of the application. While *DTAARAs work fine for this type of application, other options can provide this level of function at a much higher level of performance. One such option is the Compare and Swap (CMPSWP) Machine Interface (MI) instruction.

 

The CMPSWP instruction is shown below and documented here.

 

CMPSWP(

            Op1               :address of a scalar (1,2,4,8) value

            Op2               :address of a scalar (1,2,4,8) value

            Op3               :scalar (1,2,4,8) value

            Cntl              :signed binary(4) literal value (optional)

      ) : signed binary(4)

 

This instruction requires three parameters, has one optional parameter, and returns a return value. We will be looking at the three required parameters and the return value today. The first three parameters can be defined as being 1, 2, 4, or 8 bytes in length, and all three must be of the same size. We will be using 4-byte, unsigned integer values today as this would accommodate an invoice number ranging from 0 to 4294967295. The return value is a 4-byte, signed integer value and will be discussed shortly.

 

When the CMPSWP instruction runs, the value of the first parameter (Op1) is compared to the value of the second parameter (Op2). If they are equal, the value of the third parameter (Op3) is copied (swapped) to the second parameter and the instruction returns a return value of 1. If they are not equal, the value of the second parameter is copied to the first parameter and the instruction returns a return value of 0. Further, the instruction assures that no other CMPSWP instruction on the system can access the value of the second parameter when parameters one and two do compare as equal.

 

Whew!  Let's see what this means by way of an example.

 

Let's say we have a user space (*USRSPC) QGPL/HOLDNBR, and within the *USRSPC, HOLDNBR is stored as an unsigned integer value representing the last invoice number used. The *USRSPC could be created like this:

 

EDTF STMF('/qsys.lib/qgpl.lib/holdnbr.usrspc')

 

After using F3 to Save/Exit from the EDTF panel (and not typing anything into the panel), we will have a *USRSPC of minimum size initialized to x'00's. This is convenient as x'00's will be treated as if the last invoice number used was 0. With this *USRSPC created, here is the ILE CL program GETNBRCL that can be used to determine the next invoice number:

 

 

     Pgm                                                     

     Dcl        Var(&NbrPtr)    Type(*Ptr)                  

     Dcl        Var(&FndValue)  Type(*UInt)                 

     Dcl        Var(&NewValue)  Type(*UInt)                 

     Dcl        Var(&CurValue)  Type(*UInt) Stg(*Based) +   

                  BasPtr(&NbrPtr)                           

     Dcl        Var(&RtnCde)    Type(*Int)                  

     Dcl        Var(&NewValChr) Type(*Char) Len(10)         

     Dcl        Var(&SpcName)   Type(*Char) Len(20) +       

                  Value('HOLDNBR   QGPL      ')             

(A)  Call       Pgm(QUSPTRUS) Parm(&SpcName &NbrPtr)        

(B)  ChgVar     Var(&FndValue) Value(&CurValue)             

     DoUntil    Cond(&RtnCde = 1)                            

                ChgVar Var(&NewValue) Value(&FndValue + 1)  

(C)             CallPrc Prc('_CMPSWP') Parm((&FndValue) +   

                  (&CurValue) (&NewValue *ByVal)) +         

                  RtnVal(&RtnCde)                   

     EndDo                                          

     ChgVar     Var(&NewValChr) Value(&NewValue)    

(D)  SndPgmMsg  Msg(&NewValChr) ToPgmQ(*Ext)        

     EndPgm

 

 

The variable &NbrPtr is a space pointer that is used to access the *USRSPC directly. This pointer is set by calling the Retrieve Pointer to User Space (QUSPTRUS) API at (A). The variables &FndValue, &NewValue, and &CurValue are 4-byte, unsigned integers representing the invoice number found in the *USRSPC, the next invoice number that could be used, and the current value in the *USRSPC, respectively. Note that the variable &CurValue is Based on the pointer variable &NbrPtr.

 

After setting &FndValue to the value of &CurValue at (B), GETNBRCL falls into a DoUntil loop where &NewValue is set by adding 1 to &FndValue. We then run the CMPSWP instruction. On the initial entry into the DoUntil loop, &FndValue will be 0 (from the newly created *USRSPC) and &NewValue set to 1. The CMPSWP instruction will compare &FndValue to &CurValue and, if they are equal (both are 0), then set &CurValue to 1 (the value of &NewValue) and return a return value of 1. This return value indicates that no other job on the system needed an invoice number between steps (B) and (C). The DoUntil loop is then exited with &NewValue holding the invoice number that should be used. This value is displayed at (D).

 

If the comparison between &FndValue and &CurValue is not equal (for example, two users needed invoice numbers between the running of (B) and (C), leaving &CurValue set to 2), then CMPSWP will set &FndValue to 2, leave &CurValue alone, and return a return value of 0. The DoUntil loop will then continue, setting &NewValue to 3 (a &FndValue of 2 plus 1) and using CMPSWP to determine if any other job has again modified the value found in the *USRSPC. This will continue until CMPSWP returns a return value of 1 (indicating success) or we attempt to generate a &NewValue value of 4294967296, which would exceed the capacity of a 4-byte unsigned integer, resulting in a MCH1210 error ('Receiver value too small to hold result') being sent by the system.

 

You might be thinking, "This looping doesn't occur when using data areas, so why would I take the CMPSWP approach? Won't it hurt my system's performance?" Those are reasonable questions, and I'll make two observations.

 

First, the looping occurs only when two or more users are trying to get an invoice number at the same time. With *DTAARAs, this same type of contention occurs, but you don't see it as your job is waiting, rather than looping, for access to the *DTAARA. This "waiting" takes more time than the DoUntil loop shown, so when contention occurs, CMPSWP will resolve that contention faster.

 

Second, in controlled testing comparing RPG *DTAARA *IN and *OUT operations with a CMPSWP solution generating 10000 invoice numbers, CMPSWP was consistently in the neighborhood of 100 times faster (5 ms vs. 565 ms on my 515). And please note that that is 100 times faster, not 100 percent faster!

 

This is the equivalent program in COBOL:

 

PROCESS NOMONOPRC NOSTDTRUNC.

                                

IDENTIFICATION DIVISION.                                  

PROGRAM-ID. GETNBRCBL.

                                       

ENVIRONMENT DIVISION.                                     

CONFIGURATION SECTION.                                    

SPECIAL-NAMES.                                            

LINKAGE TYPE SYS FOR "_CMPSWP".

                              

DATA DIVISION.                                            

WORKING-STORAGE SECTION.                                  

01  FndValue                    PIC  9(9) BINARY.         

01  NewValue                    PIC  9(9) BINARY.         

01  RtnCde                      PIC S9(9) BINARY.         

01  SpcName                     PIC X(20)                     

                                VALUE "HOLDNBR   QGPL      ".

01  SpcPtr                      POINTER.

                     

LINKAGE SECTION.                                          

01  CurValue                    PIC 9(9)  BINARY.

              

PROCEDURE DIVISION.                                        

MAIN-LINE.                                                 

(A) CALL "QUSPTRUS" USING BY REFERENCE SpcName,               

                          BY REFERENCE SpcPtr.             

    SET ADDRESS OF CurValue TO SpcPtr.

(B) MOVE CurValue TO FndValue.                     

    PERFORM UNTIL RtnCde = 1                                  

            ADD 1 TO FndValue GIVING NewValue                 

(C)         CALL "_CMPSWP" USING BY REFERENCE FndValue,       

                                 BY REFERENCE CurValue,       

                                 BY VALUE     NewValue,       

                                 RETURNING    RtnCde          

    END-PERFORM.                                           

(D) DISPLAY NewValue.                                      

    STOP RUN.

 

And here's a slightly modified approach using RPG:

 

h dftactgrp(*no)

                                               

dGetNbr           pr            10i 0 extproc('_CMPSWP')       

d FndValue                      10u 0                          

d CurValue                      10u 0                          

d NewValue                      10u 0 value

                    

dRtvSpcPtr        pr                  extpgm('QUSPTRUS')       

d SpcName                       20    const                    

d UsrSpcPtr                       *                            

                                                               

dFndValue         s             10u 0                           

dCurValue         s             10u 0 based(NbrPtr)            

dSpcName          c                   'HOLDNBR   QGPL      '   

                                                               

 /free                                                          

 (A) RtvSpcPtr(SpcName :NbrPtr);

 (B) FndValue = CurValue;                            

 (C) dow GetNbr(FndValue :CurValue :(FndValue + 1)) = 0;    

     enddo;                                                 

 (D) dsply (FndValue + 1);                                  

     *inlr = *on;                                           

     return;                                                

 /end-free 

                                             

The RPG approach is modified when compared to the CL and COBOL examples because of RPG's ability to use an expression as a parameter when calling CMPSWP. Rather than having a DoUntil loop where the program has a separate statement adding 1 to &FndValue and giving &NewValue, the RPG sample uses a DoWhile, which directly runs the CMPSWP instruction, exiting when the return value is 1. As part of running the instruction, the program uses an expression for the third parameter and eliminates the need for variable &NewValue.

 

Now, the question in your mind might be reversed: "Why wouldn't I use CMPSWP?" Again, a very reasonable question, and I'll point out two major reasons.

 

First, when CMPSWP is used in conjunction with a *USRSPC as we did here, it does not provide for any of the auditing and recovery features, such as journaling, that can be used with *DTAARAs. In fact, once an application has a pointer to the *USRSPC, the application can do almost anything to the contents of the *USRSPC and there will be no log of the changes, no journal entries to roll back inadvertent changes, and so on. To reset the invoice number to a prior value will mean restoring the *USRSPC from a backup or having an application program set the appropriate value. The relative importance of this aspect will depend on what type of data your application is working with. If we're talking invoice numbers, then this consideration may not be significant.

 

A second consideration is that this approach works only if all manipulation of the shared variable (&CurValue in our case) is done via CMPSWP. In most areas of the system, i5/OS manages data sharing on your behalf (for instance, record locking when updating and *DTAARA locking when updating), and updates are synchronized across jobs transparently. With CMPSWP, there is no i5/OS protection unless all applications use CMPSWP when modifying the value of the shared variable. A developer for instance could inadvertently code this:

 

ChgVar     Var(&CurValue) Value(&NewValue)

 

This would cause an immediate change to &CurValue within the *USRSPC, potentially regressing &CurValue to an earlier value and causing duplication of invoice numbers. You will notice that the only change to &CurValue in the example program is done with CMPSWP. This is critical. Also, when displaying the value of the current invoice number, the program always uses a local variable such as &NewValue. This is because &CurValue can be changing dynamically because of work being done in other jobs. Keeping in mind the dynamic nature of &CurValue will take some getting used to for developers. *DTAARA values can also be corrupted due to errors in the application, but it's not done quite as easily!

 

I should point out a few items concerning the examples:

 

•     If, when calling the CL program, you receive a run-time error, please make sure you have PTF SI28620 installed on your system. This PTF includes necessary CL compiler corrections related to pointer usage and will require that you recompile the sample CL program.

•    Some of you might, upon reflection of the CMPSWP instruction, conclude that the statement shown at (B) in the previous examples is not needed. This is true! On the initial call to the CMPSWP instruction, you can pass in any value for &FndValue and, as long as &NewValue is set correctly, the samples will work properly. One time out of 4294967296, you will get "lucky" in that your arbitrary value for &FndValue happens to match &CurValue, and you will immediately exit the DoUntil loop. And one time out of 4294967296, you will receive a MCH1210 because you used a &FndValue of 4294967295 when trying to calculate &NewValue. But in the other 4294967294 cases, you will get a return value of 0 with the returned value of the parameter &FndValue set correctly for the next iteration of the Do loop. Personally, I recommend leaving the statement at (B) in as it provides better documentation of your intent, but it can be left out as long as you are willing to (most likely) loop through the Do logic one extra time.

•     As COBOL doesn't support unsigned binary values, COBOL developers may want to use 8-byte binary values in order to support values greater than 2147483647. I used 4-byte values in the samples because CL does not support 8-byte binary variables.

 

The CMPSWP instruction is not one that you will use every day. But the power and speed of the instruction will make for an excellent tool in your development toolkit when the occasion does arise.

More CL Questions?             

Wondering how to accomplish a function in CL? Send your CL-related questions to Bruce at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  He'll see what he can do about answering your burning questions in future columns.

Bruce Vining

Bruce Vining is president and co-founder of Bruce Vining Services, LLC, a firm providing contract programming and consulting services to the System i community. He began his career in 1979 as an IBM Systems Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri, and then transferred to Rochester, Minnesota, in 1985, where he continues to reside. From 1992 until leaving IBM in 2007, Bruce was a member of the System Design Control Group responsible for OS/400 and i5/OS areas such as System APIs, Globalization, and Software Serviceability. He is also the designer of Control Language for Files (CLF).A frequent speaker and writer, Bruce can be reached at bvining@brucevining.com. 


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  • The Top Five RPG Open Access Myths....BUSTED!

    SB_Profound_WC_GenericWhen it comes to IBM Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, there are still many misconceptions - especially where application modernization is concerned!

    In this Webinar, we'll address some of the biggest myths about RPG Open Access, including:

    • Modernizing with RPG OA requires significant changes to the source code
    • The RPG language is outdated and impractical for modernizing applications
    • Modernizing with RPG OA is the equivalent to "screen scraping"

     

  • Time to Remove the Paper from Your Desk and Become More Efficient

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericToo much paper is wasted. Attempts to locate documents in endless filing cabinets.And distributing documents is expensive and takes up far too much time.
    These are just three common reasons why it might be time for your company to implement a paperless document management system.
    Watch the webinar to learn more and discover how easy it can be to:

    • Capture
    • Manage
    • And distribute documents digitally

     

  • IBM i: It’s Not Just AS/400

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic

    IBM’s Steve Will talks AS/400, POWER9, cognitive systems, and everything in between

    Are there still companies that use AS400? Of course!

    IBM i was built on the same foundation.
    Watch this recorded webinar with IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington to gain a unique perspective on the direction of this platform, including:

    • IBM i development strategies in progress at IBM
    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days

     

  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • 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.

     

     

  • 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.