FAST c/s for UniData on Windows
Summary Features Performance Efficiency Time Savings Integrity Check
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Summary

FAST c/s, the File Analysis and Sizing Tool, is a system utility which reduces the staff time required for file maintenance, and ensures maximum system performance and efficient use of disk space.  This robust utility was first written by Jeff Fitzgerald and Dr. Peggy Long in 1983 for Prime INFORMATION and was converted to support UniData in 1992, and UniData NT in 1999.  Today, there are over 2,270 FAST user sites worldwide.

This client/server version, FAST c/s for UniData on Windows offers a WindowsTM - based user interface.  If youíre familiar with point and click, list boxes etc., FAST c/s will feel very natural; you simply select the account or file you wish to analyze and FAST c/s performs itís three primary tasks: 1) file storage reporting, 2) optimum file type, block size and modulo selection, and 3) automated file resizing.  This gives you the best system performance available today.  As a FAST c/s client, you will receive installation media containing comprehensive HELP and our on-line User Guide.  New staff members can step in immediately and use FAST c/s.

FAST c/s fully automates the resize function, based on accurate information and careful assessment of the current file structure.  In addition, FAST c/s reports on file integrity, pinpointing possible damage in time for the user to take corrective action.  FAST c/s produces easy to read reports providing a full statistical analysis including modulo and block size recommendations.  When needed, FAST c/s performs type analysis, choosing a new file type based on actual modeling of both types available (0 and 1).  FAST c/s gives you the ability to access your internal network and run from any location.  Users may schedule task execution to fit their operational schedule, our start/stop clocks make processing easy.  The user retains complete control of the process and can override the FAST c/s recommendations or alter the list of files to be resized.

     Note that FAST c/s does not support UniData release 8.1 or later.


Features

FAST c/s provides three core functions: 

  1. Gather Statistics - Collects current data describing each file, including type, modulo, block size and numerous other statistics.  It recommends the best modulo for each file and evaluates the current type (hashing algorithm).  Validates file integrity, producing diagnostics with specific information about any corruption found in any file.  Produces a database from which a file statistics report is generated.

  2. Type Analysis - There are two hash types in UniData, called 0 and 1.  FAST's Type Analysis program simulates each of these possibilities (in memory) and recommends the one that provides the least amount of overflow.  The Type Analysis program is available for UniData NT at release 5.0.7 and higher.  All the other functions of FAST c/s do work on previous releases of UniData.  When you upgrade to 5.0.7 or higher, you can start using Type Analysis too since we will include it on your installation media.

  3. Automated Resizing Ė Using the standard UniData RESIZE and MEMRESIZE processes,  FAST will resize the files that require it, using the recommended modulo, type and block size from the first two steps.  The resize is controlled, allowing the user to specify a starting and/or stopping time for the process.  Optional parameters such as TMPPATH and amount of memory for MEMRESIZE may be specified.   Other dynamic file parameters, such as SPLIT.LOAD, MERGE.LOAD, MINIMUM.MODULO and KEYONLY/KEYDATA may be controlled and put into effect at the time of resizing.  Resizing may be done as a phantom or background process.  A complete audit trail is maintained allowing easy evaluation of time requirements and any errors which may occur.


Performance

This release of FAST c/s allows you to perform all file maintenance on both static and dynamic files with one utility.  For the last 17 years we have specialized in the maintenance of statically hashed files.  We also supported the dynamic files used by Prime INFORMATION.  Our recommendations for static files have proven to be accurate over the many years that they have been in use.  We know that choosing the right parameters and systematic file maintenance can make a huge difference in system performance.  We believe we can make a difference for dynamic files not only in performance but also in the amount of disk space used.

Hashed files are perfect for supporting a database, because they allow rapid access to variable length records with widely ranging keys and data.  However, there is a price to pay -- maintenance is required to keep hashed files performing at peak efficiency.  As data records are added to the file, the groups of the file fill up and the additional data is stored in overflow buffers.  As more and more data is added, the chain of overflow can become very long.  Retrieving and/or updating data records which are stored in overflow takes more system resource (disk I/O, CPU and memory!).

When a hashed file has become inefficiently structured, it must be resized to gain back performance.  Resizing changes the modulo, type (hashing algorithm) and block size of the file to more appropriate values.

Of course, once the files are resized normal user activities will add, delete and update more records, causing the efficiency gained by resizing to be temporary.  Just like changing the oil in your car, file resizing must be done regularly to maintain performance.

For more detailed technical information about file parameters and performance, please look at our collection of technical papers.


Efficient Use of Disk Space

You would think that badly sized files would take up less space than properly sized ones; at least we did at first.  However, the truth is that badly sized files very often waste disk space.  The file may be taking up more space than needed because the modulo was made too big -- often this happens due to poor analysis tools, because the administrator wanted to buy time before the next resize was required (anyone who has ever resized manually can see why the temptation exists to put off doing it!) or to compensate for a poor type choice.  An inappropriate choice of block size very often leads to huge amounts of wasted space in some files.

FAST c/s will choose parameters for files which result in the best performance and most efficient use of disk space possible.  The user may set control parameters which make FAST c/s "smarter" about certain files and their needs.  You may control the amount of available space left for future growth, the "trigger point" for type analysis and a minimum modulo for files which contract and expand dynamically.  And, of course, you may always override FAST c/s's recommendations based upon your professional knowledge of your files and your system.


Time Savings

Anyone who has ever resized files manually is struck by how much time it takes -- especially the analysis required to arrive at the appropriate modulo, type and block size.  If the standard tools are used this tedious process must be done manually file-by-file.  Even more time is required if the user chooses to test the recommendations before implementing them.

If you are amazingly quick, you might be able to complete the analysis of a small file in fifteen minutes.  If your system has 500 files (most actually have more -- data files, dictionaries, cross reference files, etc.) it will take you 125 hours to complete the task!! No wonder that most people choose to just hit the "hot spots" when resizing manually -- it is nearly impossible to perform a thorough job.

What other tasks could you perform if you didn't have to spend this time resizing files?  What performance gains would your users see if you could do a thorough job of resizing on a regular basis?


File Integrity Checking

The internal structure of a hashed file is rather elegant.  Each group's beginning may be calculated and accessed directly.  However, within each group the data records are stored in a linked list.  Each record has a header which contains information about that record, the location of the previous record and the location of the next record.  When the database manager program retrieves a record from a group it follows the links from record to record within the group.

If a system problem occurs while a group is being updated, the links may be damaged so that they cannot be followed.  This can result in lost data, aborts within your application and erroneous reports.  Files with a great deal of overflow tend to be more vulnerable to damage if a system problem occurs.  So, proper and regular resizing of your files will reduce your exposure (so will a reliable UPS!).

Should your system have a problem, how will you go about validating file integrity to insure that no files are damaged?  Most administrators simply don't because there is not a reliable method of doing so.  Counting the records in a file will find most, but not all, damage.  The UNIX fschk utility will fix the files from the UNIX point of view, but will make the problem worse from the database's point of view.

The Gather Statistics process within FAST c/s follows the chain of records and groups within each file and checks for damage or inconsistency.  Any problem is reported to you along with the type of problem, the group number and the location within the file where the damage is seen.  While FAST c/s doesn't currently fix damaged files (this may become a future capability!) it makes you aware of any damage before it can get worse.



Download a Complete Technical Overview

Would you like more detailed information about FAST c/s in a format that you can review at your leisure?  We suggest that you download our Technical Overview.  It is a 22 page Adobe Acrobat document which describes FAST c/s in detail, showing pictures of the various screens and describing each of the processes and reports.

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Fitzgerald & Long, Inc.
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