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Guide to OpenVMS File Applications

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Chapter 7
File Sharing and Buffering

This chapter discusses the run-time options that are available when opening, connecting, and closing a shared file. These options are implicit in creating a shared file because the Create service includes an implied file open.

File sharing includes file accessing, record locking, and local and shared buffering. Figure 7-1 shows a typical shared file situation.

Figure 7-1 Shared File Access

See the OpenVMS Record Management Services Reference Manual for more information about accessing and sharing files.

7.1 File Accessing

OpenVMS RMS (hereafter referred to as RMS) file sharing allows multiple users to access a single file. Timely access to files sometimes requires that more than one active program be allowed to read, write, and modify records within the same file simultaneously.

Whether or not a file can be shared depends on the type of device it resides on and the explicit file-sharing information specified by the processes that access the file. Magnetic tape files cannot be shared because magnetic tape drives are sequentially operated devices. However, disk files can be shared by any combination of readers and writers without restriction. Your program provides the information that enables file sharing. You control the degree of sharing by providing an explicit file-sharing specification when your program opens or creates a file. This specification indicates the types of file operations that are permitted for application programs that share the file.

When a program creates or opens a disk file, it gives two pieces of information needed to determine if and how the file may be shared. First, it states the types of operations it intends to perform on the file, such as read, write, or update. RMS later checks this information to protect against unauthorized file access.

Second, the program specifies the types of operations other concurrently active programs can perform on the file. When the sharing specification of one program is compatible with the sharing specification of another, both programs can gain access to the file simultaneously. To ensure that multiple programs can access the file simultaneously, you may have to do some schedule planning.

7.1.1 Types of File Sharing and Record Streams

A single process can access the same file using multiple record streams. A record stream is the access environment in which file records may be read, written, deleted, or updated. Important elements of the access environment are the current record position (if any), the access mode established for the current record, the sequential next record position, and the state of locks on other records in the file.

The Connect service creates a record stream and associates it with a file opened or created by the appropriate service. The connection between a record stream and a file is explicitly terminated by the Disconnect service or is implicitly terminated by closing the file. Record streams are connected to a file in one of three ways:

  • Within one process or across several processes, multiple FABs can be connected to a shared file. One or more record streams may then be connected to each FAB. This form of sharing is known as interlocked interprocess file sharing and is associated with reading or writing records, not blocks.
  • Within one process, multiple record streams can be associated with one FAB to read and write records, not blocks. This form of sharing is known as multistreaming.
  • Within one process or across several processes, multiple FABs can be connected to a file. One record stream (RAB) is connected to each FAB, and users provide their own synchronization. This form of file sharing is known as user-interlocked interprocess file sharing. (User-interlocked interprocess file sharing usually applies only to block I/O processing and to record processing for nonshared sequential files residing on disk devices.)

Two important options for shared files are the file-access and file-sharing options. These options specify the type of record access that the sharing processes can perform. They are specified by the FDL attributes ACCESS and SHARING and the FAB fields identified by the symbolic offsets FAB$B_FAC and FAB$B_SHR. When creating or opening a file, RMS compares the values of these fields to determine whether or not the requesting process may have access to the file.

In this manual, the term accessor refers either to a process that accesses a file or a record stream that accesses a record. The first process to access a file determines which operations other accessors can perform on the file, which in practice determines whether or not subsequent users are allowed to access the file. For example, if your process requests a certain type of access that the first accessor (since the file was last closed) has disallowed, your process cannot access the file.

When choosing the access other processes may have to the file, you can specify the type of file sharing to be used and indicate whether or not other processors can access the file simultaneously.

In an OpenVMS Cluster environment, processes can access shared files on the same or different nodes. (See Section 3.7).

A single file can be accessed by both interlocked interprocess file sharing and multistreaming. Compaq does not recommend the simultaneous use of interlocked interprocess file sharing and user-interlocked interprocess file sharing on the same file if the process that requests user-interlocked interprocess file sharing intends to modify the file. The reason is that record locking is not done or checked for the processes using user-interlocked interprocess file sharing.

You must define your process access based on planned record operations. The record operations with associated FDL and RMS options are summarized in Table 7-1.

Table 7-1 File Access Record Operations
Function (Service) FDL and RMS Options
Read records (Get) ACCESS GET specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_GET set
Locate records (Find) ACCESS GET specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_GET set
Delete records (Delete) ACCESS DELETE specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_DEL set
Add new records (Put) ACCESS PUT specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_PUT set
Truncate file (Truncate) ACCESS TRUNCATE specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_TRN set
Modify records (Update) ACCESS UPDATE specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_UPD set
Access blocks (see text) ACCESS BLOCK_IO specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_BIO set; under certain conditions, ACCESS RECORD_IO or FAB$B_FAC FAB$V_BRO

The record-access functions you request are compared with the protection on the specified file. If your process is limited to reading and locating records, it should have read access to the file. If your process is deleting, adding, truncating, or updating records, it must have write access to the file. RMS permits any process that may delete, add, truncate, or modify records to also locate and read records because write access to a file also implies read access.

You can perform block I/O operations using the Read, Space, and Write services. Block I/O is usually only used by applications written in VAX MACRO or other low-level languages. Note that when ACCESS BLOCK_IO is specified, the application program must also specify either SHARING USER_INTERLOCK or SHARING PROHIBIT.

Different types of record operations can be specified to define the type of access to be allowed for other processes, as shown in Table 7-2.

Table 7-2 File-Sharing Record Operations
Function (Service) FDL and RMS Options
Read records (Get) SHARING GET specified or FAB$B_SHR field FAB$V_SHRGET set
Locate records (Find) SHARING GET specified or FAB$B_SHR field FAB$V_SHRGET set
Delete records (Delete) SHARING DELETE specified or FAB$B_SHR field FAB$V_SHRDEL set
Add new records (Put) SHARING PUT specified or FAB$B_SHR field FAB$V_SHRPUT set
Modify records (Update) SHARING UPDATE specified or FAB$B_FAC field FAB$V_SHRUPD set
User interlocking SHARING USER_INTERLOCK or FAB$B_SHR field FAB$V_UPI set
Multistreaming SHARING MULTISTREAM or FAB$B_SHR field FAB$V_MSE set

If other processes are limited to reading and locating records, they are unable to modify or add records, and record-lock checking is not performed. If other processes are allowed to delete, add, or modify records, they can also read records; however, record-lock checking occurs. All record-access functions use interlocked interprocess file sharing.

No access denies access to all accessors except the accessor who specifies the option. This option might be used when a file is shared infrequently or when doing a major update. When you use this option, be sure to close the file promptly when other users are trying to access the file. Choose this option or the user-interlocking option when using block access. To use the Queue I/O Request system service, specify the FILE USER_FILE_OPEN attribute (FAB$L_FOP field FAB$V_UFO set). The no-access option does not allow file sharing and requires that your process have write file protection access.

User interlocking permits the user to maintain interlocking protection (including maintaining the end-of-file mark). For any other form of file sharing, RMS controls the reading and writing of I/O buffers to ensure the integrity of file and record structures. This option is useful for nonshared sequential files and for block I/O access using RMS or the Queue I/O Request system service.

Multistreaming allows your process to access the same file using more than one record stream and allows other users to access the file using interlocked interprocess file sharing (unless SHARING PROHIBIT is also specified). When you select this option, select the appropriate SHARING record operations, such as SHARING GET. When multiple streams are connected, the buffers allocated for each stream become part of a buffer cache for the entire process. (A buffer cache is a common shared buffer pool intended to minimize I/O.) A record operation on one stream may use cached buffers from a previous record operation on a different stream that referenced the same buckets.

When you open or create a file, you must specify the file access and file sharing you want for it. When using FDL or RMS, the default is to read records from the file (ACCESS GET) and to allow others accessors to read records from the file (SHARING GET). Typically, an application program may want to read records (ACCESS GET) while allowing other accessors to add records (SHARING PUT). You might want to modify records (ACCESS UPDATE) while allowing other accessors to add new records to the file (SHARING PUT).

When you create a file, the default is for FDL and RMS to add records to the file (ACCESS PUT) and to not allow others to access the file (SHARING NONE). When you create a file with the create-if option, it is especially important to specify the access and sharing values. In this instance, you have denied yourself access if the file already exists because you have specified SHARING NONE and you are not the initial accessor. One way to avoid this when you create a file is to allow most operations for other users (such as SHARING GET, SHARING PUT, SHARING UPDATE, and SHARING DELETE).

Combinations of file access and file sharing that specify a mixture of interlocked interprocess file access and user-interlocked interprocess file sharing allow the application program to access the file without record locking protection. Such combinations are not recommended for general use; they should be used only for application programs that require read-only access to a file. Other combinations may cause an error, such as requesting ACCESS BLOCK_IO without specifying SHARING NONE or SHARING USER_INTERLOCK.

7.1.2 Interlocked Interprocess File Sharing

Interlocked interprocess is the most common form of file sharing. This method allows the connection of one or more record streams (RABs) to one or more processes (FABs), either within a single process or across several processes. When using this form of file sharing, the values specified for file sharing and file access by the initial accessor determine the type of access permitted for subsequent processes.

The initial accessor must consider the restrictions that result from the values specified for file sharing and file access. Typically, the initial accessor denies all write access to subsequent processes. Such a restriction occurs when the initial accessor specifies some type of write access for file access without specifying write access for file sharing.

If the initial accessor specifies read-only file access and file sharing, subsequent accessors can only read the file. If the appropriate type of write access is not specified, then subsequent accessors cannot perform the corresponding write operations to the file.

If the initial accessor specifies one or more values for file sharing, subsequent processes can access the file if they specify compatible file access values. For example, if the initial accessor specifies SHARING GET and SHARING PUT, subsequent accessors must specify ACCESS GET to read the file, and ACCESS PUT to write new records to the file (read access is implied by all four types of write access).

Table 7-3 presents the values that the initial accessor of a file can specify for file sharing to permit access to subsequent accessors.

Table 7-3 Initial File Sharing and Subsequent File Access
Initial Accessor Sharing Subsequent Accessor Access
SHARING PROHIBIT No access allowed

1Implied related operation

Because the initial accessor can specify multiple SHARING values, a subsequent accessor whose ACCESS values match one, some, or all of the initial accessor's SHARING values is allowed access; however, when the subsequent accessor specifies an ACCESS value that the initial accessor did not specify as a SHARING value (an exception is SHARING GET, which is implied), access is denied to the subsequent accessor.

In addition to comparing the file access values that subsequent accessors specify with the file-sharing values specified by the initial accessor, the values that subsequent accessors specify must be compatible with values specified by the initial accessor. Table 7-4 shows the file-sharing values that subsequent accessors must specify to access the file.

Table 7-4 Initial File Access and Subsequent File Sharing
Initial Accessor Access Subsequent Accessor Sharing

1May be implied a related operation

Because the initial accessor can specify multiple ACCESS values, a subsequent accessor whose SHARING values match all of the initial accessor's ACCESS values is allowed access; however, when the subsequent accessor specifies a SHARING value that the initial accessor did not specify as an ACCESS value (an exception is ACCESS GET, which is implied), access is denied.

7.1.3 User-Interlocked Interprocess File Sharing

User-interlocked interprocess file sharing allows one or more application programs to write records to a sequential file residing on a disk device or to a file on a disk device that is open for block I/O processing. It cannot be used with relative and indexed files opened for record access. (For record access to relative and indexed files, RMS transparently controls the reading and writing of buffers to the file and always maintains current end-of-file information.)

All sequential files that reside on disk devices may be write shared with user-provided interlocks. To use this feature, you must specify SHARING USER_INTERLOCK (set the FAB$B_SHR field FAB$V_UPI bit). Note that when this option is specified, RMS does not attempt to control the reading and writing of I/O buffers across processes, nor does it maintain end-of-file information. Thus, you must use the Flush service (or language equivalent, if any) to force the writing of modified I/O buffers and to rewrite the record attributes (including end-of-file information) in the file header. Processes that open the file after that point obtain the new end-of-file information. Note also that record attributes are rewritten whenever a file is closed. The last write accessor to close the file must also be the last accessor to have extended the file. If not, end-of-file information is written by another write accessor. Read accessors of a shared sequential file can update their internal end-of-file context by closing and reopening the file.

No form of record locking is supported for this type of file sharing. Although record locking is not checked using user-interlocked interprocess file sharing, file locking is checked. For instance, if you or another user specify SHARING NONE, one of you may be denied access.

If a process tries to implement the truncate service when closing a sequential file, it must have sole write access to the file. If other processes have write access to the file, RMS does not close it and it remains accessible to other processes. If other processes have the file open for read access, RMS defers the truncation until the final process having read access closes the file.

Similarly, if a process tries to implement the truncate-on-put option when inserting a record into a sequential file, it must have sole access to the file. If other processes have access to the file, RMS does not insert the record.

7.2 Record Locking

Synchronized access to records is required in a shared file environment where record streams may compete for access to records. The operating system implements synchronized access using record locking. That is, record access conflicts are resolved by locking the record until the final competing record stream processes the record. This ensures that a program may add, delete, or modify records without interference and that when a record operation is finished, the data is consistent.


On VAX systems, RMS record locking differs from RMS Journaling for OpenVMS record locking. If your application program uses Recovery Unit Journaling, see the RMS Journaling for OpenVMS Manual for details.

The operating system allows you to determine whether the application program or RMS provides record locking. Processes accessing the file make this choice by specifying appropriate sharing attributes and access attributes in the FAB as described in Section 7.1. In general, RMS enables record locking when record modifications are permitted in a shared file environment.

RMS provides record locking for all file organizations and uses the lock manager to keep conflicting record streams from updating a record simultaneously. The rest of this section describes record locking.

7.2.1 Default Record Locking

You can specify various record-locking options in the RAB when you access a record by way of a record stream. If you do not explicitly specify any record-locking options when you access a record, RMS uses default record locking to automatically and transparently lock and unlock shared records. Default record locking does not require special handling of locks in the application program.

In a typical record-locking scenario, an application program calls a service to access and lock a record. The application program then processes the locked record. When it finishes processing the record, the application program calls the appropriate service to finish processing and unlock the record.

The following scenario illustrates processing an existing record:

  1. The application program invokes the Get service to access the record, lock the record for exclusive access, and return the record to the application program.
  2. The application program modifies the locked record. Other record streams that try to access the record using default record locking get a record-locked error. This prevents the locked record from being accessed and modified before the application program finishes modifying it.
  3. The application program invokes the Update service to store the modified record in the file and remove the lock on the modified record, thereby making the record available to other record streams.

When RMS provides record locking, the Get, Find, and Put services apply locks. The Get service and the Find service normally return with a record locked, but the Put service returns with the record unlocked unless you specify the manual-unlocking option.

When the application program uses default record locking, RMS automatically unlocks the locked record when one of the following events occurs:

  • Another record is accessed (Get service and Find service).
  • The current record is updated (Update service).
  • The current record is deleted (Delete service).
  • The record stream is disconnected (Disconnect service).
  • The file is closed (Close service).
  • The record stream is positioned to the beginning of the file (Rewind service).
  • A new record is added to the file (Put service).
  • The record lock is explicitly removed (Release service or Free service).
  • An error occurs during a record operation.

Note that a sequential Get service immediately following a Find service does not unlock the record because it accesses the same record.

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