It is vitally important to ensure that your Db2® databases and systems are running effectively and efficiently. This requires the diligent application of administration and management tasks on a regular basis. Failure to keep up with the status of your Db2 databases can result in poorly performing applications, unavailable data and systems, and ultimately, lost revenue.

Automation can help. But what do we mean by automation? Sure, most of you inherently know what automation is, at least at a high level. But it is worthwhile to consider a brief definition. Automation involves reducing human involvement in your activities, turning things over to intelligent software. The goal is to reduce the amount of time, effort, and human error involved in maintaining efficient systems. That sounds good, right?

Nevertheless, many IT professionals have an aversion to automation. We are happy to automate everyone else’s job but not our own. As experts on technology, you’d think we’d be able to see the fallacy of this belief. By developing computerized applications to support business processes, we automate just about every job in our organizations. But try to tell a DBA to automate their utilities or to use advanced autonomics to direct their actions and you’d think you just insulted their mother. Many technology folks resist automation for fear of losing control or perhaps, losing their job. These fears are understandable, but not really justifiable.

There is an IT skills shortage and companies want to hire more IT professionals than are available. And we are over-worked – who among us really wants to work 12-hour days all the time? And in the mainframe world, the workforce is aging and we need to do something as the experienced folks retire and move on.

The truth is, most IT tasks and procedures can be streamlined and made more efficient using automation: automated systems management, database administration and tuning, and yes, even application development. Automation will not be able to completely replace IT professionals any time soon, but it is important as organizations struggle to cope with a shortage of skilled IT professionals. By turning some of the work over to the computer, IT can become more efficient, more effective, and provide a higher ROI to the business.

One of the biggest challenges IT professionals in general, and DBAs in particular, face is the growing complexity of technology and software. Contributing to this complexity is the growing number of devices, the increasing number of systems that interoperate with one another, and the growing number of parameters and options available in systems software and utilities.

A Day in the Life of a DBA

To help us understand the growing complexity and need for automation, let’s examine a typical day in the life of a Db2 DBA. It can be quite hectic. The DBA is required to maintain production and test environments while at the same time keeping an eye on active application development projects, attending strategy and design meetings, helping to select and evaluate new products, and connecting legacy systems to the web. And Joe in Accounting, he just submitted that “query from hell” again that is bringing the system to a halt, can you do something about that? All of these things can occur within a single DBA workday.

Databases are at the center of modern applications. If Db2 fails, applications fail, and if applications fail the entire business can come to a halt. If databases and applications fail often enough, the entire business can fail. Database administration therefore is critical to the on-going success of modern business.

So, growing complexity and overwhelmed DBAs contribute to the need to automate. Automation can optimize management and reduce complexity by instrumenting and running tasks based on tried and true best practices.

Automating Db2 Utilities

Db2 utilities are a prime candidate for automation because they need to be run regularly and there are industry best practices and statistics that can be used to automate them. Not to mention the fact that the complexity of Db2 utilities is increasing all the time. Just compare the number of parameters and options available today for Db2 13 for z/OS versus what was available in the past.

For example, do you understand how to run your utilities online, while data is accessible to your applications? Do you use parallel index build with the LOAD, REORG and REBUILD INDEX utilities? Have you ever loaded partitions in parallel? How about using the LISTDEF, TEMPLATE, and OPTIONS statements for controlling utility operations? And these are only a few of the innovations made to IBM’s Db2 utilities over the years. Indeed, the list of improvements made to IBM utilities in Db2 13 for z/OS is challenging, and some DBAs have not really implemented any new utility functionality in years.

Truly, automating utilities is a best practice, but many shops do not adhere to this best practice. Instead, they just create utility jobs for every object and schedule them to run regularly. This set-it-and-forget-it mentality means that most utility jobs get built when the object is created and then rarely examined ever again. The decision on how frequently the jobs will be run is made up-front and never re-examined, unless there are performance, availability, or recovery problems.

If you fall into this category of utility scheduler, how frequently do you schedule your REORG, RUNSTATS, and COPY jobs to run. Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly? There is not usually a lot of thought put into the frequency of execution. And even if you meticulously analyze your scheduling decision when the object is created, are you sure that decision is still sound now, perhaps many years later? Few DBAs re-assess the situation over time to see if their initial scheduling decisions were accurate or still stand.

At any rate, automating utilities based on thresholds is a better practice. Automation can ensure that you are running your REORG, RUNSTATS, and COPY utilities when it makes sense, instead of on a rigid schedule. If you run these utilities too late, you risk recoverability and availability issues, as well as increased cost due to poor performance and increased CPU usage. And if you run the utilities too soon, you are consuming CPU and I/O that you do not need to run, and that, too, increases costs.

The goal is to run your Db2 utilities at just the right time. And that can be done using Db2 statistics. Of course, each utility needs to examine different real-time statistics to run them at the proper time. You should consider a tool, such as iDBA, which can help you to implement intelligent DBA automation. Such a solution can consider all the pertinent parameters and statistics and determine what the appropriate maintenance tasks and utilities that need to be run based on your environment and situation…and not a schedule from long ago.