Tuesday, September 29, 2015

An Oft-Overlooked DB2 for z/OS Big Memory Exploitation Play

Over the past few years, I've done a lot of writing and presenting and talking about ways in which large-scale z Systems memory resources (which I refer to as Big Memory) can be leveraged so as to enhance the performance of DB2 for z/OS subsystems and related applications. While I very much like to see z/OS LPARs with memory sizes of 100 GB or more, I DON'T like to see situations in which organizations stop well short of exploiting Big Memory to maximum positive effect with regard to DB2 performance. Big buffer pools are a great way to exploit available real storage gigabytes, but too often DB2 people don't look much beyond that particular use of mainframe memory to boost workload throughput and CPU efficiency. In this blog entry I want to highlight a DB2 application of Big Memory that, in my experience, is often overlooked: the EDM skeleton pool.

The EDM pool (long name: environmental descriptor manager pool) occupies a portion of a DB2 subsystem's database services address space (also known as DBM1). Various DB2 elements supporting SQL statement execution are cached in different parts of the EDM pool. Among these elements are skeleton package tables, or SKPTs -- one SKPT for a given package. Here's how this space is used: when an application process needs to execute a package, DB2 checks to see if the package (actually, the requisite sections of the package) is already in memory. If it isn't, DB2 loads the package (sections) from the SPT01 table space in the directory into an SKPT in the skeleton pool part of the EDM pool. From there, the package, in being allocated to the thread through which it is to be executed, is copied into another part of the DBM1 address space (the thread-specific copy of the package goes into what is called agent local pool storage -- if a given package is allocated to 10 threads, there will be 10 copies of the package in agent local pool storage in DBM1). The more times a package that is to be allocated to a thread is found in the skeleton pool in the EDM pool, versus having to be loaded from the directory on disk, the better for the overall performance of the associated DB2 workload. Often, this is is not taken into account by people charged with optimizing the performance of a DB2 for z/OS environment.

Here's what you should do (if you haven't already): check on skeleton pool activity by way of your DB2 monitor. You can use an online display of EDM pool information for this purpose, but my preference is to use the EDM pool information found in a DB2 monitor-generated statistics long report (depending on the DB2 monitor product used at your site, this may be called a statistics detail report). In such a report, the EDM pool section would contain some fields like these (I've left out some lines to highlight the information of interest):

EDM POOL                     QUANTITY
---------------------------  --------

  HELD BY SKCT                  40.98
  HELD BY SKPT                3724.36
  FREE PAGES                   175.66

In many cases, a person looking at this information would see the 0.00 value for FAILS DUE TO POOL FULL, conclude that the skeleton pool is plenty big, and move on to something else. Now, it is true that having no program failures caused by DB2 not being able to load a package into the skeleton pool is a good thing; however, that's only part of the story. Look a little further down in the EDM pool section of the report, and you'll see numbers like these:

EDM POOL                     QUANTITY
---------------------------  --------

PT REQUESTS                   6446.1K
PT NOT FOUND                   193.0K 

Take note of the ratio of PT REQUESTS to PT NOT FOUND. The former value is the number of times that a package section was requested for allocation to a thread, and the latter is the number of times that a package request could not be satisfied from the skeleton pool (and so required a loading of the package section from the DB2 directory). The ratio calculated from the numbers above (which show activity in a real-world DB2 subsystem) is about 33:1. That might look OK to you, but you should be able to do a lot better than that on your system (unless you are really memory-constrained). Here are numbers from a different real-world DB2 subsystem:

EDM POOL                     QUANTITY
---------------------------  --------

PT REQUESTS                   1717.9K
PT NOT FOUND                   128.00 

The ratio of PT REQUESTS to PT NOT FOUND in this case is over 13,000 to 1. Looked at from an activity rate perspective, the rate of package section loads from SPT01 on disk associated with the first set of PT REQUESTS and NOT FOUND numbers is about 27 per second (193,000 requests in a 2-hour reporting interval), while the rate of package section loads associated with the second set of numbers is about 1 every 14 seconds (128 requests in a 30-minute reporting interval).

I'd rather have the second set of numbers. And you know what? It often doesn't take much memory to get to a skeleton pool size that yields a really high ratio of package section requests to package section loads from disk. Interestingly, though two systems (used by two different organizations) are represented by the numbers shown above, in both cases the rate of requests for package table sections was a little over 900 per second. An important difference between the two environments is a skeleton pool that is about 2.5 times larger for the DB2 subsystem with the really high ratio of requests to loads versus the skeleton pool that has the much lower ratio of package requests to loads. The size delta amounts to about 6000 pages (4K pages), and that's about 24 MB. The point I want to make here is this: for an investment of maybe a few tens of megabytes of memory, you might be able to dramatically increase the ratio of package section requests to package section loads in your DB2 environment, if that ratio is not already high (and I like to see at least hundreds to one, and ideally thousands to one). Unless your z/OS LPAR is quite storage-constrained, there is a good chance that you could boost the size of the skeleton pool (via the EDM_SKELETON_POOL parameter in ZPARM) by a few tens of megabytes, and still have a demand paging rate for the LPAR that is very low ("very low" is what you want for the demand paging rate in a production z/OS LPAR, and I define that as being a rate -- available from a z/OS monitor -- that is in the low single digits or less per second during busy processing periods). Note that there are also request-versus-load numbers pertaining to the DBD cache in the EDM pool -- I've focused on the skeleton pool numbers because I more often see lower-than-desired ratios there.

That's it. Keep in mind that using Big Memory effectively means using it for all kinds of DB2 performance-boosting purposes -- bigger buffer pools, sure, but don't stop there. Give the skeleton pool enough space to satisfy the vast majority of package section requests out of memory, thereby reducing the rate of package section loads from the DB2 directory on disk. Doing this will get you that much closer to optimal DB2 application performance.

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