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Intelligent Life in Your System

Centerfield Technology’s AutoDBA helps identify performance problems and offers advice.


Spotlight Profile

Product: AutoDBA
Company: Centerfield Technology
Version: 6.1
URL: www.centerfieldtechnology.com
Overall Rating: 3.760

Do you remember when “artificial intelligence” first became a buzz phrase? People feared that some sort of intelligent robot—like you’d see in D-list sci-fi flicks—would come back in time to kill humans. Or, rather than be murderous, perhaps machines that could think and respond faster than we can would take over the world and force humans to become their subservient tools. HAL from Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001” comes to mind as a more plausible system that would work with a human and respond to requests, yet think and act autonomously.

The IBM System i platform has had some degree of autonomy built into it for some time. It’s been able to perform its own problem determination, assign alternative resources when some fail, call home to Rochester, Minn., to bring replacement parts and warn us when we hit certain thresholds. You could also say the auto tuning function is a sample of autonomous processing—and we’ve had auto tuners for a while. But all of these were simple, non-heuristic, rule-based systems.

At the end of the day, we’re all looking for any labor-saving product to take some of the load off of us and to respond faster to issues—but in a controlled manner that we prescribe. This month I look at Autonomic Database Assistant (AutoDBA) from Centerfield Technology (www.centerfieldtechnology.com).

Installation

Once I got my own fat fingers out of the way, it was a simple FTP to the System i platform and an install on the PC. It’s fairly straightforward. Even though most of the setup and running is intuitive, I’d schedule a 15-minute or so online meeting and let Centerfield walk you through the features. This tends to make life easier from there on out.

You also have the option for the product to send alert messages to QSYSOPR. Frankly, most folks’ QSYSOPRs tend to get clogged with a lot of informative junk, so just be aware. I think it’d be nice if you could either move or configure a message queue in addition to the default.

Ease of Use

AutoDBA is as easy to use as Windows Explorer. It offers scores of suggestions to tune DB2 based on IBM technical documentation. The biggest question you’ll have to answer is whether you should apply the recommendations. This means you’ll need to know a bunch of what’s going on in your system. There’s a nice log and you can back out of what you’ve done, but the rule “measure twice, cut once” still applies here.

Documentation

The documentation needs some work in the installation area and a few more screen shots wouldn’t hurt. But don’t worry; it’s functional.

You’ll also find that there’s generally a hyperlink to additional information on each line of recommended actions. Generally, these are recommendations to an external Web site, be it Centerfield’s or IBM’s. Problem is, you need to be online to hit these sites. It might be nice if these links were within the product installation directory or installed on the System i IFS.

Certifiability

Everything I tried worked as I expected it to.

Functionality/Usefulness

Several situations can drag on a system. Disk inefficiency and improper database dministration are big ones. I’d wager that many of us have indexes built over tables that aren’t being used, yet they’re maintained regularly. I’d also bet that we regularly do recurring ad-hoc indexes over files that are the same index creations.

How many of us do any kind of analysis for things like determining if a logical file’s (LF) access path maintenance should be changed to delayed or rebuild? Do you really need those LFs that you’re not using hanging around for more than a year? What about those SQL indexes? When should they be maintained? And are some unused ones still hanging around? Folks also will build an index on physical files. And, yes, the same rules apply there.

In short, many factors affect system performance. And for many folks, if it doesn’t show up in the Work With Active Jobs (WRKACTJOB) display, it’s not important. But in reality, you’re dealing with system overhead, like it or not.

Embedded in Centerfield’s insure/INDEX product, AutoDBA is a little niche product that helps fill this gap and identify these problems while giving you some advice on how to improve your performance. The auto is for autonomic, not automatic. It’s a nice, simple rule-based system of alerts and optional actions. Frankly, I think the bark of the name is bigger than the bite, but the net result could save you some cycles for more important things than unneeded updates or indexes that are used frequently enough that they should be created permanently as such.

Don Rima has more than 20 years of experience with IBM midrange systems. Don can be reached at dr2@dlr2.net.


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