Halcyon Overcomes IBM i Spool File Limits
March 13, 2012 Alex Woodie
The IBM i platform excels at handling big data. Its integrated database allows customers to handle large amounts of data with relative ease. Just the same, there are some limits in the OS when it comes to spool files that some IBM i shops have managed to meet. With the latest release of its Spooled File Manager, Halcyon Software has enabled these customers to overcome these limits and continue to process and store an ever-growing collection of spool files.
Spooled File Manager is an IBM i product designed to streamline the distribution and long-term storage of spool files generated by applications. Examples of the green screen utility’s repertoire include: automatically creating indices of spool files to enable quick retrieval at a later time; emailing reports as PDF attachments based on variable data in the report; and purging old spool files to clear disk space and boost performance, among other features.
With version 9.0, Halcyon has focused on improving Spooled File Manager’s performance in big-data environments. Some customers of the U.K. software company are required by law to retain reports and other documents for many years after they’re generated. Over the years, the data builds and builds. In some cases, where customers generate and store these reports in a single IBM i spool file, they bump up against intrinsic limitations in the IBM i architecture.
Martin Norman, Halcyon’s technical support manager, explains to IT Jungle the spool file limit and its ramifications to Halcyon customers.
“There’s an IBM limitation that you can’t have 32,763 members in a single file,” he says. “I hate to call it a limitation because IBM has made a fairly high level scope available, but it’s just that people keep reaching it. Whoever thought we’d need 32,764?”
Because of legal requirements that customers keep reports accessible for so long, Norman says, that limitation gets reached fairly easily by Halcyon customers. “So we put some background processing in place so that we roll over when we reach that limitation. We just roll over and automatically start processing into a different location, into a different file,” he says.
Spooled File Manager 9.0 also features a new compression capability that enables customers to store massive numbers of pages in their spool files. Some of Halcyon’s customers have individual spool files that contain more than 1 million pages.
For example, one of Halcyon’s customers in the energy business must keep track of royalty payments for natural gas drilling. They had to keep a seven-year trail of it to keep the auditors happy, says Halcyon vice president of marketing John Dominic. “It had become a massive amount of information to keep in their archive and keep generating these spool files that were insanely large,” he says.
Halcyon’s approach to storing spool files with more than 1 million pages is to remove all the blank spaces in the report, Norman says. “Quite often in a large report like that, most of the space in the report is white noise. There’s nothing there,” he says. “So we can take that and compress it down by getting rid of all the spaces.”
The new version also features user interface enhancements, including new templates that define what reports a person can see, and new “smart caching” techniques to help speed the presentation of the list of reports a particular user can access.
The new templates will make it easier for multiple users to share their reports in a secure manner. The templates give security administrators the capability to define which groups of reports (i.e., which author’s reports) they can access and which they can’t. “Normally when you work with spool files, it shows you what you generated,” Dominic says. “But we’ve added some new criteria so that you can see … what multiple people have done, if you have the proper amount of authorization.”
The smart caching technique, meanwhile, will give satisfaction to hurried users. “Everybody’s impatient these days. They want to see something happening straight away,” Norman says. “So with smart caching, it now shows me my first screen of information when I first start looking at reports, and the process continues to run in the background, collecting the spool files you might want to see as you’re paging through the system.”
Halcyon also divulged a new product that will likely debut around the COMMON timeframe (early May). The product, tentatively called the Spooled File Management Suite, will combine the spool file collection and distribution capabilities of Spooled File Manager with more advanced document management capabilities, such as a screen overlay tool, a GUI interface, and more advanced document distribution parameters.
Spooled File Manager 9.0 is available now as a standalone tool or as part of Halcyon’s level three Advanced Automation Suite and level four Operations Center Suite. For more information see the vendor’s website at www.halcyonsoftware.com.