DB2 New Year Resolutions

As we enter another New Year, many people reflect on the year that has passed and formulate some New Year Resolutions – a list of things they would like to do better this year than they have done previously.

Having taken a (totally unscientific) survey of IDUG volunteers, I’ve gathered together some of their resolutions into this article hoping that many of those in the IDUG DB2 community will also take these things to heart.

Guarantee Recoverability

Early in my DB2 career I heard Lockwood Lyon ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/locklyon ) speak at an IDUG conference.   One thing he said has always stuck with me, “The three most important things for a Database Administrator are Recoverability, Recoverability and Recoverability”.  I took this advice to heart and thankfully have not so far had a non-recoverable situation (although I’ve had a few close calls over the years).  

So at the start of this year, I’d encourage every one of you who is responsible for DB2 systems to check that you are able to recover them in the event of a problem.  Doing this will involve a number of things including –

  • Ensuring that everything is being backed up appropriately
  • Ensuring that you are treating your archive log files correctly
  • Ensure that the backups and archive logs are actually valid
  • Testing that recovery actually works on a regular basis

The first two of these can be done by running appropriate SQL and system commands regularly to look for any gaps in your backup and logging strategy.   This has got simpler in recent years, particularly on DB2 for LUW, as more system stored procedures and UDFs allow access to virtually all aspects of your environment from SQL.

For the third point, there are tools available to test the integrity of backup and log files.   I’m surprised how little they are used.

As to the fourth point, there is nothing better for ensuring that a system or database is recoverable than actually carrying that recovery out.   Whether this involves restoring a DB2 for z/OS subsystem to a dedicated Disaster Recovery site or restoring a DB2 for LUW database onto a test server, this process will not only help to expose any weaknesses in your recovery plan but will also give your staff practice which will stand them in good stead in the event of a real recovery.

Request Enhancements

For years, I’ve listened to DB2 users at IDUG conferences discussing the features they’d like to see in their DB2 product of choice.  In most cases these feature requests get no further than conference discussions, because the people who want them don’t take the time to ensure that IBM gets to know about them through standard channels.

I’m as guilty as the rest of not taking the time to raise enhancement requests.  I’m hoping that 2017 will be the year when I finally get round to filing these through the official IBM Request for Enhancements process –

https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rfe/

This process has been improved and standardized recently, but the number of requests that are filed is very small compared to the number of items that I’ve heard people discussing.  

As well as filing requests, take time to read the requests that others have made and if someone else has submitted a request that you also would like to see then vote for it.  The more people that sign up for a request the more notice IBM will take of it.

Another good way of getting your voice heard with IBM is through the various Customer Advisory Council (CAC) / Technical Advisory Board (TAB) forums for the different DB2 products.  If you are not involved in one of these, then speak to your local IBM representative about how to get involved.  I’ve been involved in the DB2 for LUW TAB for a number of years now, and am pleased to say that IBM really listens.  I’m happy to point to dsmtop as an example of this.  And the recent DB2 for LUW 11.1 Fixpack 1 brought a nice surprise and the subject of another request at TAB meetings: the availability of BOOLEAN as a first-class data type.

As the old saying goes, “If you don’t ask you don’t get”.    So, start asking!

Learn Something New

The DB2 products and their surrounding ecosystems are a constantly evolving world.

If you’ve went through 2016 without having explored some new feature or experimented with something you’ve never tried before then you are letting both yourself and your customers or employers down.

In fact, 2016 was a massive year for new things to learn, with new DB2 releases for both DB2 for z/OS and DB2 for LUW.  Ask yourself what the major new features of your chosen DB2 platform were – if you can’t name at least a few of them without having to refer to the manuals then you definitely have some catching up to do.

Of course, you aren’t going to become an expert on every feature of DB2. But you need to know enough about what is available so that when a need arises you can then say “I wonder if <feature> could help with that?”. 

A good way to keep track is to follow the IDUG Content blog –

http://www.idug.org/p/bl/et/blogid=278

The volunteers in the Content Committee try to make sure that we cover as many features of DB2 as we are able to, with new material being published every week.

If you are able to, plan to attend one of the IDUG Conferences.  These events are a great way to gather a huge amount of DB2 information in a short space of time.   Not only will you be able to hear the “latest and greatest” from IBM speakers, but you will also get to hear how real users are using the DB2 functionality.  I always find the user presentations to be extremely helpful, since you get not only the features but the pitfalls and how to avoid them.

However, I’ve always been a great believer that there is no substitute for actually trying something yourself.  Until you have done that then I don’t think you really know how it works.   Many of my IDUG presentations have come out of the time I’ve spent really getting to grips with a particular DB2 topic. I can think of a few that have stood me in good stead over the years, particularly the time I spent with pureXML, DB2 temporal support and the DB2 Ruby on Rails integration. I’ve recently completed experimenting with DB2 for LUW cloud storage integration. I’m currently working with DB2’s node.js support, and hope to be able to present on this shortly as well.    So I’d encourage everyone to get themselves a test area to work with.  Seek out the use of DB2 for z/OS test subsystem if that is your platform.  If you are using DB2 for LUW, then look at DB2 Express-C.   If you are a developer, then get familiar with both the graphical (Data Studio and Visual Studio plugins) and non-graphical (CLP and CLPPLUS) tools.   If you are exploring a new programming language then work out how you can communicate with DB2 from it; most languages have native DB2 support available.

Beyond DB2 itself, there is an ever-growing ecosystem that you should get familiar with.  Examples that are calling for our investigation include the various analytics platforms such as Spark and Hadoop, DB2-related products such as IDAA and InfoSphere Federation Server and the myriad of tools which can be used with DB2.  Another area which probably needs our focus is the vast array of IBM products which ship with a DB2 server as part of their overall system and probably need someone with DB2 skills to ensure that this component is properly managed – DataStage, Tivoli Storage Manager and IBM MDM Server are just three examples.

Contribute to the Community

I’m sure you have found that the IDUG and DB2 communities are excellent at sharing their knowledge. If you have experienced this, then please try to return the favour. There are many ways that you can contribute.  Here are some ideas –

  • Follow the IDUGDB2-L mailing list: http://www.idug.org/p/fo/si/topic=19 and try to help your peers if you can. There is always going to be something that you know how to do that someone would like to know. And if you have struggled with something and have managed to solve it, why don’t you write a short note to the list which might help someone else in the future.
  • Write an article or a blog. The IDUG Content Committee welcomes contributions from the community, and will help contributors on the route from idea to article.  Just drop us a note at cc@idug.org to get started.  Even if you have never written an article before don’t be put off, as you will have unique experiences of DB2 that others will be glad to hear about.
  • Consider submitting an abstract to present at an IDUG conference. For many the thought of speaking publicly is daunting.  But there are lots of folks there to help you along and encourage you.  As part of the EMEA CPC over the last few years, I’ve been pleased to see a new crop of younger presenters getting involved and in many cases doing a better job than we ever did. Come along and join them!
  • Explore new ways of contributing. The internet and social media presents new avenues for sharing DB2 knowledge.  While I am no expert in these areas, I’m glad to see that those who populate new communication channels are actively helping each other.  I’d like to highlight a couple of non-IDUG resources I’ve found helpful.  Firstly the DB2 Night Show ( http://www.dbisoftware.com/db2nightshow/ ), hosted by Scott Hayes and Martin Hubel has done a huge amount to spread good quality DB2 information, and also to let people know about IDUG.   More recently Ian Bjorhovde has really done a lot of work on The Whole Package Cache ( http://www.pkgcache.com : in association with Fred Sobotka) and Create Database ( https://createdatabase.fm/ ) podcasts.  The first of these is a bit like a DB2 chat show.  The second of these speaks to well-known members of the DB2 community about their life and how they got to where they are today.  
  • Encourage others who contribute. Even if you do nothing else, don’t forget to thank those who take the time to help the community.   Whether it is tweeting about an article you liked, posting a comment on a blog or simply letting a speaker know that you found their talk helpful, it all helps the wheels of the community to turn smoothly.

Remember There is More To Life Than DB2

Finally, it is always good to remind ourselves that while we may enjoy working with DB2, and being involved in the DB2 community, there are more important things. In the current business world, it is so easy to focus on our work and lose sight of the fact of the other things in our lives.

Look around you and realise that your family, your community, your health and your soul all need your attention and don’t neglect them. 

May your 2017 be healthy, happy and prosperous.

And, if you have the time, “Don’t just do it, DB2 it” !!!

 

 

 

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