DB2 For IBM i: Made But Not Mastered
November 28, 2016 Dan Burger
IBM recently hosted an SAP on IBM i conference for customers and business partners. The conference is described as a showcase of best practices and advice on deployment of the latest technologies. IBM’s lineup of experts included Scott Forstie, DB2 for i Business Architect and a member of the DB2 on i Lab Services team. Forstie says interest in the new analytic features and OLAP functions available in DB2 for i surpasses anything to do with HANA.
“Many attendees come to a conference like this to concentrate on better ways to use what they already own and to get the roadmap information from SAP and IBM,” Forstie says. “The SAP customers are like most all customers. They care about performance and functionality.”
His self-described role at the conference is to explain the DB2 for i enhancements and how they benefit SAP on i clients.
“User defined table functions, inline table functions, determinism–I show how these things can accelerate application behavior and how these things are easy to adopt for clients using SQL on i,” he says. “It has broad appeal. Who doesn’t like an easy to achieve performance boost?”
In explaining technologies and how they work, Forstie is sometimes working in the considerable shadow of HANA. SAP trumpets HANA as if it is the answer for every analytical situation that comes up. Forstie says HANA is a single option and SAP on i users realize there are multiple options to consider.
“Every SAP customer has heard about HANA, but it is still pretty early and it seems there are not many IBM i people actively evaluating it,” Forstie says. The question of when and if these IBM i users will want to use HANA for analytics is still unanswered.
People come to Forstie to ask questions about what they are currently running and what they might want to run in the future. He’s not the guy to ask about HANA.
Many of the SAP on IBM i customers are using SAP’s Business Warehouse software for their analytics and are still learning the capabilities of BW and DB2 for i.
If you stay current with your business software and your operating system, you get rewarded. It’s a message that is heard a lot. Companies that are not current are disadvantaged. They are not using all the tools available and are not getting the performance that is achievable. It’s also true that they are not getting the value out of the IT investments that have already been made. That’s a serious consideration when making a comparison that involves another momentous investment.
Forstie focuses on database enhancements that users are not aware of or have yet to become skilled at using for both transactional and analytical needs. He points out that SAP programmers can leverage new features and functions in DB2 for i with new analytics in the BW software. “The SAP Business Warehouse offering,” he says, “is mature and has deep features that keep customers satisfied. It’s not missing what they need.”
He also notes the SAP programming language, known as ABAP, which has new features in the current version of NetWeaver, the technical foundation for many SAP applications. Some of the enhancements are SAP programming specific within what SAP calls Core Data Services (CDS). Core Data services (CDS) are domain specific languages (DSL) and services that are an integral part of HANA, but not exclusive to HANA, which is a common misnomer.
Continually assessing options–as opposed to being told one option is the answer for everyone (hello, HANA)–is smart IT hygiene, Forstie advises. “Consider what technologies do you currently use and what technologies are available. Understand current environments and what you want to do next. Identify how to get there and do cost and value assessments. It’s integral to running a good shop.”
DB2 for i has in-memory capabilities that are almost always overlooked in the marketing frenzy that encourages companies to HANA-balize their existing databases.
“Part of what we see with our SAP customers–and other customers–is that they are evaluating our partitioned table support that allows different members of the same physical file. DB2 for i partitioned tables makes it possible for one of those members to reside in memory while other members are not. This allows selected members to have accelerated data access. This is a storage acceleration technology conversation that takes into consideration performance of larger data,” Forstie says.
That conversation that is happening more frequently, Forstie says, because SAP on i solutions are moving closer to the database. SAP programmers are using more advanced SQL queries and clustering tables.
To handle the massive growth in data that some companies are experiencing, DB2 for i has incorporated symmetric multi-processing (SMP) query performance acceleration using multi-threading capability and larger tables.
SMP involves symmetric multi-processor system hardware and software architecture that allows two or more identical processors to connect to shared main memory. Access to I/O devices are controlled by a single operating system instance that treats all processors equally. DB2 SMP allows the parallel execution of OLAP.
Another feature that fits in with SMP is DB2 Multi-System, which provides the capability to partition tables. The benefits are efficient removal of old data, faster save times, improved query performance, and the capability to detach partitions.
The temporal table support added in IBM i 7.3 has led to the SMP and multi-system discussions, Forstie says. Both SMP and multi-system features are priced options to DB2 for i.
There’s a 70-day trial evaluation program for these two options that is available to IBM i 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3 customers.