With virtual tape, there’s a virtual volume reconciliation and reclamation when data on logical volumes is modified. In concept, this is similar to HSM’s reconciliation and reclamation.

Virtual tape allows for up to 2 million logical volumes. At first glance, that seems incredible. You might think you will never run out of tapes, but what about a DB2 customer that has 100,000 table spaces and indexes they back up daily and retain the copies for 10 days? If nothing special is done and every data set is allocated to its own scratch tape, you would have exhausted half the allowed logical volumes at the end of 10 days. This problem can be avoided by using the same approach you use today with data sets residing on manual or ATL tapes: Use JCL backward pointers (VOL=REF=) to the previous data set allocation, which will use the MOD approach for the logical tape.

One advantage of using virtual tape is it lets you set up a grid or peer-to-peer implementation, which is a popular option among customers. Your shop has two sites, each with its own TS7740. When you create DSN1 on tape volser 123456, it’s duplicated to the secondary site’s TS7740. In the event the primary site’s TS7740 fails or is unavailable, the data set will automatically be read from the secondary site. This approach also negates or reduces the need to create software duplex tapes or data sets. There are various reasons why you may want to keep two software duplexed copies of the archive log data sets.

Special attention is required for data sets such as the archive log, image copy or HSM data sets you want to software duplex in the TS7740. ARCHLOG1 and ARCHLOG2 can wind up on the same physical tape, which defeats the purpose of duplexing the data sets. What happens if the physical tape snaps as mentioned earlier? Both copies are now lost unless a grid or peer-to-peer implementation is in place. The storage administrator can set up different physical volume pools to ensure these types of data sets reside on separate physical volumes.

Virtual tapes emulate 3490E devices. The SMS Data Class sets each virtual tape to 400, 800, 1000, 2000, 4000 or 6000 MB, with the default generally 800 MB. The value is important to DB2 customers, especially when it comes to archive log data sets. The DB2 Boot Strap Data Set (BSDS) has a slot for each archive log data set volume. ZPARM CATALOG in macro DSN6ARVP determines if an archive log data set will be cataloged in the ICF catalog. The default is NO. Disk archive log data sets are required to be cataloged; therefore, only one slot for the first volser is required. Tape archive log data sets, on the other hand, aren’t required to be cataloged; therefore, each non-cataloged tape volume takes up one slot in the BSDS, while each cataloged tape volume takes up only one slot similar to disk. Let’s consider a 4 GB active log data set that’s being archived to tape and not cataloged with the Data Class using the default of 800 MB. In this scenario, five BSDS slots are used to accommodate the archive log data set.

ZPARM parameter MAXARCH controls the maximum number of slots the BSDS can hold, while parameter ARCRETN controls the number of days an archive log data set is retained. Let’s assume MAXARCH=1000, ARCRETN=21 and on average 100 archive slots are used in the BSDS daily. The intention is to keep 21 days’ worth of archive log data sets, but not to exceed 1,000 slots. In this scenario, all the slots are exhausted in 10 days, negating the requirement to keep 21 days’ worth of archive log data sets. Specific recoveries may fail if an archive log data set more than 10 days old is required (there’s a complicated solution to this problem but it isn’t covered here).

Although you have a choice of using 400, 800, 1000, 2000, 4000 or 6000 MB, only the space used will occupy the TVC and/or tape. Requesting 4000 MB for an archive log data set that only used 30 MB because the ARCHIVE LOG command was executed will result in the TVC and/or tape only occupying 30 MB. On the other hand, if a data set hits logical tape end of volume, a new logical tape with the same capacity is requested. Keep in mind that a data set on tape can reside on 255 volumes, while a data set on disk can reside on only 59 volumes.

The following parameters are used only when writing to disk and therefore are ignored for tape, even when writing to the TVC:

• ZPARMs PRIQTY specifies the amount of primary space to be allocated for an archive log disk data set.
• SECQTY specifies the amount of secondary space to be allocated for an archive log disk data set.
• ALCUNIT controls the units (blocks, tracks or cylinders) in which primary and secondary space allocations are to be obtained for an archive log disk data set.

MAXRTU is another common ZPARM parameter often set incorrectly when dealing with virtual tape. MAXRTU specifies the maximum number of dedicated tape units that can be allocated to concurrently read archive log tape volumes. The default is set to two, which was a good value when dealing with manual tape, but the virtualized tape units allow for up to 256 virtual drives per cluster. Consider increasing MAXRTU when dealing with virtual tape. Along with MAXRTU, DEALLCT determines the length of time an archive read tape unit is allowed to remain unused before it’s deallocated. DEALLCT should be set high enough to ensure archive logs are used for such operations as mass recoveries, but low enough to not lock tape units for too long of a period. Don’t set this value to 1440 or NOLIMIT unless you will follow it with a SET ARCHIVE command; otherwise, your tape and the unit won’t deallocate until DB2 shuts down. In a data sharing environment, the archive tape isn’t available to other members of the group until the deallocation period expires. For data sharing environments where recoveries are run from multiple members, set DEALLCT=0. If all recoveries are executed from one member, DEALLCT can be a higher value.

ZPARM BLKSIZE determines the block size to be used for the archive log data set. Most customers set this to 24576 or 28672. Although 28672 is optimal for tape (for tape, generally the larger the block size the better), if you bring the archive log data set back to disk to allow for parallel access, you will lose a considerable amount of space. Only one record can be allocated to each track, while 24576 would allow for two records per track. If you’re going to bring the archive log data sets back to disk, specify 24576. If you specified 28672, don’t re-create the data set on disk as 24576, as this will cause a BSAM read error when reading a block.

Image copy block size can exceed typical allocations when written to tape by using Large Block Interface (LBI), allowing customers to specify a value up to 256 KB. This doesn’t include archive log data sets that have a maximum of 28 KB. Some customers with large amounts of data and especially large page sizes have seen as much as a 50 percent reduction in run-time and some CPU reduction as well by implementing LBI and using larger block sizes.

Key Issues to Consider Before Using Tape

Tape is an excellent medium for a variety of DB2-related data sets, such as archive logs, image copies, very large sort work data sets and other assorted data sets. Data sets such as VSAM, PDS and PDSE must all reside on disk with a further restriction that ICF Catalogs, PDS and PDSE can’t exceed one disk volume. Some key issues to consider before using tape:

• No concurrency or sharing is allowed within a data set or volume; therefore, parallelism doesn’t exist (except when using VTFM).
• When mass recoveries of hundreds or thousands of objects are required, data sets such as archive logs and image copies may queue for longer periods, waiting for the serialization of a physical tape volume (even in the TS7740), causing elongated recovery times.
• Decide when compression should occur. Starting with DB2 9 New Function Mode (NFM), you can compress your archive log data sets on disk and generally create smaller data sets. Avoid compressing objects on disk and then hardware compressing them on tape, as this will generally cause a reduction in tape compression efficiency.
• Tapes perform best using pure sequential access. Other access types may result in some performance degradation.
• Data sets residing on tape can’t be striped.


Tape is an important part of every DB2 environment. Choosing the right technology for the right data sets is essential and can mean the difference between success and failure. Part of this consideration is ROI. You may find that placing some of your data sets on a tape environment greatly reduces the overall cost. Choose wisely between cost and function.

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