Out of Support Database – A DB2 Support Nightmare!

The set-up

 

You have a mission critical database that uses DB2 V9.7 or 10.1 (or even earlier! We do have customers still running V8). It’s robust, reliable and gives little cause for concern. Upgrading to a new version is going to take your application off-line and is, perhaps, a business risk that is going to be hard to get any sanction from senior management. Best to just let things alone.

There are a number of problems with this scenario:

  • Even if you have competent and experienced DBAs to hand, there will eventually be a problem that is actually with the code base itself, rather than the implementation of DB2. If you’re out-of-support, then IBM will not provide an answer
  • You will eventually be trapped in a situation where your application needs to be upgraded and / or your OS needs to be, or some other component of your system and this dictates that you must upgrade DB2. You are then under time pressure and you may have to “bunny-hop” from one version to another to achieve the desired and supported level of DB2
  • If do have to upgrade you may find that there are features and functions in the version of DB2 that you use that are deprecated or, worse still, obsolete in the version that you are being forced to upgrade to. You then have to squeeze some application rewrite into the timeframe for a critical database upgrade

 

The Moral

Don’t let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security; your database may be running without a hitch at the moment but that doesn’t mean it always will (see http://db2geek.triton.co.uk/aint-broke-dont-fix/ for further whinging). Just because the family motor has driven the last 12,000 miles without you looking under the bonnet, doesn’t mean it will do so indefinitely. And if it’s out of warranty….

Furthermore, the latest versions of DB2 include more and more features and functions, and include many performance improvements straight out of the box. Why not take advantage of this?

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Total Recall: Exploiting In-Memory Features in DB2 z/OS on the DB2Night Show

We are pleased to confirm that Julian Stuhler, Solutions Delivery Director and IBM Gold Consultant will be the guest presenter on the forthcoming DB2Night Show. Julian will be presenting on Total Recall: Exploiting In-Memory Features in DB2 12 for z/OS. 

Episode #z90 of this popular show runs on the Friday 19th October at 4-5:15pm BST.

Synopsis

IBM has steadily expanded the in-memory capabilities of DB2 in recent releases, to the extent that DB2 12 for z/OS is now officially recognised by Gartner as a bona fide “In Memory Database”. This presentation provides an overview of the ways in which DB2 is evolving to exploit more real memory, reduce CPU and deliver improved price/performance, with a specific emphasis on exploiting new DB2 12 in-memory features such as contiguous buffer pools and Fast Traverse Blocks (FTBs).

Register here.

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IBM Webcast – Tell Your Story & Earn Your Star: Become an IBM Champion

It’s IBM Champion nomination season! Join Libby Ingrassia, IBM Sr. WW Program Manager  on Monday 8th October for the webcast Tell Your Story & Earn Your Star: Become an IBM Champion.

IBM Champions are a community of experts across IBM technologies and around the world who are recognised by IBM for their extraordinary expertise and contributions to the technical community

Libby will provide further details of the IBM Champion program, the benefits of being a champion as well as the values the program brings to IBM and the community.  Libby will also share the all-important information on how to nominate yourself or someone else.

Click here to register.

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5 Misconceptions about Outsourcing Database Support

1 – You have to outsource all of your IT support

This can be a key concern for many organisations. They can see the benefits of outsourcing or using a 3rd party provider for support but worry about whether they will have to outsource everything. With specialist or niche support providers it is possible to simply outsource one specific area of IT to that specialist provider. When it comes to DB2 Support, Triton can take over the maintenance and support of all or part of your DB2 infrastructure, you have total control over the coverage and levels of support.

2 – It’s all about cost cutting

This is one of the biggest myths about outsourcing database support. Whilst it can certainly be more cost effective to have an external support provider, this isn’t the only reason for considering whether to outsource database support.

An external DB2 support provider can back-up your in-house IT team with expert DB2 knowledge. Knowing where to go and who to ask when extra support is needed can be a huge benefit and can enable in-house IT teams to be more efficient, resolve issues more quickly and concentrate on core IT work.

During extra busy periods such as software upgrades or seasonal workload peaks an outsourcing or support agreement means that the day to day maintenance of critical DB2 databases will still be carried out.

3 – Outsourcing is only for big business

It’s a really common misconception that outsourcing is only for large enterprise organisations who want to lift and shift whole IT departments to an outsourcing provider, usually offshore. However, this is no longer the case. Many smaller organisations are now realising the benefits of outsourcing parts of their IT support functions. Smaller organisations can quickly see the benefits of improved efficiency and flexibility which outsourcing can offer.

4 – Security will be compromised

Security is a hot topic in all organisations, whether large or small. All outsourcing or external support providers should have robust security procedures in place and this is something which should be checked thoroughly before entering into a contract.

Triton’s RemoteDBA service connects to your systems via secure VPN. We are flexible and implement any remote access protocols required by your organisation.

5 – Loss of control

It’s very common for organisations to feel that any sort of outsourcing means a loss of control. However, a good outsourcing or external support provider should be able to alleviate these concerns with clear processes and good communication. Before you start working with a new provider, plan in time to speak to the team and get to know your key contacts. Help them to understand how your team works and what your expectations of the service are. Take a look at our “How to get the most out of your RemoteDBA service” blog for more tips on working with a remote database support provider.

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Ooops I found some DB2

It might sound somewhat unusual but sometimes organisations stumble across DB2 in their IT estate which they didn’t realise existed or that they hadn’t planned for. There can be a variety of reasons for this. When an organisation purchases a new application, it is often the case that it is shipped alongside the application vendor’s preferred database. This may be a database which is not widely used within the organisation. Most of the time, the application and the DB2 database will be installed and used with no issues. In this case, support for the underlying database isn’t considered an issue.

However, sometimes it can become a problem. Sometimes we hear from organisations who are in this very position and are having issues with a database which their IT team has little or no experience of. All of a sudden they’re in the position of effectively running an unsupported database. If this database is underpinning a mission critical application then this can cause serious issues.

Acquisition can be another cause of an unexpected occurrence of DB2. If an organisation acquires another business there may be a small DB2 installation which they weren’t expecting, perhaps under the covers of another application as in the example above. This again can cause problems when it comes to supporting the database.

For organisations that are running another database such as Oracle or SQL Server then it’s simply not cost effective to bring in a DB2 DBA to look after one instance of DB2. A Consultancy on Demand contract may be the answer. Simply purchasing 20 hours of DB2 consultancy means that if any issues arise you can call Triton who will be able to provide a consultant, either onsite or remotely to get things resolved. This is a far more cost efficient way of dealing with this type of issue. Triton’s team of DB2 experts will definitely be able to pinpoint what’s going on in the DB2 database under the covers of your application.

Find out more about Consultancy on Demand and our Flexible IT Resourcing services.

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Six Reasons to Review your Database Availability– Part 2 Lost Customers

From working with many customers to help keep their critical databases up and running we have come up with the top 6 reasons for putting Database Availability at the top of your priority list. In this blog we look at Lost Customers:

If an organisation is experiencing an outage, whether planned or unplanned, it is all too easy for customers to get frustrated and take their business to a competitor. This is particularly relevant in an online retail environment. One click can have a customer abandoning their shopping basket and looking for an alternative.

Customers expect services to be available 24/7 whether they are accessing a mobile banking app, shopping website or searching for an insurance quote. Even outages caused by planned, routine maintenance have the ability to leave customers open to using an alternative supplier if they cannot access the service they want, when they want it.

In the age of social media it is all too easy for disgruntled customers to head to Twitter or Facebook to let the world know about their negative experience with your brand. A few recent examples from Twitter below:

Database outage

Companies are spending an increasing amount of time and budget on handling outages and customer communications via Twitter and other social platforms to make sure they keep customers informed and onside during both planned and unplanned outages:

 

This ties in very closely to our third reason for prioritising Database Availability – reputational damage (more on that in a later blog).

A common stat about customer retention is that it is around 5-6 times cheaper to retain an existing customer than to generate a new customer. With that in mind it is vital for organisations to put a value on what a lost customer means to their business. Planning for outages, whether expected or unexpected is essential to minimise loss of customers.

Find out more in our white paper or take a look at our Database Availability consultancy services.

 

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What’s coming up at IDUG EMEA 2018

The countdown is on! IDUG EMEA 2018 is just around the corner and it is set to be a great event. With so many fantastic speakers this year it’s going to be tough to plan your diary so we thought we would pull out a few highlights from the agenda which we think look particularly interesting:

DevOps and Agile are hot topics this year and you’ve got a few choices of presentations:

Monday Afternoon – Cloudy with a Chance of DevOps – A Survival Guide Julian Stuhler, Triton Consulting

Tuesday Afternoon – Agile DB2 Deployment with Docker, Kubernetes and REST Mark Murnane, IBM

Wednesday Morning – Docker and DB2: Recipes for Uncontained Success Ian Bjorhovde, DataProxy LLC

“I’m really excited about IDUG EMEA this year. The venue is fantastic and we have such a great line-up of speakers from users to IBM experts, long-time IDUG speakers and first-time attendees. I think this could be our best event yet!” Iqbal Goralwalla, IDUG Board of Directors Vice President / EMEA CPC Liaison & Emerging Technologies and Triton Head of Midrange Services

IBM expert talks are always popular so make sure you grab a seat early for these three fascinating talks:

Monday Morning – DB2: Latest from the Lab and look into the Future Keri Romanufa, IBM

Monday Afternoon – Developer Services for the Next Generation of DB2 z Developers Patrick Bossman, IBM

Tuesday Afternoon – Build a Slack or Facebook Messenger Interface to DB2 Henrik Loeser, IBM

User stories are a great way to hear experiences and learnings from industry peers:

Tuesday Afternoon – Modernizing the Mainframe – Making DB2 z/OS Agile Paul Whitmarsh, Lloyds Banking Group Co-Speaker: Paul Stoker (Triton)

There will also be three expert panels on DB2 for z/OS, DB2 for LUW and application development which take place on Wednesday. Triton Director Julian Stuhler will be answering your DB2 for z/OS questions from 13:40 and Iqbal Goralwalla will be join the LUW expert panel from 14:50. You can submit your z/OS and LUW questions to the panel in advance.

Join us in Malta on 4th – 8th November to experience the latest in DB2 technologies, networking opportunities and technical content. There’s still time to benefit from the Early Bird rate with the Discount Code (EARLYEMEA18) but be quick because you only have until 24th September!  Book your place today.

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How flexible is your DB2 support team?

Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to DB2 support. If a problem is going to happen you can bet your lunch money on it happening in the middle of the night on a Sunday when your most experienced DB2 DBA is on holiday. Does your IT team have the flexibility to handle DB2 support issues under those circumstances? Who do you turn to when your skilled DBA is away or unavailable?

Issues are often more complicated than they first seem, with multiple teams or departments having to become involved in firefighting the issue. Just take a look at some of our most recent DB2 support nightmares for some hair-raising examples.

It’s not only those emergency scenarios which require a high degree of flexibility. Your DB2 support team, whether internal, external or a combination of the two, need to be able to; plan maintenance work, deal with daily management, complete development projects and handle emergency situations often against a backdrop of competing priorities.

The ability to provide this kind of flexible service can be a real challenge for small and medium sized businesses. Not only having enough hands on deck but also having the required mix of skills within the team. Smaller organisations who don’t have access to the right skills or don’t have enough staff on hand when they need them can find themselves under real pressure.

Cost can be a major factor when it comes to increasing access to skilled IT staff. However, being able to scale-up your DB2 team during busy periods and scale-down during quieter times isn’t just a luxury for large multi-national organisations with access to a huge resource pool.  Imagine doing your resource planning and knowing that you could call on expert DB2 skills to cover your seasonal workload peak.

Triton Consulting provides a Consultancy on Demand service which is designed for customers who need varying levels of support and consultancy. This highly flexible service allows you to purchase a block of hours to be used as and when needed. You can purchase a block of 20,50 or 100 hours. You can then call off hours as and when you need them. The highly flexible nature of this service means that hours can be called off for a development piece, training or to cover DB2 skills when they’re in short supply in your team.

Find out more about Consultancy on Demand.

Download the Consultancy on Demand infographic.

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“Suck it and See” development – A DB2 Support Nightmare!

 

The set-up

 

This could be strongly related to the Support Nightmare #1, but not necessarily always. We have many clients who have rigorous change and version control procedures, where nothing goes into a downstream environment until it’s been tested and signed off and where database changes to give performance improvements are handled by the DBA staff who are carefully checking for adverse impact from any changes. And we have many clients who have none of the above.

It’s easy to be critical if you’re a database purist and I think everyone recognizes that there are situations where agile and immediate changes are imperative, but the danger is that the Prod environment (or even Pre-Prod or QA if these are crucial environments where the test results are taken as being a realistic representation of what will occur in Production) is treated as a sand-box.

  • This query is running really slowly
  • I wonder if a new index might help (creates new index and re-submits query)
  • No, that made no difference. Maybe I’ll Google it
  • OK, let’s try setting Database Manager Configuration parameter obscure_and_poorly_understood_parm to YES
  • No, that hasn’t helped. I wonder if I create a small table with just the bits I need and query that (submits massive INSERT INTO TABLE statement using a SELECT on the base table with no usable index to service the WHERE clause)
  • Etc., etc.

At the end of this exercise not only do you not have a solution to your performance problem but you have a number of changes that may have made things worse rather than better. And it’s very rare that anyone retraces their steps and removes all the changes they attempted in an effort to solve the problem.

 

The Moral

The first moral of the story is don’t leave this sort of task to someone who isn’t an experienced DBA. Performance tuning is a specialist skill, some might say a Black Art, and it’s unfair to offload this sort of work on someone without the necessary skillset and the time to do it properly. I’ve been in IT for 30 years but I don’t expect someone to hand me a screwdriver and a soldering iron and ask me to rewire their mainframe.

The second moral is don’t leave this task so late in the cycle that it is occurring in Prod. Performance tuning should be part of the development cycle; occurring in the early stages of the project and forming part of the release checklist.

 

Sign-up to receive DB2 Support Nightmare updates or download our previous series ‘Top 10 DB2 Support Nightmares and How to Avoid Themhere.

 

 

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Master the Mainframe 2018

What is the Master the Mainframe Competition?

The contest is sponsored by the IBM Z Academic Initiative. Designed to help you learn, prepare for a career and win prizes, it’s a great way to get started with the Mainframe. The IBM Z Initiative provides Mainframe training and resources to students at more than 1000 schools in 70 countries.

IBM works with students, professors and businesses from across the globe to enable the next generation to acquire the skills they need to become the Mainframe experts of the future.

Pre-Register for the 2018 contest

More than 85,000 participants in 1,000 schools across 70 countries have participated in the Master the Mainframe learning. Meet some of the past Champions.

Why should you think about the Mainframe as a career choice?

Many of the largest organisations around the world rely on Mainframes for the security and reliability of their mission critical IT systems. Due to a looming skills gap on the Mainframe, many of these organisations are actively looking to recruit new Mainframe talent.

Want to know more about why Mainframe skills are a good bet? Check out IBM’s blog – 1,001 Reasons Why The Class of 2015 Should Consider a Mainframe Career

Not ready to enter? You can still try your hand at the challenges and use the learning system as this is available year-round – Register here.

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