DDNAME

File organization in really old COBOL code.

May 7, 2020 Mainframe No comments , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I encountered customer COBOL code today with a file declaration of the following form:

000038   SELECT AUSGABE ASSIGN TO UR-S-AUSGABE            
000039    ACCESS IS SEQUENTIAL.                   
...
000056 FD  AUSGABE                                                     
000057     RECORDING F                                                  
000058     BLOCK 0 RECORDS                                              
000059     LABEL RECORDS OMITTED.                                       

where the program’s JCL used an AUSGABE (German “output”) DDNAME of the following form:

//AUSGABE   DD    DUMMY

The SELECT looked completely wrong to me, as I thought that SELECT is supposed to have the form:

SELECT cobol-file-variable-name ASSIGN TO ddname

That’s the syntax that my Murach’s Mainframe COBOL uses, and also what I’d seen in big-blue’s documentation.

However, in this customer’s code, the identifier UR-S-AUSGABE is longer than 8 characters, so it sure didn’t look like a DDNAME. I preprocessed the code looking to see if UR-S-AUSGABE was hiding in a copybook (mainframe lingo for an include file), but it wasn’t. How on Earth did this work when it was compiled and run on the original mainframe?

It turns out that [LABEL-]S- or [LABEL]-AS- are ways that really old COBOL code used to specify file organization (something like PL/I’s ENV(ORGANIZATION) clauses for FILEs). This works on the mainframe because a “modern” mainframe COBOL compiler strips off the LABEL- prefix if specified and the organization prefix S- as well, essentially treating those identifier fragments as “comments”.

For anybody reading this who has only programmed in a sane programming language, on sane operating systems, this all probably sounds like verbal diarrhea.  What on earth is a file organization and ddname?  Do I really have to care about those just to access a file?  Well, on the mainframe, yes, you do.

These mysterious dependencies highlight a number of reasons why COBOL code is hard to migrate. It isn’t just a programming language, but it is tied to the mainframe with lots of historic baggage in ways that are very difficult to extricate.  Even just to understand how to open a file in mainframe COBOL you have a whole pile of obstacles along the learning curve:

  • You don’t just run the program in a shell, passing in arguments, but you have to construct a JCL job step to do so.  This specifies parameters, environment variables, file handles, and other junk.
  • You have to know what a DDNAME is.  This is like a HANDLE in the JCL code that refers to a file.  The file has a filename (DSNAME), but you don’t typically use that.  Instead the JCL’s job step declares an arbitrary DDNAME to refer to that handle, and the program that is run in that job step has to always refer to the file using that abstract handle.
  • The file has all sorts of esoteric attributes that you have to know about to access it properly (fixed, variable, blocked, record length, block size, …).  The program that accesses the file typically has to make sure that these attributes are all encoded with the equivalent language specific syntax.
  • Files are not typically just byte streams on the mainframe but can have internal structure that can be as complicated as a simple database (keyed records, with special modes to access them to initialize vs access/modify.)
  • To make life extra “fun”, files are found in a variety of EBCDIC code pages.  In some cases these can’t be converted to single byte iso-8859-X code pages, so you have to use utf-8, and can get into trouble if you want to do round trip conversions.
  • Because of the internal structure of a mainframe file, you may not be able to transfer it to a sane operating system unless special steps are taken.  For example, a variable format file with binary data would typically have to be converted to a fixed format representation so that it’s possible to seek from record to record.
  • Within the (COBOL) code you have three sets of attributes that you have to specify to “declare” a file, before you can even attempt to open it: the DDNAME to COBOL-file-name mapping (SELECT), the FD clause (file properties), and finally record declarations (global variables that mirror the file data record structure that you have to use to read and write the file.)

You can’t just learn to program COBOL, like you would any sane programming language, but also have to learn all the mainframe concepts that the COBOL code is dependent on.  Make sure you are close enough to your eyewash station before you start!

Getting closer to a JCL one liner equivalent to Unix head -1.

June 14, 2019 Mainframe No comments , , , , , , , ,

I was somewhat bemused by how much JCL it took to do the equivalent of a couple ‘head -1’ commands.  It was pointed out to me that INDATASET, OUTDATASET can be used to eliminate all the DD lines, and that all but the SYSPRINT DDs for IDCAMS were not actually required.  This allows the JCL for these pair of ‘head -1’ commands to be shortened to:

The REPRO lines still have to be split up because of the annoying punch-card derived 72 column restrictions of JCL. Note that to use OUTDATASET in this way, I had to sacrifice the JCL shell variable expansion that I had been using. To retain my shell variables (SET TID=UT; SET CID=UT128) I still need DDNAME statements to do the shell expansion in JCL proper, since that doesn’t occur in the SYSIN specification.  Translated to Unix, we must think of this sort of SYSIN “file” as being single and not double quoted (unlike a Unix <<EOF…EOF inline file where shell script are expanded).  The JCL is left reduced to:

Note that since I opted to retain the DDNAME statements, the REPRO lines are now short enough to each fit on a single line.

It turns out that there’s also a way to do variable expansion within the SYSIN, essentially treating something like a Unix double quoted script variable.  You need to explicitly export the symbols in the JCL prologue using EXPORT SYMLIST, and then import them in the SYSIN specification using SYMBOLS=CNVTSYS

I’ve switched to IDS and ODS to make the lines shorter, which makes it possible for one of the REPRO lines to be a one liner (with 6 lines of helper code).  The final JCL line count weighs in at 8:2 vs. Unix, but is not as bad as the original JCL I constructed (22 lines.)

A JCL sample, writing IO to a DATASET (mainframe filename)

November 19, 2016 Mainframe 1 comment , , , , ,

The mainframe and it’s scripting language is a weird beast. Here’s a sample of the scripting language

[sourcecode language=”jcl”]
//LZIOTEST JOB
//A EXEC PGM=IOTEST
//SYSOUT DD SYSOUT=*
//*SYSPRINT DD SYSOUT=*
//SYSPRINT DD DSN=PJOOT.OUT6,DISP=(MOD,KEEP,KEEP),
// DCB=(DSORG=PS,LRECL=80,RECFM=FB,BLKSIZE=800)
[/sourcecode]

When I see this, my gut feeling is to ignore it all, since it looks like a comment. The comments are actually the //* lines, so that is equivalent to:

[sourcecode language=”jcl”]
//LZIOTEST JOB
//A EXEC PGM=IOTEST
//SYSOUT DD SYSOUT=*
//SYSPRINT DD DSN=PJOOT.OUT6,DISP=(MOD,KEEP,KEEP),
// DCB=(DSORG=PS,LRECL=80,RECFM=FB,BLKSIZE=800)
[/sourcecode]

If I understand things properly, the commands in this particular JCL are:

  • JOB (with parameter value LZIOTEST, that identifies the job output in the spool reader)
  • EXEC (with parameter A, which I believe is a step name), and a specification of what to execute for that step (my IOTEST code in this case).
  • DD (define an alias for a file (called a DATASET in mainframe-ese)

The SYSPRINT line associates a DDNAME “SYSPRINT” with a file (i.e. a DATASET) named PJOOT.OUT6. Creating a file seems very painful to do, requiring specification of blocksize, filetype (DSORG), record length, record format (Fixed Blocked in this case), and a DISPosition (whether to create/modify/access-shared/…, and what action to take if the JCL script succeeds or fails). Once that file is created it can then accessed by DDNAME in fopen (i.e. fopen( “DD:SYSPRINT”, …).  I have the feeling that REXX, COBOL, AND PL/1 operate on the DDNAME exclusively, and don’t require it to be prefixed with DD: as the Z/OS C/C++ runtime docs for fopen suggest.

Another oddity with JCL is that it appears to have an 80 character line limitation.  For example, the following produces JCL syntax errors.

[sourcecode language=”jcl”]
//SYSPRINT DD DSN=PJOOT.OUT6,DISP=(MOD,KEEP,KEEP),DCB=(DSORG=PS,LRECL=80,RECFM=FB,BLKSIZE=800)
[/sourcecode]

A trailing comma appears to be the required continuation character.  I don’t know if the indenting I used for DCB= matters, but suspect not.