Practical Java: Start Your Java Engine!

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A little programming allows you to take complete control of your Java environment.

In my previous article, I explained the complexities of the Java environment, especially as it relates to interaction with ILE languages. I introduced the three major components of a Java environment—the Java version, the classpath, and the runtime properties—and explained how to manage them non-programmatically through environment variables and properties files. In this article, I'll provide a program that does all of that, and in so doing I'll also show you a couple of cool techniques that can be used in other situations.

Quick Recap of Java Environments

Remember that the first component of the Java environment is the Java version that you're running. That ties to the actual binary code for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is determined by the JAVA_HOME environment variable, which contains an absolute path to the JVM. You have a default JVM, which depends on the version of the operating system you're running. For my original case, I was running on IBM i 7.3, which defaults to IT4J 8.0 32 bit, but I needed the 64-bit version, and that requirement led to this project.

The next part of a Java environment is the classpath. The classpath acts as the library list for Java and contains a list of locations where prewritten Java code exists. This value is set using the CLASSPATH environment variable.

So far, we've only used environment variables, and if that was all it took, we wouldn't need a dedicated program. However, it's never that easy, so now it's time to address the last piece of the environment, the runtime properties. These properties are usually set on the command line by the script that invokes the JVM, but since we're calling this from ILE RPG, we instead make use of the JNI_CreateJavaVM procedure. The trick here is that the procedure expects ASCII values (more on that in a moment).

Let's Get to the Code!

That's really all the introduction we need, so without further ado, let's see the code. This will be broken into four primary sections: the data definitions, the mainline, and the three subprocedures. It's really that simple.

Data Definitions

ctl-opt actgrp(*new) option(*srcstmt:*nodebugio);              


/DEFINE OS400_JVM_12                                            

/copy QSYSINC/QRPGLESRC,JNI                                    


dcl-c C_JDK_80_64 '/QOpenSys/QIBM/ProdData/JavaVM/jdk80/64bit';


dcl-ds initArgs likeds(JavaVMInitArgs);                        

dcl-ds options likeds(JavaVMOption) occurs(5);                

dcl-s jvm like(JavaVM_p);                                      

dcl-s env like(JNIEnv_P) inz(*null);                          

dcl-s nVMs int(10);                                            


dcl-pr system int(10) extproc('system');                      

command pointer value options(*string);                      



dcl-pi *n;                                                    

iFunc char(10) const;                                        

oRC   int(10) options(*nopass);                            

iJVM char(10) const options(*nopass);                      

iOpt1 char(50) const options(*nopass);                      

iOpt2 char(50) const options(*nopass);                      

iOpt3 char(50) const options(*nopass);                      

iOpt4 char(50) const options(*nopass);                      

iOpt5 char(50) const options(*nopass);                      


This part of the code is very simple. It starts with my normal control specification, in which I create a new activation group for the program. Next are JNI-specific definitions. We haven't really had a chance to touch on that acronym: JNI stands for Java Native Interface and is the industry standard way for non-Java programs to access the Java environment. The IBM i uses this interface to access Java directly from ILE. To keep it brief, this section of code basically sets up a JVM startup parameter that allows up to five runtime properties but that could be expanded easily.

Next, I have the prototype for the system function, which I use to execute IBM i commands, and finally the prototype for this program itself. Let me take a quick review of this:

  • iFunc   char(10) - Key to the CLSPTH file          
  • oRC     int(10) - Return code (0 is success)      
  • iJVM   char(10) - Override Java version (*64)      
  • iOpt1-5 char(50) - Additional JVM startup parameters

Only iFunc is required; that's the key to the CLSPTH file and identifies the Java function we're performing (which would in turn determine which pieces of Java code we'd want to include in our classpath). You'd call the program with only one parameter if you're happy with the system defaults for Java (which are usually fine for 99 percent of the cases) and just want to define the CLASSPATH. This syntax doesn't even start the JVM; you'll do that when you invoke Java.

If you specify any other parameters, then the JVM is started, and the result code is returned in the oRC parameter. Any additional functionality depends on the parameters you pass. The next parameter allows you to change the Java version. This program only has one override, which is selected by specifying either *64 or *64BIT as the third parameter. Specifying anything else (including blank) just uses the default JVM.

Finally, you have up to five additional 50-character parameters. Any additional parameters specified are plugged into the startup parameter structure before the JVM is invoked. The tricky part about this last piece is that the parameters must be converted to ASCII before being passed to the JNI_CreateJavaVM procedure.



// Always set environment variable CLASSPATH                  

// This will be used by default JVM startup                    



// If JVM parameters are passed, use them                      

if %parms > 1;                                                  


// See if a VM is already running; if so, exit with error    

if (JNI_GetCreatedJavaVMs(jvm : 1 : nVMs) = 0) and (nVMs > 0);

   oRC = -99;                                                  

   *inlr = *on;                                                




// Initialize JVM properties                                  

// Ignore any initial settings and overwrite                  

initArgs = *allx'00';                                        

initArgs.version = JNI_VERSION_1_2;                          


// First, check for a JVM ID                                  

if %parms > 2;                                                


   // If selecting 64-bit, set JAVA_HOME to reflect it        

   if iJVM = '*64' or iJVM = '*64BIT';                        

     setEnvVar( 'JAVA_HOME': C_JDK_80_64);                    



   // Now process optional parameters                          

   if %parms > 3;                                              


     if %parms > 4;                                            


       if %parms > 5;                                          


         if %parms > 6;                                        


           if %parms > 7;                                      








   // Set the address of options (have to occur to first element

   %occur(options) = 1;                                        

   initArgs.options = %addr(options);                          

   // Start the VM and return the result                      

   oRC = JNI_CreateJavaVM (jvm : env : %addr(initArgs));      






*inlr = *on;                                                    

The only thing that will always be done is the classpath will be set. This is done by a call to the setClasspath procedure, which will follow shortly. If only one parameter is passed, then the program ends here. Otherwise, the next step is to get ready to start the JVM. The first part of that task is to see if there already is a JVM running, since the IBM i architecture limits you to one JVM in a job. Once a JVM is started for a job, you can never start another one. A quick check determines whether a JVM is running and returns an error if so.

The first task is to select the Java version. We do this only if the default JVM won't work. To do it, we have to put a long, rather cumbersome folder path into the JAVA_HOME environment variable. In this program, there is only one alternate JVM, and it is selected by passing in *64 or *64BIT as the second parameter. Finally, we add each additional parameter that is passed using the addOption procedure.

Once all the setup work is complete, we update the initArgs structure and call JNI_CreateJavaVM. We return the result.

Adding an Option

dcl-proc addOption;                                            

dcl-pi *n;                                                    

   iOption varchar(50) const;                                  


dcl-s wOptionAscii varchar(50) ccsid(819);                    

dcl-s wOptionHex varchar(50) ccsid(*hex);                    


// Increment option count                                    

initArgs.noptions += 1;                                      

// Change occur, clear option and allocate string              

%occur(options) = initArgs.noptions;                          

options = *allx'00';                                          

options.optionString = %alloc(%len(iOption) + 1);            

// Convert to ASCII, then hex (so %str won't convert back)    

wOptionAscii = iOption;                                      

wOptionHex = wOptionAscii;                                    

// Copy hex and null-terminate it for Java                    

%str(options.optionString: %len(iOption) + 1) = wOptionHex;  



This is actually one of my favorite parts of the program. I've written many different versions of EBCDIC-to-ASCII conversions (and vice versa), but the time that the compiler team put into string definition really pays off here. Watch how easy this is. First, we pass in an option; this comes in as an EBCDIC varying character string. I have to move it to the next entry in the array. The first part of the procedure changes the occurrence of the data structure. Yes, I probably could have used a data structure array instead of a multi-occurrence data structure, but this came from the original IBM example code and I didn't feel like straying too far from it. Note that I also have to allocate the space for the variable. Again, that's just the way the code was written, but it makes sense when you're talking about an arbitrary number of arbitrary-length strings.

Anyway, it's the next part that is so very cool. By defining the variable wOptionASCII with the keyword CCSID(819), the simple act of setting wOptionASCII equal to iOption automatically converts it from EBCDIC to ASCII! Then I simply use %str to make a zero-terminated copy in the new variable I allocated, and I'm done! Oh, you probably noticed a second move from wOptionASCII to wOptionHex. That's because %str likes to convert things itself. The first time I did this code without the extra move, the value that ended up in options.optionString was actually in EBDIC; %str saw that wOptionASCII was CCSID(819) and (not so) helpfully converted it back to my job CCSID.

Setting the CLASSPATH


// Aggregate CLSPTH records into path and set CLASSPATH        

dcl-proc setClassPath;                                          

dcl-s wPath varchar(2000);                                    

exec sql set :wPath =                                        

   (select listagg(trim(CPPATH), ':') within group(order by CPSEQ)

     from CLSPTH where CPFUNC = :iFunc);                      

SetEnvVar( 'CLASSPATH': wPath);                              


And while the auto-conversion in addOption is indeed the coolest thing in the program, this procedure is also pretty nifty. The file CLSPTH is simple: it has a function (CPFUNC) that is the key, a sequence (CPSEQ), and a 50-character path variable (CPPATH). To format that into the CLASSPATH variable, you have to concatenate all of them with colons in between each entry. This is typically done in a loop in RPG using concatenation, being careful to not include a colon either at the beginning or end of the aggregated string. Well, since we do that about a million times in our programming careers, the fine folks in the SQL world added a way to do that, called LISTAGG.

Without going into detail (you can find the IBM documentation here), the syntax used in the SQL statement above aggregates all the CPPATH values for the specified CPPATH key, in order by the CPSEQ variable, delimited by colons and stuffs that entire value into the wPath variable.

Setting an Environment Variable


dcl-proc setEnvVar;                                            

dcl-pi *n;                                                    

   iVar varchar(10) const;                                    

   iVal varchar(2000) const;                                  


system('RMVENVVAR ' + iVar + ' LEVEL(*JOB)');                

system('ADDENVVAR ' + iVar + ' VALUE(''' + iVal + ''') LEVEL(*J


The last procedure is very simple. It just removes and then sets an environment variable. It’s hardcoded to do this at the *JOB level (as opposed to the *SYSTEM level) and since we're using the system function, any errors are ignored. It's not very robust, but it works.

And That’s All!

That's it for the entire program. You can copy this source code into a SQLRPGLE member and away you go! Let me know if you encounter any issues, but this should give you complete control over your environment. Just to give you an example, this is how I used it in my actual application code.

SYCLSPTH( '*EXCEL': wRC: '*64BIT': '-Xmx4G': '-Xms1G');

The value *EXCEL is the key to the CLSPTH file, and it selects all of the POI JAR files and all of their prerequisites, along with JT400 and a couple of miscellaneous pieces. I needed a 4G heap, so I not only specified that, but since a 4G heap also requires a 64-bit JVM, I overrode that as well.


Joe Pluta

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. He has been extending the IBM midrange since the days of the IBM System/3. Joe uses WebSphere extensively, especially as the base for PSC/400, the only product that can move your legacy systems to the Web using simple green-screen commands. He has written several books, including Developing Web 2.0 Applications with EGL for IBM i, E-Deployment: The Fastest Path to the Web, Eclipse: Step by Step, and WDSC: Step by Step. Joe performs onsite mentoring and speaks at user groups around the country. You can reach him at

MC Press books written by Joe Pluta available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

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    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 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.