PHP performance webinar, June 11, 2015

Update: a recording of the webinar is available to all registrants. See the link below to register.

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I’ll be presenting a free webinar, “How to ensure speedy PHP applications on IBM i,” on Thursday, June 11, 2015, at 1pm Eastern/New York time. The webinar is sponsored by BCD. Registration and more information: http://www.bcdsoftware.com/bcdtracks/webinars/ondemand/php-performance-alan.htm

“Our process now runs 30-50% faster, thanks to one tip from Alan’s presentation.”
— Mike Meszaros, Software Developer, Specialty Pipe & Tube

Collaboration at COMMON

The 2015 COMMON annual meeting and expo, now in its first day, is helping speakers and attendees create innovation through IBM i integration: open source, closed source, IBM and vendor solutions. For example, of my six presentations during this conference, two are collaborations:

The Art of Performance Diagnostics, with IBM’s Dawn May, allows us to show, among other topics, how IBM i’s integrated performance tools complement green-screen tools and third-party tools (in this case, Zend Server) to pinpoint and solve performance issues (here, PHP-and DB2-based applications).

PHP Tricks for RPG Developers, a talk jointly created by RPG and SQL expert Birgitta Hauser and me, combines RPG, PHP, and DB2, allowing RPG to achieve graphical (charts and graphs, PDF and Excel files) and internet (json-based web services, flexible email) functionality using native functions.

Conferences such as COMMON serve a need that’s difficult to replicate back at the office—brainstorming and sharing possibilities among interdisciplinary peers, or sitting side-by-side with like-minded colleagues who work for different employers, to try something new. This week, for example, some of us plan to share knowledge on compiling binaries in PASE and to further the potential of open source on IBM i. I’m looking forward to presenting my talks (both joint and solo) and helping to realize new ideas with forward-looking colleagues during the conference.

Birgitta Hauser and Alan Seiden collaborate on their talk at COMMON 2015

Birgitta Hauser and Alan Seiden collaborate on their talk at COMMON 2015

Video promo for WMCPA IBM i conference: March 10-12, 2015

Join me and 20 other speakers at the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association (WMCPA) spring technical conference, March 10-12, 2015, at the Lake Lawn Resort on the shores of Delavan Lake.

Speakers: Aaron Bartell, Rob Bestgen, Larry Bolhuis, Tom Cremieux, Floyd Del Muro, Raymond Everhart, Margaret Fenlon, Susan Gantner, Charles Guarino, Scott Klement, Chris Koppe, Jon Paris, Mike Pavlak, Jim Ritchhart, Debbie Saugen, Alan Seiden, Dr. Frank Soltis, Robert Swanson, Robin Tatam, Jeff Tickner, Steve Will

Details: http://wmcpa.org/index.php/conference-2015/ibmi-conference-2015

Zend Framework 2 performance optimization: it works

Zend Framework 2 (ZF2) provides optimization techniques that are often overlooked by published performance tests. One excellent source for such techniques is a presentation by Gary Hockin. I was thrilled when my client and friend King Harrison IV of K3S began testing the effect of these techniques on his ZF2 application running on IBM i.

King’s initial tests produced a 600ms reduction in load time, obtaining respectable performance for his database-heavy application. He plans to update his blog post with further speed improvements as he implements them.

Read King Harrison IV’s blog post about ZF2 performance improvements.

Save your fingers when using PHP-CLI

In Batch PHP I showed how to call PHP from a command line. For example, with Zend Server 6 or 7 on IBM i, one would launch a PASE command line using the command CALL QP2TERM, or launch QShell using QSH, then type a command such as this:

/usr/local/zendsvr6/bin/php-cli myscript.php

For those of us who use PHP-CLI often, the above command can be a finger-buster. Let’s shorten the path by creating a symbolic link:

cd /usr/bin
ln -s /usr/local/zendsvr6/bin/php-cli phpc

I created the symbolic link in /usr/bin, a directory that is likely to be in any user’s path.

Now try the shortened command:

phpc myscript.php

To test the shortcut without a PHP script, use the -v switch, which requests version information (‘v’ for version) about your PHP installation.

phpc -v

The above command will return version information that starts out something like this:

PHP 5.3.6 (cli) (built: Apr  7 2011 09:37:14)                                
Copyright (c) 1997-2011 The PHP Group                                        
Zend Engine v2.3.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2011 Zend Technologies                
    with Zend Extension Manager v5.1, Copyright (c) 2003-2010, by Zend Techno
logies                                                                       
    - with Zend Data Cache v4.0, Copyright (c) 2004-2010, by Zend Technologie
s [loaded] [licensed] [disabled]                                             
    - with Zend Guard Loader v3.3, Copyright (c) 1998-2010, by Zend Technolog
ies [loaded] [licensed] [enabled]                                            
    - with Zend Job Queue v4.0, Copyright (c) 2004-2010, by Zend Technologies
 [loaded] [not licensed] [disabled]

By creating a symbolic link to the PHP-CLI binary, practitioners of PHP can speed their work while saving their fingers.

For more about symbolic links, see my article Link up with QShell.

Zendcon 2014 promo video for IBM i users

About Zendcon:

Find the Technology Refresh (TR) level of an IBM i

Update: I have since learned that the “PTF” IBM i Service (DB2 and SQL) provides one’s TR level more cleanly than with other approaches. I read of the improved approach in an article by Tim Rowe: https://systemideveloper.com/blogs/db2-for-i-services-use-sql-instead-of-system-apis/ by way of Club Seiden member PHP Dave.

IBM i services comprise a collection of DB2 and SQL objects that provide a wealth of system information. The GROUP_PTF_INFO view, for example, will display an IBM i’s Technology Refresh (TR) level to the user who runs this SQL:

SELECT CURRENT SERVER CONCAT ' is running ' CONCAT PTF_GROUP_TARGET_RELEASE 
CONCAT ' with TR level: ' CONCAT PTF_GROUP_LEVEL AS TR_LEVEL 
FROM QSYS2.GROUP_PTF_INFO WHERE PTF_GROUP_DESCRIPTION = 'TECHNOLOGY REFRESH' 
AND PTF_GROUP_STATUS = 'INSTALLED' ORDER BY PTF_GROUP_TARGET_RELEASE DESC 
FETCH FIRST 1 ROWS ONLY

When run on my server, the result was a single column, TR_LEVEL, with the value:

SEIDENI is running V7R2M0 with TR level: 3

Time for me to upgrade, yes?

Here was the original post with older techniques:

I recently needed to know if a client’s IBM i 7.1 system had Technology Refresh 4 (TR4). If it did, I could use the relatively new INSERT with remote SUBSELECT technique, which allows a single SQL statement to copy DB2 data from one partition to another. Such are the benefits of keeping current with Technology Refreshes.

After reading an article on TRs by Steve Will, I decided to document how to determine which TRs are installed on an IBM i system.

TRs, which were introduced with IBM i 7.1, are packaged as Program Temporary Fixes (PTFs). They can be found with the DSPPTF command.

First, determine the product number of the licensed internal code of  your system. For 7.1, the product number is 5770999.

Then use the DSPPTF command followed by this product number. For example:

DSPPTF 5770999

When run on my test system, this command produced a list of PTFs that included MF99007, MF99006, MF99005, MF99004, MF99003, MF99002, and MF99001.

Because Technology Refresh PTF numbers follow the format MF99nnn, where nnn is the TR number (bolded above), I knew that TR7, TR6, TR5, TR4, TR3, TR2, and TR1 were available. I was pleased to learn I could use TR4’s enhancements to DB2.

ZendCon+Tutorial discount expires Aug. 31

ZendCon, the premier PHP conference, October 27-30, 2014, in Santa Clara, California, has a discount expiring August 15 31 (extended!). When you register, be sure to include the tutorial day (Oct. 27). If you already registered but forgot to add the tutorial day, you can contact the organizers via a link at the bottom of the registration page. Among other half-day tutorials, I’ll be presenting two focused on IBM i:

  • PHP Performance on IBM i
    • If you’re interested in performance of PHP, or IBM i generally, in order to scale your application up to meet increased user demand, or if you have specific performance needs right now, you’ll want to attend.
    • Additional insight to be provided by IBM’er Tony Cairns (see below)
    • Testimonial from last year: “Our process now runs 30-50% faster, thanks to one tip from Alan’s presentation.”
      —Mike Meszaros, Software Developer, Specialty Pipe & Tube
  • DB2 with PHP in Depth
    • DB2 on IBM i has received major enhancements over the past year, including a dozen new settings in the PHP ibm_db2 middleware. Hear  how they can help improve security, performance, and stability. Other topics will include, but not be limited to:
      • Basic topics (with added commentary to make it interesting for everyone) such as library lists, prepared queries for security, persistent connections
      • DB2 in frameworks
        • Zend Framework 2
          • Including pagination (page-at-a-time logic)
        • Status of PDO and how it can be used in Laravel and other frameworks
      • The real scoop about modernization and the DDS vs. DDL (SQL) debate
      • Connecting to IBM i’s DB2 from Windows and Linux and other IBM i partitions
      • How to link MySQL-based applications (WordPress, etc.) to DB2 with the DB2 Storage Engine, with special tips
      • Using DB2’s HTTP features to make PHP-based web services even more accessible, including to allow RPG to call PHP and get results back
      • How to optimize queries
      • Strategies to safely open your application to the public
      • Topics and questions that YOU request (contact me in advance if you wish)

My co-presenter for tutorials will be IBM’s Tony Cairns, who helped bring PHP to the IBM i in the first place. He also created XMLSERVICE (toolkit back-end) and is a maintainer of ibm_db2 on the IBM i. One reason Tony comes to ZendCon is to hear from attendees such as yourselves. Normally he stays locked up in his lab. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet him. Watch Tony and me argue and debate in front of the class!

I’m also presenting a session during the regular conference about the PHP Toolkit for IBM i. I’ve updated my presentation with new features of the toolkit and best practices for calling RPG and COBOL.

ZendCon‘s topics are generally advanced ones to enable professional, enterprise-ready development practices. There’s also an IBM i track and plenty of networking time so that IBM i users of PHP can learn from speakers and each other, making the conference appropriate for intermediate users of PHP on IBM i as well.

Hope to see you there, October 27-30, 2014! Remember to register for tutorial day when you register for the conference. Get in touch with questions you’d like answered during my presentations.

IBM i safe from OpenSSL Heartbleed bug

Clients have asked me whether their IBM i servers may be vulnerable to hackers due to the widely publicized OpenSSL Heartbleed bug.

The answer is no. IBM i is safe from this bug, which is present only in specific OpenSSL versions: 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f (inclusive). IBM i’s latest version of OpenSSL, shipped with the “Portable Utilities for i” licensed program product 5733SC1, is 0.9.8, which does not contain the bug.

To make doubly certain, check what version of OpenSSL is installed on your IBM i. Run these two commands, which, respectively, start a PASE interactive terminal session and check the openssl version:
call qp2term
openssl version

For me, the above commands returned “OpenSSL 0.9.8m 25 Feb 2010,” confirming that I’m not affected.

Press F3 afterward to leave the PASE environment.

Thanks to Jim Oberholtzer of Agile Technology Architects for his contribution to this answer.

UPDATE from IBM: System SSL and IBMJSSE2 are also safe from the vulnerability on IBM i.