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Volume 11, Number 13 -- April 12, 2011

Help/Systems Updates Job Scheduler GUI

Published: April 12, 2011

by Alex Woodie

IBM i operators gain new insights into the state of their job scheduling environments with the latest release of Robot/SCHEDULE from Help/Systems. With version 11, the vendor has made several changes in the graphical Schedule Activity Monitor (SAM) that will enhance the capability of operators to oversee jobs running across IBM i, Windows, Linux, and Unix environments.

SAM is a graphical console that gives operators and administrators critical pieces of information about the state of Robot/SCHEDULE. In the summary screen, SAM displays all the past, present, and future jobs. On the left of SAM's summary screen is a column that displays all the jobs that are forecasted to run. In the middle, SAM shows what jobs are currently running. The right side is reserved for jobs that have completed. Like many consoles, SAM uses colors to quickly communicate whether things are running normally or if there is a problem.


Forecasted jobs that have successfully run are now marked in green in the updated Schedule Activity Monitor that ships with Robot/SCHEDULE 11.

Help/Systems made several changes to the SAM console in version 11 that should benefit operators and administrators. For starters, the job forecast column in the summary screen is now updated automatically. As jobs run, the job listing will be marked with a green background to indicate that they have run successfully; users can also elect to have completed jobs fall off the forecast column. A job that was forecasted to run by a certain time, but hasn't run yet, will display a yellow "yield" sign, which indicates a potential problem. Users can also view more detailed job information in the dedicated forecast screen.

Keeping up with job forecasts and ensuring that a data center meets service level agreements (SLAs) is a big part of what Robot/SCHEDULE does, says Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services for Help/Systems. The biggest Robot/SCHEDULE customers run tens of thousands of background batch jobs every day, and pay people to watch the SAM to ensure things run smoothly.

Managing the day-to-day forecast is important, Huntington says. "Maybe they've had problems in the past. Maybe somebody changed a program and it didn't run successfully, they had issues with it," he says. "With the SAM forecast, they can see what critical processes are going to run tonight. Or maybe they're putting a new job into the schedule, and this will tell them when they have an available spot in the night processing."

SAM's center column, the currently running jobs, has also been updated to provide better handling of OPAL-Delayed jobs. OPAL is a Help/Systems macro language that is used across several products in the Robot family. In Robot/SCHEDULE, OPAL is used to create event-driven job schedules.

In version 11, OPAL-Delayed jobs now appear in the middle column, instead of the forecast column. This tells the operators that the job is in the process of running, even if it's waiting on some resource to become available or another event to occur before executing. "We've had the OPAL-Delayed jobs feature in Robot/SCHEDULE, but those jobs didn't show up as a delayed function," Huntington says. "They were in the forecast, almost like a job queue function."

There are a couple of other enhancements that will help operators visualize the state of their systems using the SAM console. Operators now have the option to exclude EVERY-type jobs in the forecast tab. EVERY-type jobs are small jobs that run at defined intervals. They are not critical, typically, and there are so many of them that they can clog up in the interface.

Finally, Robot/SCHEDULE includes new ways to view Group jobs. Group jobs are similar to reactive jobs created with OPAL, but are designed for jobs with more linear dependencies. Users were provided several ways to look at information about Group jobs in the Robot/SCHEDULE Explorer, which is a GUI console that's complementary to SAM.

We weren't allowing users to see the group and all the members indented in the group, Huntington says. "So we added filters that allow them to see the indented group members under the actual group control itself."

Help/Systems enhanced the two GUIs in Robot/SCHEDULE version 11. Customers who use the 5250 green-screen interface received no enhancements. The capability to monitor Windows, Linux, and Unix environments is available only to customers who purchase the Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise.

The new software is available now. For more information, see www.helpsystems.com.


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