When Good Service Definitions Turn Bad

I was about to comment it’s been a while since I wrote about WLM but, in researching for this post, I discover it isn’t. The last post was WLM-Managed Initiators And zIIP.

I seem to be telling a lot of customers their WLM service definition really needs some maintenance. In fact it’s every customer I’ve worked with over the past few years. You might say “well, it’s your job to analyse WLM for customers”. To some extent that’s true. However, my motivation is customer technical health rather than meeting some Services quota. (I don’t have one, thankfully.) So, if I say it I mean it.

I thought I’d explore why WLM service definition maintenance is important. Also when to do it.

Why Review Your Service Definition?

Service definitions have two main components:

  • Classification rules
  • Goals

Both yield reasons for review.

Classification Rules

I often see work misclassified. Examples include

  • Work in SYSSTC that shouldn’t be – such as Db2 Engine address spaces.
  • Work that should be Importance 1 but isn’t – again Db2 Engine but also MQ Queue Managers.
  • Work that’s new and not adequately classified. Recall, as an example, if you don’t set a default for started tasks the default is to classify them to SYSSTC. For batch that would be SYSOTHER.

So, classification rules are worth examining occasionally.


Goal values can become out of date for a number of reasons. Common ones are:

  • Transactions have become faster
    • Due to tuning
    • Due to technology improvements
  • Business requirements have changed. For example, orchestrating simple transactions into ever more complex flows.
  • Talking of business requirements, it might become possible to do better than your Service Level Agreement says (or Service Level Expectation, if that’s what you really have.
  • A change from using I/O Priority Management to not.

Goal types can also become inappropriate. A good example of this is recent changes to how Db2 DDF High Performance DBATs are reported to WLM, as I articulate in my 2022 “Db2 and WLM” presentation.

But why would goal values matter? Take the case where you do far better than your goal. I often see this and I explain that if performance deteriorated to the point where the work just met goal people would probably complain. They get used to what you deliver, even if it’s far better than the SLA. And with a goal that is too lax this is almost bound to happen some time.

Conversely, an unrealistically tight goal isn’t helpful; WLM will give up (at least temporarily) on a thoroughly unachievable goal. Again misery.

So, goal values and even types are worth examining occasionally – to make sure they’re appropriate and achievable but not too easy.

Period Durations

When I examine multi-period work (typically DDF or Batch) I often see almost all work ending in Period 1. I would hope to see something more than 90% ending in Period 1, but often it’s well above 99%. This implies, rhetorically, there is no heavy stuff. But I think I would want to protect against heavy stuff – so a higher-than-99%-in-Period-1 scenario is not ideal.

So, occasionally check on period durations for multi-period work. Similarly, think about whether the service class should be multi-period. (CICS transaction service classes, by the way, can’t be multi-period.)

When Should You Review Your Service Definition?

It’s worth some kind of review every year or so, performance data in hand. It’s also worth it whenever a significant technology change happens. It might be when you tune Db2’s buffer pools, or maybe when you get faster disks or upgrade your processor. All of these can change what’s achievable.

In the aftermath of a crisis is another good time. If you establish your service definition didn’t adequately protect what it should have then fixing that could well prevent a future crisis. Or at least ameliorate it. (I’m biased towards crises, by the way, as that’s what often gets me involved – usually in the aftermath and only occasionally while it’s happening.)

And Finally

Since I started writing this post I’ve “desk checked” a customer’s WLM Service Definition. (I’ve used my Open Source sd2html code to examine the XML unloaded from the WLM ISPF Application.)

I didn’t expect to – and usually I’d also have RMF SMF.

I won’t tell you what I told the customer but I will say there were quite a few things I could share (and that I had to write new function in sd2html to do so).

One day I will get the SMF and I’ll be able to do things like check goal appropriateness and period durations.

But, to repeat what I started with, every WLM Service Definition needs periodic maintenance. Yours probably does right now.

And, as a parting shot here’s a graph I generated from a table sd2html produces:

It shows year-level statistics for modifications to a different customer’s WLM Service Definition. As you can see, activity comes in waves. Practically, that’s probably true for most customers. So when’s the next wave due?

Published by Martin Packer

I'm a mainframe performance guy and have been for the past 35 years. But I play with lots of other technologies as well.

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