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Find out the rest of the story about PRGDLTRCDS and Watch considerations.

 

This is the sixth in a series of articles on detecting that certain messages have been sent on your system and then making processing decisions based on those messages. The underlying technology, known as Watch support, became available with V5R4.

 

The first article, "One Approach to System Automation," introduced the Start Watch (STRWCH) command and provided the source for a user exit program to run when the local system time changed due to Daylight Saving Time transitions. The second article, "Handling System Changes Automatically," discussed the internals of that user exit program. The third article, "Re-enable Disabled User Profiles," provided further examples of the automation capabilities available with watches. The fourth article, "Selectively Using RGZPFM on Files," introduced a watch exit program that ran when files exceeded their specified DLTPCT value. The fifth article was not directly related to watches. Rather, it discussed the Purge Deleted Records program PRGDLTRCDS, which works with the watch exit program of article four. If you have not previously read these articles, you should do so before reading the current article. In this article, we will conclude our discussion of the PRGDLTRCDS program. For space reasons, the source for program PRGDLTRCDS will not be repeated here, so you may want to refer to the fifth article of this series.

 

When we left off in the fifth article, "Reorganizing Files Based on Percentage of Deleted Records," the PRGDLTRCDS program had just completed all of the validation associated with preparing to reorganize the file member identified by the current RGZPFMLST1 record. The program PRGDLTRCDS is now ready to start the reorganization.

 

At this point, PRGDLTRCDS does an exclusive allocate (ALCOBJ) of the member to be reorganized. The program explicitly performs this allocate, rather than allowing the subsequent RGZPFM command implicitly to do it, for a few reasons.

 

One reason has to do with ease of use in error reporting. The RGZPFM command may fail for a variety of reasons, only one of which is not being able to allocate the file member. By explicitly allocating the file member, we do not have to "See the previously listed messages," which is the Recovery text for the most frequently returned escape message of the RGZPFM command (CPF2981 -  Member &3 file &1 in &2 not reorganized). Though not shown in the sample program, PRGDLTRCDS could, upon receiving an error on the ALCOBJ command, use an API such as List Object Locks (QWCLOBJL) to determine what jobs are currently locking the member and return that information as additional messages in the job log. The QWCLOBJL API is documented here and provides for member-level locking information. As shown, PRGDLTRCDS simply displays the library, file, and member name when the ALCOBJ request fails. This dsply is done because the error messages returned by the ALCOBJ command do not always provide full object/member identification information.

 

The QWCLOBJL API could also be used in conjunction with an error returned by the RGZPFM command. You would, however, first have to programmatically read through the "previously listed messages" and determine if indeed the problem is related to the allocation of the file member. One possible diagnostic message that you would be looking for would be CPF3202 - File &1 in library &2 in use. Similar to how the sample programs are using the dsply operation rather than message-handler APIs to provide error-related information, so too am I using the ALCOBJ command to avoid introducing the message handler APIs to receive messages from the job log/program message queue. But as mentioned in the first article of this series, I see the need to discuss the message-handler APIs in the future. Those future articles would most likely include packaging the message-handler API functions as exported procedures of a *SRVPGM so that we can use them in the future without too much additional code in our sample programs (which is what I'm trying to avoid in the current series).

 

A second, and more important, reason for explicitly allocating the file to be reorganized is related to making the RGZPFM and the updating of the REORG field to 'N' as atomic an operation as possible. If PRGDLTRCDS simply ran the RGZPFM command and then updated the RGZPFMLST record to reflect that reorganization is no longer needed (that is, setting REORG to 'N'), there is the possibility of a watch update to REORG being lost. This would be the scenario for this lost update:

 

Step 1: The RGZPFMLST1 file contains a record for member X with REORG = 'Y' and DLTPCTSTS = 'H' (indicating that a member should be reorganized based on a past (Historical) CPF4653 independent of the current DLTPCT status).

 

Step 2: In job Z, PRGDLTRCDS performs a RGZPFM on member X.

 

Step 3: In job Y, program A runs after the RGZPFM of step 2 has completed (that is, member X has been de-allocated) and before PRGDLTRCDS regains control in step 4 to update the RGZPFMLST record. Program A deletes sufficient records to exceed member X's DLTPCT and then closes member X. Message CPF4653 is sent. The WCHCPF4653 exit program is run and effectively sets REORG to 'Y' (though, as coded, WCHCPF4653 will simply release the RGZPFMLST record as REORG is already set to 'Y' due to PRGDLTRCDS not yet having run the update logic of step 4).

 

Step 4: In job Z, PRGDLTRCDS resumes running, reads the member X control record for member X using RGZPFMLST, updates the control record with REORG = 'N', and moves on to the next control record in RGZPFMLST1.

 

Step 5: Program B runs (in any job and at any point in the future), adding sufficient records to member X such that the DLTPCT is no longer exceeded. The only requirement in our scenario is that Program B be the first program to process member X since step 4 completed.

 

We now have a situation where member X should be reorganized due to the past CPF4653 message having been sent, but there is no indication in the RGZPFMLST control file to actually perform the RGZPFM. The probability of this scenario is admittedly small, but it is not 0 and should be addressed. I will also point out that it is these "little" timing windows that can cause much grief when debugging an application problem. In this case, WCHCPF4653 and PRGDLTRCDS will appear to be working perfectly for months. But every once in a while, you find that a RGZPFMLST control record has REORG set incorrectly. Anytime an application has a dependency that two or more resources be in synch (in our case, the actual member data and the REORG flag of the control record), you need to think about the scenario of some other program running in between what are sequential operations in your program.

 

Explicitly locking the member prior to RGZPFM running PRGDLTRCDS ensures that no other job on the system can be using (and therefore cannot close, which is what we really want to avoid) that member until PRGDLTRCDS explicitly de-allocates the member. As PRGDLTRCDS does not de-allocate the member until after updating the control record to reflect REORG = 'N', there is no risk of job Y "sneaking in."

 

Another approach to avoid this type of exposure, and which quite a few users use as it is easy to implement, is to simply prevent user jobs from running when system maintenance programs such as PRGDLTRCDS run. This approach certainly stops program A from running in the previous scenario.

 

This approach however also tends to shut down user applications for a longer fixed period of time, such as 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., than is absolutely necessary. The outage window could be smaller if the application provided for greater granularity in identifying the resources needed, as is provided with the explicit ALOCOBJ. Applications, for instance, that need to only read member X could be handled by changing the lock state requested on the ALCOBJ and the RGZPFM commands. Any application requiring update capability to member X, however, would need to change due to the initial requirement (mentioned in the initial article of this series) to maintain the original record sequence when reorganizing the file and limitations of the RGZPFM command. These update-capable applications would need to handle the situation where the resource (member X in our case) is not available if we allow user jobs to run at any time. Jobs requiring member X with a lock state that conflicts with the ALCOBJ and RGZPFM lock states will need to inform the operator of the temporary lack of availability and then retry the operation (similar to retrying a read for update after receiving an error on a read or chain operation). But using ALCOBJ to provide atomicity across the RGZPFM command and the updating of the RGZPFMLST control record could be used as a stepping stone to improved availability. Of course, the ideal--providing for 24x7 availability--may require substantial changes to the design of the user application.

 

Prior to running ALCOBJ, PRGDLTRCDS started a monitor group. This monitor allows us to easily know when the ALCOBJ function failed and to be able to dsply the library/file/member that was being processed.

 

Immediately after running ALCOBJ, PRGDLTRCDS starts a second monitor group. This monitor encompasses the running of the RGZPFM command and the updating of the RGZPFMLST control record. The main purpose for this monitor group is to ensure that a failure in the RGZPFM command will still result in PRGDLTRCDS de-allocating the member currently allocated.

 

After successfully reorganizing the member, or displaying an error message if unsuccessful, PRGDLTRCDS then reads the next RGZPFMLST1 control record and re-enters the DOW loop.

 

This completes our discussion of the PRGDLTRCDS program.

 

This series of articles has examined the watch support available since V5R4. Watches represent a key enabler for system automation, and hopefully you already have a few ideas on how message watches might be used to streamline operations in your environment. Watch capability is a powerful tool that can be used to address a wide range of programming and operational opportunities. In this series, we have seen how watches can be applied to time changes, disabled user profiles, and file reorganizations--certainly a rather broad range of areas!

 

If you have API questions, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I'll see what I 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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    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.