Reuse Your RPG Code with SQL User-Defined Functions

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What? You haven't used a UDF before? No worries. There's nothing to it.


Recently, one of our programmers came to me with a question about retrieving some information from our iSeries. He was using a business intelligence (BI) tool to analyze picking errors across several warehouses, and he needed a way of retrieving the warehouse area for a specific warehouse and item location. Unfortunately, that information was not in a table in our system, but rather was calculated by an RPGLE program and returned as a parameter when the program was called with the warehouse ID and the item location. Because the BI tool used SQL to retrieve information from our iSeries, I suggested that he consider creating an SQL User-Defined Function (UDF) to return the warehouse area. With this method, the warehouse area can be returned as a value by any high-level language, such as PHP or Java, or any tool that uses SQL to access data on the system.


If you're primarily an RPG programmer and haven't created or used an SQL UDF before, it might be a little intimidating the first time you look at the SQL CREATE FUNCTION command. That's because SQL is a standard database language that can be used with many different operating systems, high-level languages, and database implementations, so the CREATE FUNCTION command has a number of parameters to accommodate them. For the purposes of this article, however, we're going to assume that we have an RPG or RPGLE program that's called to perform a specific task and that it returns a single value. In SQL UDF terminology, we are creating an external UDF that returns a scalar value.


Once you have identified an RPG program that returns a single value, what steps do you need to take to create an SQL UDF? That depends on whether you're starting with a program or service program and the type of interface you want to create. If you're starting with a service program, then you have a choice of the type of interface you want to use when the program is called, or in SQL terminology, the PARAMETER STYLE. The two basic types I'll discuss here for RPG programs are GENERAL and SQL. Ironically, GENERAL refers to a very specific program implementation, which is an RPGLE Service Program containing a RETURN (result) statement, while SQL refers to a more general interface that can be used with both programs and service programs. Let's look at the GENERAL style first, since it's the easiest to implement.


In the example above, where we're trying to find the warehouse area based on a warehouse number and bin location, the service program would look like this:




     * Program.....: AREACHEK                                       *

     * Purpose.....: Determine warehouse area                       *



     D getarea       pr            3

     D whse_                      2   const

     D binloc_                      5   const


     P getarea        B                   Export


     D getarea       pi            3

     D whse                      2   const

     D binloc                      5   const


     D whsearea     s             3  




     // Do some work here to take the warehouse number and bin

     // location and determine the warehouse area


      return (whsearea);



     P                 E


The good thing about starting with the preceding service program that returns a value is that no programming changes are required to define an interface for SQL to call the UDF, and the CREATE FUNCTION statement can refer directly to the service program. But before we move on to the CREATE FUNCTION statement, let's look at what needs to be done in the case of an RPGLE program.


Instead of a service program, let's assume you have an RPGLE program similar to the one shown below that returns the warehouse area as a parameter:



   * Program.....: AREACHK                                       *

     * Purpose.....: Determine warehouse area                       *



     D areacheck     pr                 EXTPGM('AREACHEK')

     D whse_                      2

     D binloc_                      5

     D whsearea_                  3


     D areacheck     pi

     D whse                       2

     D binloc                    5

     D whsearea                  3




     // Do some work here to take the warehouse number and bin

     // location and determine the warehouse area

     // Set whsearea = warehouse area


      *inlr = *on;




Again you have a choice. Either the program can be converted to a service program as in the first example with a RETURN (value), or the SQL parameter style interface can be used. Since we've discussed the service program interface, let's look at what needs to be done to this program to be called using the SQL interface. The SQL interface consists of the following required parameters in this order:


  1. Input parameters: One or more to be specified for the function
  2. A result parameter
  3. One or more indicator variables for the input parameters (one for each input parameter). These are set by DB2 and are used to indicate null (-1) or not null (0).
  4. An indicator variable for the result parameter. A negative value indicates a null result.
  5. A CHAR(5) output parameter for SQLSTATE
  6. A VARCHAR(517) input parameter for the fully qualified function name
  7. A VARCHAR(128) input parameter for the specific name of the function
  8. A VARCHAR(1000) output parameter for the message text


Several other optional parameters can be used but will not be discussed here. Now let's look at the program after the interface modifications have been made.



     * Program.....: AREACHK                                       *

     * Purpose.....: Determine warehouse area                       *



     D areacheck     pr                 EXTPGM('AREACHEK')

     D whse_                      2   const

     D binloc_                    5   const

     D whsearea_                  3

     D in_whse_                  5i 0 const

     D in_binloc_                5i 0 const

     D in_whsearea_              5i 0

     D sqlsterr_                  5

     D fctname_                517   varying

     D spcname_                128   varying

     D msgtext_                1000   varying


     D areacheck     pi

     D inwhse                    2   const

     D inbinloc                  5   const

     D whsearea                  3

     D in_whse                    5i 0 const

     D in_binloc                  5i 0 const

     D in_whsearea                5i 0

     D sqlsterr                  5

     D fctname                  517   varying

     D spcname                  128   varying

     D msgtext                  1000   varying




     // Do some work here to take the warehouse number and bin

     // location and determine the warehouse area

     // Set whsearea = warehouse area


      if notfound;

         sqlsterr = '59999';

         msgtest = 'Warehouse area not found';



      *inlr = *on;




When faced with making changes to the program interface to support the SQL parameter style, you might say it's just as easy to create a service program instead, and most of the time I would agree with that view. However, there are a couple of benefits when using the SQL parameter interface, and one is that a user-defined error code can be returned in the sqlsterr parameter, as well as a user-defined message in the msgtext. I've included an example here where the warehouse area could not be determined. This is one reason that you might consider using the SQL parameter style instead of the GENERAL one. Another reason is that your database supports null values, and you might pass or return a null value as part of the function arguments and want to be able to identify them in your program. The SQL interface provides indicator variables to identify null values.


Once we've determined the parameter style, it's time to create the SQL function. This can be done by using the CREATE FUNCTION SQL statement in STRSQL, creating a source module with the CREATE FUNCTION statement in it and using the RUNSQLSTMT command, or using the wizard in the System i Navigator. For our examples above, let's compare a simple create function statement for the service program using the GENERAL parameter style to the create function statement for the RPGLE program using the SQL parameter style. For the service program, our create statement is:



Create function mylib/getarea ( whse char(2), binloc char(5) )

       returns char(3)

       language rpgle

       external name 'MYLIB/AREACHECK(getarea)'

       parameter style general

       program type sub



Reading the above statement is straightforward. We're creating the SQL function getarea in the library MYLIB and passing two parameters, both consisting of character data. The function returns a three-character result. The language that the service program is written in is RPGLE, the program is located in MYLIB/AREACHECK with procedure getarea, and the program type is a procedure in a service program. Note that the external name parameter specifying the library name and program name (MYLIB/AREACHECK) must be in uppercase.


For the RPGLE program with the SQL parameter style, we have the following:


Create function mylib/getarea (whse char(2), binloc char(5) )

       returns char(3)

       language rpgle

       external name 'MYLIB/AREACHECK'

       parameter style sql

       program type main  



The only differences are referencing the program name on the external name statement instead of the procedure name for the service program, the difference in the parameter style, and the program type MAIN instead of SUB. It's important to remember that the create function statement is not creating a program object in your library, but is instead registering information about the interface of the program object in the database for SQL to use to call it.

Other Keywords on the Create Function

There are many other keywords on the Create Function command, and without discussing all of them, I will mention here a couple that could apply to an RPG or RPGLE program. The first is the DETERMINISTIC or NOT DETERMINISTIC keyword. Using the DETERMINISTIC keyword tells SQL that the same input parameters will always return the same result. This allows an SQL function to cache the result on a call and, if called again with the same parameters, use the result without executing the program. An example is a function that returns the hire date based on passing the function an employee number. Similarly, a NOT DETERMINISTIC (the default) function would be one that returns the vacation days remaining for an employee when passed the employee number. Without this keyword specified, SQL will assume the function is NOT DETERMINISTIC, so specifying DETERMINISTIC if it applies could improve performance.


Another keyword indicates whether SQL is used in the RPG or RPGLE program that makes up the function and how it is being used. In this case the options are these:


  • No SQLThe program does not use SQL.
  • Contains SQLThe program contains a limited number of SQL statements, none of which read or update data files.
  • Reads SQLThe program reads data using, for example, an SQL Select statement (Default).
  • Modifies SQL DataThe program can read and modify data using SQL.


There are a number of other keywords available, so this is just a start.


After we've executed the CREATE FUNCTION statement above, let's put our new function to use. In our system, the table INVENT contains our locations and inventory for each item in each of our warehouses, so the SQL statement


SELECT prodno, size, casloc, getarea ( char('01'), casloc )

FROM invent WHERE casloc <> ' '  


returns the warehouse area for warehouse 1 for each of the items with a case location that is not blank, as shown below.



Figure 1: The display shows the warehouse area and case location for each item.


While I've used the STRSQL command line interface and the green-screen to show the getarea function, it's important to point out that the System i Navigator has a nice interface to create, delete, and view SQL UDFs. For example, if we take a look at the getarea function that we created in my test library JBSTEST, it looks like this:



Figure 2: This is the getarea function created in test library JBSTEST.


By selecting the function and right-clicking your mouse, you get a dialog box with one of the choices being "Explain SQL". Choosing this option displays information about the function, including the CREATE statement.


Figure 3: Get information about the chosen function.



While I haven't covered every aspect of creating an SQL UDF scalar function in this brief article, I hope I've given you a good starting point for creating your own functions. So the next time one someone asks for information that is contained in the business logic of an RPG or RPGLE program, at least consider whether it makes sense to provide it through an SQL UDF. It's a great way to share your RPG business logic with programmers writing in Java, PHP, or any other language that uses SQL.


On a final note, I'd like to leave you with two other SQL statements that will be useful to you as you begin experimenting with the Create Function statement. The first is the Drop Function statement, which allows you to remove an SQL function you created from the data base registry, and, as of V6R1, a new Alter Function statement that allows you to modify an existing function.


For more on SQL User-Defined Functions, consider the IBM Redbook Stored Procedures, Triggers, and User-Defined Functions on DB2 Universal Database for iSeries or the DB2 for i SQL Reference at the IBM Infocenter website.




Jim Staton

Jim Staton is Vice President for Information Technology at Mutual Distributing Company, the largest alcohol beverage distributing company in North Carolina.


While Jim never worked with IBM midrange systems at IBM, one of his first programming jobs was developing software for an IBM System/3 Model 6 for his family's business. He continued to develop RPG applications for the business in his spare time on a System/32, System/34, System/36, and eventually the AS/400.


In 1978, Jim joined IBM at the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, where he worked with computer communications and protocol standardization. As a manager at IBM, he was responsible for IBM's work with the IEEE 802.x committees to complete the standards for the 802.2-5 protocols for local area networks. In 1985, Jim joined the IBM European Networking Center in Heidelberg, Germany, where he managed the development of IBM's first prototype implementing the CCITT X400 Standard, which were the rules governing the first universal email system. While at IBM, Jim was awarded two patents in communication protocols as well as an Outstanding Technical Achievement Award for his work with X.400 Message Handling System. He also coauthored several articles on computer communications for the IBM Systems Journal.


Jim has been a speaker at a number of conferences on a variety of topics, including communications protocols, supply chain management, mobile applications, and business intelligence.


Jim graduated from Ohio State University in 1978 with an MS degree in Computer Science.





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    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.