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Are You Taking Full Advantage of the System Entry Point Table Object?

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Achieve API invocation performance gains and discover a new pointer caching technique.

 

The System Entry Point Table (SEPT) object, QSYS/QINSEPT, is a space object with MI object type/subtype code hex 19C3 and external object type *SEPT. It is designed to improve the performance of invocation of program objects in library QSYS. The SEPT stores authorized system pointers to many (but not all) of the user domain/system state (aka API) or system domain/system state program objects residing in library QSYS in its associated space.

 

User programs are always of user domain and run under user state. The user domain/system state APIs are the glue between user programs and their system domain/system state counterparts. Since they are of user domain, they can be called by user code. And since they run under system state, they can call system domain programs. For example, each time you request to open a database file object, the user domain/system state API QDMCOPEN is called, and QDMCOPEN then calls the system domain/system state program QDBOPEN to achieve the actual operation on the target database file. Protections such as parameter validation are performed by user domain/system state APIs before controls are passed to system domain/system programs.

 

The SEPT is addressable to each MI process (an i5/OS job) through the Process Control Space (PCS) object. A PCS is an MI object (with object type/subtype code hex 1AEF) used by i5/OS to control the execution of an MI process. The PCS is also referred to as the job structure. An MI process can be uniquely identified by a PCS object. A PCS object contains work areas and storage needed by an MI process, such as process storage spaces for stack, static, and heap storage. The associated space of a PCS object contains the Process Communication Object (PCO). When a PCS object is created and allocated to an MI process, a space pointer addressing the associated space of the SEPT is stored at the beginning of the PCO.

 

So how does the SEPT improve the performance of invocation of program objects in library QSYS?

 

Entries (system pointers) in the SEPT are resolved in the installation stage of the system. The number of SEPT entries and the position of a system pointer to a particular program object is the same for each installation for a specific i5/OS release. Newly introduced APIs are appended at the end of the SEPT. For example, the number of entries in the SEPT is 6700 and 7001, respectively, at V5R2 and V5R4. By calling a program in library QSYS via the system pointer to it stored in the SEPT, user programs can spare the time being consumed in locating the target program object by using MI instruction Resolve System Pointer (RSLVSP) to resolve a system pointer to the program object via the symbolic identification (object and optional library name).

 

So is it really so time-consuming to resolve a system pointer to an MI object? Let's find out.

 

The following two ILE RPG programs, jan23b.rpgle and jan25b.rpgle, call the Send Data Queue (QSNDDTAQ) API to enqueue a queue entry to a data queue object. The only difference between them is that jan23b.rpgle calls QSNDDATQ directly using the ILE PRG operation code CALL and passing the name of the API, while jan25b.rpgle calls QSNDDTAQ via a resolved system pointer in the SEPT.

 

This is the source code of ILE RPG program jan23b.rpgle.

 

     d e               s             16a

 

     c                   time                    w                14 0

     c                   movel     w             e

     c                   call      'QSNDDTAQ'

     c                   parm      'JAN23'       qname            10

     c                   parm      'LSBIN'       qlib             10

     c                   parm      16            elen              5 0

     c                   parm                    e

 

     c                   seton                                          lr

 

Here is the source code of ILE RPG program jan25b.rpgle.

 

     h dftactgrp(*no)

     /* Prototype of PCOPTR2 */

     d pcoptr2         pr              *   extproc('_PCOPTR2')

     /* Prototype of CALLPGMV */

     d callpgmv        pr                  extproc('_CALLPGMV')

     d     pgm_ptr                     *

     d     argv                        *   dim(1) options(*varsize)

     d     argc                      10u 0 value

 

     d pco_ptr         s               *

     d pco             ds                  qualified

     d                                     based(pco_ptr)

     d     sept_ptr                    *

 

     d septs           s               *   dim(7001)

     d                                     based(pco.sept_ptr)

 

     d qsnddtaq        s               *

     d argv            s               *   dim(4)

     d qname           s             10a   inz('JAN23')

     d qlib            s             10a   inz('LSBIN')

     d qent            s             16a

     d len             s              5p 0 inz(16)

 

      /free

 

           pco_ptr = pcoptr2();

           qsnddtaq = septs(2898);

 

           qent = %char(%time : *iso);

           argv(1) = %addr(qname);

           argv(2) = %addr(qlib);

           argv(3) = %addr(len);

           argv(4) = %addr(qent);

           callpgmv(qsnddtaq : argv : 4);

 

           *inlr = *on;

      /end-free

 

If you call these two programs 100,000 times on a V5R4 machine, you might get the following results: jan23b takes 9.198 seconds, and jan25b takes 2.306 seconds. Clearly, resolving a system pointer to a program object (the QSNDDTAQ API) might be much more time-consuming than the actual work done by the called program.

 

In the example ILE RPG program jan25b.rpgle, MI instruction Return PCO Pointer (PCOPTR2) is used to obtain addressability of the PCO of the current MI process in the form of a space pointer. As mentioned above, a space pointer to the SEPT is at the beginning of the PCO, so when the address of space pointer pco_ptr is returned upon a successful completion of _PCOPTR2, the array elements in the system pointer array septs are available. Finally, jan25b.rpgle calls the QSNDDTAQ API via the resolved system pointer to program object QSNDDTAQ, whose index number in the SEPT is hex 0B51 (start from zero). MI instruction Call Program with Variable Length Argument List (CALLPGMV) is used to call program object QSNDDTAQ via the resolved system pointer to it.

 

To avoid hard-coding the index numbers of SEPT entries, you might dump the SEPT of your target i5/OS release and convert the offset values of system pointers in it to a list of declarations of constants. To dump the SEPT, you can dump space object QSYS/QINSEPT either directly or via the space pointer to the SEPT that is at the beginning of the PCO of an MI process. Here are the example CL commands.

 

/* Dump the SEPT object directly */

DMPSYSOBJ OBJ(QINSEPT) CONTEXT(QSYS)

 

/* Dump the SEPT via the PCO object */

DMPSYSOBJ OBJ(*PCS) OFFSET(0)

 

The following declaration of the index number in SEPT of the User Interface Manager (UIM) API Display Long Text (QUILNGTX) is extracted from ept54.rpgleinc, which is provided by the open-source project i5/OS Programmer's Toolkit.

 

     /* Display Long Text (QUILNGTX) API */

     d ept_quilngtx    c                   x'1629'

 

The following ILE RPG program, t064.rpgle, calls QUILNGTX by using the index number of QUILNGTX's entry in the SEPT.

 

     h dftactgrp(*no)

 

      /copy mih54

      /copy ept54

 

     d pco_ptr         s               *

     d pco             ds                  qualified

     d                                     based(pco_ptr)

     d     sept_ptr                    *

     d septs           s               *   dim(7001)

     d                                     based(pco.sept_ptr)

 

     d argv            s               *   dim(5)

     /* arguments of QUILNGTX */

     d text            s              8a   inz('The SEPT')

     d len             s             10i 0 inz(8)

     d msgid           s              7a   inz('CPF9898')

     d msgf            s             20a   inz('QCPFMSG   QSYS')

     d ec              s             16a

 

      /free

           pco_ptr = pcoptr2();

 

           ec = x'00000010000000000000000000000000';

           argv(1) = %addr(text);

           argv(2) = %addr(len);

           argv(3) = %addr(msgid);

           argv(4) = %addr(msgf);

           argv(5) = %addr(ec);

      /if defined(*v5r4m0)

           callpgmv( septs(ept_quilngtx) // hex 162A

                   : argv : 5);

      /endif

 

           *inlr = *on;

      /end-free

 

There is yet another method to obtain the addressability of the SEPT. The undocumented system built-in _SYSEPT can be found in ILE C/C++ header QSYSINC/MIH(SYSEPT). _SYSEPT returns a space pointer to the SEPT. The following is the ILE RPG prototype of _SYSEPT extracted from mih52.rpgleinc.

 

     /* returns a space pointer to the SEPT */

     d sysept          pr              *   extproc('_SYSEPT')

 

In the following ILE RPG program t065.rpgle, _SYSEPT is used to obtain the addressability of the SEPT.

 

     h dftactgrp(*no)

 

      /copy mih54

      /copy ept54

 

     d ept_ptr         s               *

     d septs           s               *   dim(7001)

     d                                     based(ept_ptr)

     d argv            s               *   dim(1)

 

      /free

           // address the SEPT

           ept_ptr = sysept();

 

      /if defined(*v5r4m0)

           // call Operational Assistant API Send Message (QEZSNDMG)

           callpgmv( septs(EPT_QEZSNDMG)

                   : argv

                   : 0);

      /endif

 

           *inlr = *on;

      /end-free

 

SEPT's value is not only the performance gains in API invocation; the design of the SEPT also introduces a pointer caching technique to us. The virtual address stored in the system pointer to an MI object is a single-level storage (SLS) address in the 64-bit virtual address space of i5/OS. And this virtual address remains unchanged during the life of an MI object. This means that system pointers to permanent MI objects stored in a permanent MI object (such as a permanent space object, a permanent index object, or a queue object that can contain pointers) will remain valid and can be reused even across IPLs.

 

Junlei Li

Junlei Li is a programmer from Tianjin, China, with 10 years of experience in software design and programming. Junlei Li began programming under i5/OS (formerly known as AS/400, iSeries) in late 2005. He is familiar with most programming languages available on i5/OS—from special-purpose languages such as OPM/ILE RPG to CL to general-purpose languages such as C, C++, Java; from strong-typed languages to script languages such as QShell and REXX. One of his favorite programming languages on i5/OS is machine interface (MI) instructions, through which one can discover some of the internal behaviors of i5/OS and some of the highlights of i5/OS in terms of operating system design.

 

Junlei Li's Web site is http://i5toolkit.sourceforge.net/, where his open-source project i5/OS Programmer's Toolkit (https://sourceforge.net/projects/i5toolkit/) is documented.

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    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.

     

     

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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.