IMS Concepts and Database Administration

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    Part 1 in a series (Part  2 | Part 3)

    IMS Concepts

    This article provides a high-level overview of IMS database concepts,  terminology, and database design considerations. It covers the following  topics:


    Hierarchical versus Relational Databases

    Design Considerations


    The term database means a collection of related data organized in a  way that can be processed by application programs. A database management system  (DBMS) consists of a set of licensed programs that define and maintain the  structure of the database and provide support for certain types of application  programs. The types of database structures are network, relational, and  hierarchical. This manual presents information on IMS, a hierarchical database  management system from IBM*.

    The IMS software environment can be divided into five main parts:

        • database

        • Data Language I (DL/I)

        • DL/I control blocks

        • data communications component (IMS TM)

        • application programs

    Figure 1-1 shows the relationships of the IMS components. We discuss each of  these components in greater detail in this and subsequent chapters.


    Figure 1-1: IMS environment components.

    IMS Database

    Before the development of DBMSs, data was stored in individual files, or as  flat files. With this system, each file was stored in a separate data  set in sequential or indexed format. To retrieve data from the file, an  application had to open the file and read through it to the location of the  desired data. If the data was scattered through a large number of files, data  access required a lot of opening and closing of files, creating additional I/O  and processing overhead. To reduce the number of files accessed by an  application, programmers often stored the same data in many files. This practice  created redundant data and the related problems of ensuring update consistency  across multiple files. To ensure data consistency, special cross-file update  programs had to be scheduled following the original file update.


    The concept of a database system resolved many data integrity and data  duplication issues encountered in a file system. A database stores the data only  once in one place and makes it available to all application programs and users.  At the same time, databases provide security by limiting access to data. The  user's ability to read, write, update, insert, or delete data can be restricted.  Data can also be backed up and recovered more easily in a single database than  in a collection of flat files.


    Database structures offer multiple strategies for data retrieval. Application  programs can retrieve data sequentially or (with certain access methods) go  directly to the desired data, reducing I/O and speeding data retrieval. Finally,  an update performed on part of the database is immediately available to other  applications. Because the data exists in only one place, data integrity is more  easily ensured.


    The IMS database management system as it exists today represents the  evolution of the hierarchical database over many years of development and  improvement. IMS is in use at a large number of business and government  installations throughout the world. IMS is recognized for providing excellent  performance for a wide variety of applications and for performing well with  databases of moderate to very large volumes of data and transactions.


    Because they are implemented and accessed through use of the Data Language I  (DL/I), IMS databases are sometimes referred to as DL/I databases. DL/I  is a command-level language, not a database management system. DL/I is used in  batch and online programs to access data stored in databases. Application  programs use DL/I calls to request data. DL/I then uses system access methods,  such as Virtual Storage Access Method (VSAM), to handle the physical transfer of  data to and from the database.


    IMS databases are often referred to by the access method they are designed  for, such as HDAM, PHDAM, HISAM, HIDAM, and PHIDAM. IMS makes provisions for  nine types of access methods, and you can design a database for any one of them.  We discuss each of them in greater detail in Chapter 2, "IMS Structures and  Functions." The point to remember is that they are all IMS databases, even  though they are referred to by access type.

    Control Blocks

    When you create an IMS database, you must define the database structure and  how the data can be accessed and used by application programs. These  specifications are defined within the parameters provided in two control blocks,  also called DL/I control blocks:

        • database description (DBD)

        • program specification block (PSB)

    In general, the DBD describes the physical structure of the database, and the  PSB describes the database as it will be seen by a particular application  program. The PSB tells the application which parts of the database it can access  and the functions it can perform on the data.

    Information from the DBD and PSB is merged into a third control block, the  application control block (ACB). The ACB is required for online processing but  is optional for batch processing.

    Data Communications

    The IMS Transaction Manager (IMS TM) is a separate set of licensed programs  that provide access to the database in an online, real-time environment. Without  the TM component, you would be able to process data in the IMS database in a  batch mode only. With the IMS TM component, you can access the data and can  perform update, delete, and insert functions online. As Figure 1-1 shows, the  IMS TM component provides the online communication between the user and DL/I,  which, in turn, communicates with the application programs and the operating  system to access and process data stored in the database.

    Application Programs

    The data in a database is of no practical use to you if it sits in the  database untouched. Its value comes in its use by application programs in the  performance of business or organizational functions. With IMS databases,  application programs use DL/I calls embedded in the host language to access the  database. IMS supports batch and online application programs. IMS supports  programs written in ADA, assembler, C, COBOL, PL/I, VS PASCAL, and REXX. 


    Hierarchical versus Relational Databases

    There are several types of database management systems, categorized generally  by how they logically store and retrieve data. The two most common types in use  today are relational and hierarchical. Each type has its advantages and  disadvantages, and in many organizations both types are used. Whether you choose  a relational or hierarchical database management system depends largely on how  you intend to use the data being stored.

    Relational Database

    In a relational database, data is stored in a table made up of rows and  columns. A separate table is created for logically related data, and a  relational database may consist of hundreds or thousands of tables.

    Within a table, each row is a unique entity (or record) and each column is an  attribute common to the entities being stored. In the example database described  in Table 1-1 on page 1-9, Course No. has been selected as the key for each row.  It was chosen because each course number is unique and will be listed only once  in the table. Because it is unique for each row, it is chosen as the key field  for that row. For each row, a series of columns describe the attributes of each  course. The columns include data on title, description, instructor, and  department, some of which may not be unique to the course. An instructor, for  instance, might teach more than one course, and a department may have any number  of courses. It is important early in design of a database to determine what will  be the unique, or key, data element.

    Hierarchical Databases

    Now let's look at the same data stored in a hierarchical format. This time  the data is arranged logically in a top-down format. In a hierarchical database,  data is grouped in records, which are subdivided into a series of segments. In  the example Department database on Figure 1-2 on page 1-8, a record consists of  the segments Dept, Course, and Enroll.


    In a hierarchical database, the structure of the database is designed to  reflect logical dependencies-certain data is dependent on the existence of  certain other data. Enrollment is dependent on the existence of a course, and,  in this case, a course is dependent on the existence of a department. In a  hierarchical database, the data relationships are defined. The rules for queries  are highly structured. It is these fixed relationships that give IMS extremely  fast access to data when compared to a relational database. Speed of access and  query flexibility are factors to consider when selecting a DBMS.

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Hierarchical and relational systems have their strengths and weaknesses. The  relational structure makes it relatively easy to code requests for data. For  that reason, relational databases are frequently used for data searches that may  be run only once or a few times and then changed. But the query-like nature of  the data request often makes the relational database search through an entire  table or series of tables and perform logical comparisons before retrieving the  data. This makes searches slower and more processing-intensive. In addition,  because the row and column structure must be maintained throughout the database,  an entry must be made under each column for every row in every table, even if  the entry is only a place holder-a null entry. This requirement places  additional storage and processing burdens on the relational system.


    With the hierarchical structure, data requests or segment search arguments  (SSAs) may be more complex to construct. Once written, however, they can be very  efficient, allowing direct retrieval of the data requested. The result is an  extremely fast database system that can handle huge volumes of data transactions  and large numbers of simultaneous users. Likewise, there is no need to enter  place holders where data is not being stored. If a segment occurrence isn't  needed, it isn't inserted.


    The choice of which type of DBMS to use often revolves around how the data  will be used and how quickly it should be processed. In large databases  containing millions of rows or segments and high rates of access by users, the  difference becomes important. A very active database, for example, may  experience 50 million updates in a single day. For this reason, many  organizations use relational and hierarchical DBMSs to support their data  management goals.

    Sample Hierarchical Database

    To illustrate how the hierarchical structure looks, we'll design two very  simple databases to store information for the courses and students in a college.  One database will store information on each department in the college, and the  second will contain information on each college student.

    In a hierarchical database, an attempt is made to group data in a one-to-many  relationship. An attempt is also made to design the database so that data that  is logically dependent on other data is stored in segments that are  hierarchically dependent on the data. For that reason, we have designated Dept  as the key, or root, segment for our record, because the other data  would not exist without the existence of a department. We list each department  only once. We provide data on each course in each department. We have a segment  type Course, with an occurrence of that type of segment for each course in the  department. Data on the course title, description, and instructor is stored as  fields within the Course segment. Finally, we have added another segment type,  Enroll, which will include the student IDs of the students enrolled in each  course.


    In Figure 1-2, we also created a second database called Student. This  database contains information on all the students enrolled in the college. This  database duplicates some of the data stored in the Enroll segment of the  Department database. Later, we will construct a larger database that eliminates  the duplicated data. The design we choose for our database depends on a number  of factors; in this case, we will focus on which data we will need to access  most frequently,


    The two sample databases, Department and Student, are shown in Figure 1-2.  The two databases are shown as they might be structured in relational form in  Table 1-1, Table 1-2, and Table 1-3 on page 1-9.


    Figure 1-2: Sample hierarchical databases for department and  student.

    Department Database

    The segments in the Department database are as follows:


    DeptInformation on each department. This segment includes fields for the  department ID (the key field), department name, chairman's name, number of  faculty, and number of students registered in departmental courses.
    CourseThis segment includes fields for the course number (a unique identifier),  course title, course description, and instructor's name.
    EnrollThe students enrolled in the course. This segment includes fields for  student ID (the key field), student name, and  grade.


    Student Database

    The segments in the Student database are as follows:


    Student  Student information. It includes fields for student ID (key field), student  name, address, major, and courses completed.

    Billing information for courses taken. It includes fields for semester,  tuition due, tuition paid, and scholarship funds  applied.



    The dotted line between the root (Student) segment of the Student database  and the Enroll segment of the Department database represents a logical  relationship based on data residing in one segment and needed in the other.  Logical relationships are explained in detail in "The Role of Logical  Relationships" on page 2-55.

    Example Relational Structure

    Tables 1-1, 1-2 and 1-3 show how the two hierarchical Department and Student  databases might be structured in a relational database management system. We  have broken them down into three tables-Course, Student, and Department. Notice  that we have had to change the way some data is stored to accommodate the  relational format.



    Course No.Course TitleDescriptionInstructorDept ID
    HI-445566History 321Survey courseJ. R. JenkinsHIST
    MH-778899Algebra 301Freshman-levelA.L. WatsonMATH
    BI-112233Biology 340Advanced courseB.R. SinclairBIOL


    Table 1-1: Course database in relational table  format.


    Student IDStudent NameAddressMajor
    123456777Jones, Bill1212 N. MainHistory
    123456888Smith, Jill225B Baker StPhysics
    123456999Brown, Joe77 Sunset StZoology


    Table 1-2: Student database in relational table  format.


    Dept IDDept. NameChairmanBudget Code
    HISTHistoryJ. B. HuntL72
    MATHMathematicsR. K. TurnerA54
    BIOLBiologyE. M. KaleA25


    Table 1-3: Department database in relational table  format.


    Design Considerations

    Before implementing a hierarchical structure for your database, you should  analyze the end user's processing requirements, because they will determine how  you structure the database. To help you understand the business processing needs  of the user, you can construct a local view consisting of the following:

        • list of required data elements

        • controlling keys of the data elements

        • data groupings for each process, reflecting how the data is used in business  practice

        • mapping of the data groups that shows their  relationships

    In particular, you must consider how the data elements are related and how  they will be accessed. The topics that follow should help you in that  process.

    Normalization of Data

    Even though you have a collection of data that you want to store in a  database, you may have a hard time deciding how the data should be organized.  Normalization of data refers to the process of breaking data into  affinity groups and defining the most logical, or normal,  relationships between them. There are accepted rules for the process of data  normalization. Normalization usually is discussed in terms of form.  Although there are five levels of normalization form, it is usually considered  sufficient to take data to the third normalization form. For most uses, you can  think of levels of normalization as the following:

        • First normal form. The data in this form is grouped under a primary key-a  unique identifier. In other words, the data occurs only once for each key value.

        • Second normal form. In this form, you remove any data that was only  dependent on part of the key. For example, in Table 1-1 on page 1-9, Dept ID  could be part of the key, but the data is really only dependent on the Course  No.

        • Third normal form. In this form, you remove anything from the table that is  not dependent on the primary key. In Table 1-3, the Department table, if we  included the name of the University President, it would occur only once for each  Dept ID, but it is in no way dependent on Dept ID. So that information is not  stored here. The other columns, Dept. Name, Chairman, and Budget Code, are  totally dependent on the Dept ID.

    Example Database Expanded

    At this point we have learned enough about database design to expand our  original example database. We decide that we can make better use of our college  data by combining the Department and Student databases. Our new College database  is shown in Figure 1-3.


    Figure 1-3: College database (combining department and  student databases).


    The following segments are in the expanded College database:


    CollegeThe root segment. One record will exist for each college in the university.  The key field is the College ID, such as ARTS, ENGR, BUSADM, and  FINEARTS.
    DeptInformation on each department within the college. It includes fields for  the department ID (the key field), department name, chairman's name, number of  faculty, and number of students registered in departmental courses.
    CourseIncludes fields for the course number (the key field), course title, course  description, and instructor's name.
    EnrollA list of students enrolled in the course. There are fields for student ID  (key field), student name, current grade, and number of absences.
    StaffA list of staff members, including professors, instructors, teaching  assistants, and clerical personnel. The key field is employee number. There are  fields for name, address, phone number, office number, and work  schedule.
    StudentStudent information. It includes fields for student ID (key field), student  name, address, major, and courses being taken currently.
    BillingBilling and payment information. It includes fields for billing date (key  field), semester, amount billed, amount paid, scholarship funds applied, and  scholarship funds available.
    Academic    The key field is a combination of the year and the semester. Fields include  grade point average per semester, cumulative GPA, and enough fields to list  courses completed and grades per semester.


    Data Relationships

    The process of data normalization helps you break data into naturally  associated groupings that can be stored collectively in segments in a  hierarchical database. In designing your database, break the individual data  elements into groups based on the processing functions they will serve. At the  same time, group data based on inherent relationships between data elements.


    For example, the College database (Figure 1-3) contains a segment called  Student. Certain data is naturally associated with a student, such as student ID  number, student name, address, and courses taken, Other data that we will want  in our College database-such as a list of courses taught or administrative  information on faculty members-would not work well in the Student segment.


    Two important data relationship concepts are one-to-many and  many-to-many. In the College database, there are many departments for  each college (Figure 1-3 shows only one example), but only one college for each  department. Likewise, many courses are taught by each department, but a specific  course (in this case) can be offered by only one department. The relationship  between courses and students is one of many-to-many, as there are many students  in any course and each student will take a number of courses. A one-to-many  relationship is structured as a dependent relationship in a  hierarchical database: the many are dependent upon the one. Without a  department, there would be no courses taught: without a college, there would be  no departments.


    Parent and child relationships are based solely on the relative  positions of the segments in the hierarchy, and a segment can be a parent of  other segments while serving as the child of a segment above it. In Figure 1-3,  Enroll is a child of Course, and Course, although the parent of Enroll, is also  the child of Dept. Billing and Academic are both children of Student, which is a  child of College. (Technically, all of the segments except College are  dependents.)


    When you have analyzed the data elements, grouped them into segments,  selected a key field for each segment, and designed a database structure, you  have completed most of your database design. You may find, however, that the  design you have chosen does not work well for every application program. Some  programs may need to access a segment by a field other than the one you have  chosen as the key. Or another application may need to associate segments that  are located in two different databases or hierarchies. IMS has provided two very  useful tools that you can use to resolve these data requirements: secondary  indexes and logical relationships.


    Secondary indexes let you create an index based on a field other than the  root segment key field. That field can be used as if it were the key to access  segments based on a data element other than the root key. Logical relationships  let you relate segments in separate hierarchies and, in effect, create a  hierarchic structure that does not actually exist in storage. The logical  structure can be processed as if it physically exists, allowing you to create  logical hierarchies without creating physical ones. We discuss both of these  concepts in greater detail in Chapter 2, "IMS Structures and Functions."

    Hierarchical Sequence

    Because segments are accessed according to their sequence in the hierarchy,  it is important to understand how the hierarchy is arranged. In IMS, segments  are stored in a top-down, left-to-right sequence (see Figure 1-4). The sequence  flows from the top to the bottom of the leftmost path or leg. When the bottom of  that path is reached, the sequence continues at the top of the next leg to the  right.

    Understanding the sequence of segments within a record is important to  understanding movement and position within the hierarchy. Movement can be  forward or backward and always follows the hierarchical sequence. Forward means from top to bottom, and backward means bottom to  top. Position within the database means the current location at a  specific segment.

    Hierarchical Data Paths

    In Figure 1-4, the numbers inside the segments show the hierarchy as a search  path would follow it. The numbers to the left of each segment show the segment  types as they would be numbered by type, not occurrence. That is, there  may be any number of occurrences of segment type 04, but there will be only one  type of segment 04. The segment type is referred to as the segment  code.

    To retrieve a segment, count every occurrence of every segment type  in the path and proceed through the hierarchy according to the rules of  navigation:

        • top to bottom

        • front to back (counting twins)

        • left to right

    For example, if an application program issues a GET-UNIQUE (GU) call for  segment 6 in Figure 1-4, the current position in the hierarchy is immediately  following segment 6 (not 06). If the program then issued a GET-NEXT (GN) call,  IMS would return segment 7.

    As shown in Figure 1-4, the College database can be separated into four  search paths:

        • The first path includes segment types 01, 02, 03, and 04.

        • The second path includes segment types 01, 02, and 05.

        • The third path includes segment types 01, 06, and 07.

        • The fourth path includes segment types 01, 06, and 08.

    The search path always starts at 01, the root segment.


    Figure 1-4: Sequence and data paths in a hierarchy.

    Database Records

    Whereas a database consists of one or more database records, a database  record consists of one or more segments. In the College database, a record  consists of the root segment College and its dependent segments. It is possible  to define a database record as only a root segment. A database can contain only  the record structure defined for it, and a database record can contain only the  types of segments defined for it.


    The term record can also be used to refer to a data set record (or  block), which is not the same thing as a database record. IMS uses standard data  system management methods to store its databases in data sets. The smallest  entity of a data set is also referred to as a record (or block). Two  distinctions are important:

        • A database record may be stored in several data set blocks.

        • A block may contain several whole records or pieces of several  records.

    In this article, we try to distinguish between database record  and data set record where the meaning may be ambiguous.

    Segment Format

    A segment is the smallest structure of the database in the sense  that IMS cannot retrieve data in an amount less than a segment. Segments can be  broken down into smaller increments called fields, which can be  addressed individually by application programs.


    A database record can contain a maximum of 255 types of segments. The number  of segment occurrences of any type is limited only by the amount of  space you allocate for the database. Segment types can be of fixed length or  variable length. You must define the size of each segment type.


    It is important to distinguish the difference between segment types and  segment occurrences. Course is a type of segment defined in the DBD for the  College database. There can be any number of occurrences for the Course  segment type. Each occurrence of the Course segment type will be exactly as  defined in the DBD. The only differences in occurrences of segment types is the  data contained in them (and the length, if the segment is defined as variable  length).


    Segments consist of two major parts, a prefix and the data being stored.  (SHSAM and SHISAM database segments consist only of the data, and GSAM databases  have no segments.) The prefix portion of a segment is used to store information  that IMS uses in managing the database.




    1 byte
    delete byte

    1 byte
    counters and 

    4 bytes per

    2 bytes

    length varies, based
    on a minimum and
    maximum size


    Figure 1-5: Format of a variable-length segment.

    Figure 1-6 shows the format of a fixed length segment. In the fixed-length  segment, there is no size field.




    1 byte
    delete byte

    1 byte
    counters and 

    4 bytes per

    2 bytes

    length is whatever
    is specified for
    the segment


    Figure 1-6: Format of a fixed-length segment.


    The fields contained in an IMS database segment are described below. In the  data portion, you can define the following types of fields: a sequence field,  data fields.


    Segment CodeIMS uses the segment code field to identify each segment type stored in a  database. A unique identifier consisting of a number from 1 to 255 is assigned  to each segment type when IMS loads the database. Segment types are numbered in  ascending sequence, beginning with the root segment as 1 and continuing through  all dependent segment types in hierarchic order.
    Delete ByteIMS uses this byte to track the status of a deleted segment. The space it  occupied may (or may not) be available for use.


    Counters and Pointers

    This area exists in hierarchic direct access method (HDAM) and hierarchic  indexed direct access method (HIDAM) databases and, in some cases, hierarchic  indexed sequential access method (HISAM) databases. It can contain information  on the following elements:

        • Counters - Counter information is used when logical  relationships are defined. Logical relationships are discussed in detail in "The  Role of Logical Relationships" on page 2-55.

        • Pointers - Pointers consist of one or more addresses of  segments pointed to by this segment. Pointers are discussed in detail in  "Pointer Types" on page 2-37.

    Size Field

    For variable-length segments, this field states the size of the segment,  including the size field (2 bytes).

    Sequence (Key) Field

    The sequence field is often referred to as the key field. It can be used to  keep occurrences of a segment type in sequence under a common parent, based on  the data or value entered in this field. A key field can be defined in the root  segment of a HISAM, HDAM, or HIDAM database to give an application program  direct access to a specific root segment. A key field can be used in HISAM and  HIDAM databases to allow database records to be retrieved sequentially. Key  fields are used for logical relationships and secondary indexes.


    The key field not only can contain data but also can be used in special ways  that help you organize your database. With the key field, you can keep  occurrences of a segment type in some kind of key sequence, which you design.  For instance, in our example database you might want to store the student  records in ascending sequence, based on student ID number. To do this, you  define the student ID field as a unique key field. IMS will store the records in  ascending numerical order. You could also store them in alphabetical order by  defining the name field as a unique key field.


    Three factors of key fields are important to remember:

        • The data or value in the key field is called the key of the segment.

        • The key field can be defined as unique or non-unique.

        • You do not have to define a key field in every segment  type


    You define data fields to contain the actual data being stored in the  database. (Remember that the sequence field is a data field.) Data fields,  including sequence fields, can be defined to IMS for use by applications  programs. Field names are used in SSAs to qualify calls. See "Segment Search  Argument" on page 3-22 for more information.

    Segment Definitions

    In IMS, segments are defined by the order in which they occur and by their  relationship with other segments:


    Root segmentThe first, or highest segment in the record. There can be only one root  segment for each record. There can be many records in a database.
    Dependent segmentAll segments in a database record except the root segment.
    Parent segmentA segment that has one or more dependent segments beneath it in the  hierarchy.
    Child segmentA segment that is a dependent of another segment above it in the  hierarchy.
    Twin segmentA segment occurrence that exists with one or more segments of the same type  under a single parent.


    Segment Edit/Compression

    IMS provides a Segment Edit/Compression Facility that lets you encode, edit,  or compress the data portion of a segment in full-function or Fast Path DEDB  databases. You can use the Edit/Compression Facility to perform the following  tasks:

        • encode data-make data unreadable to programs that do not have the edit  routine to see it in decoded form

        • edit data-allow an application program to receive data in a format or  sequence other than that in which it is stored

        • compress data-use various compression routines, such as removing blanks or  repeating characters, to reduce the amount of DASD required to store the  data

    The Segment Edit/Compression Facility allows two types of data  compression:

        • data compression-compression that does not change the content or relative  position of the key field. For variable-length segments, the size field must be  updated to show the length of the compressed segment. For segments defined to  the application as fixed-length, a 2-byte field must be added at the beginning  of the data portion by the compression routine to allow IMS to determine storage  requirements.

        • key compression-compression of data within a segment that can change the  relative position, value, or length of the key field and any other fields except  the size field. In the case of a variable-length segment, the segment size field  must be updated by the compression routine to indicate the length of the  compressed segment.


    IMS uses pointers to locate related segments in a database. Pointers are  physically stored in the prefix portion of a segment. Each pointer contains the  relative byte address (RBA) of another segment. When the database is loaded, IMS  creates pointers according to the DBD you specified. During subsequent  processing, IMS uses pointers to traverse the database (navigate from segment to  segment). IMS automatically maintains the contents of pointers when segments are  added, deleted, and updated.