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Volume 5, Number 20 -- May 17, 2005

Help/Systems New CSI Tracks Down Runaway Jobs

by Alex Woodie

They gather in the dead of night or at high noon, and strike your server without warning. They are runaway jobs, and left alone, they can quickly consume valuable iSeries storage, and even bring your business to a halt. To identify and resolve these crimes against job temporary storage, Help/Systems introduced a new Critical Storage Investigator (CSI) feature in Robot/SPACE version 2.0, which started shipping yesterday.

When Help/Systems introduced Robot/SPACE 1.0 in 2000, the product was designed to help customers monitor the accumulation of data on AS/400 and iSeries disk and avoid any unpleasant surprises. There is little that OS/400 shops can do to entirely avoid t adding more disk capacity from time to time, aside from periodic file reorgs (which this product also helps users accomplish). But there's a big difference between knowing that you're going to need another 100GB six months down the line, and discovering that you have maxed out your disks just as you begin month's-end processing.

With CSI's capability to watch job temporary storage, Robot/SPACE has become a tactical tool for day-to-day survival as opposed to strictly a strategic planning product, according to Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services at Help/Systems.

"It was more of a 'submit a job tonight to go out and analyze all your disk space, and in the morning generate reports,'" he says of version 1.0. "The difference is now we have monitor processes running maybe every five minutes, looking over ASPs and iASPs, along with snapshots of job temporary storage. With CSI you can look at the active jobs on your system, and sort them by temporary usage space."

Robot/SPACE 2.0 sports a new Java-based GUI, and the new CSI feature takes full advantage of the graphical display to present real-time usage data in a pie graph format. The interface quickly communicates to users how much of an ASP's or iASP's storage is currently used and how much is available, as well as historical ASP usage data.

One of the cool features about CSI is that users can configure it with certain thresholds to automatically alert administrators of jobs consuming more storage than they have been allotted. (Receiving these messages or e-mails requires a separate messaging application, such as Robot/ALERT or another product.). CSI can even be configured to put a temporary hold on jobs that are consuming too much temporary storage. Although the software doesn't, at this point, enable jobs to be automatically killed, this feature can be employed to stop a runaway ODBC or SQL job from bringing the system to its knees, Huntington says.

While users can get ASP and iASP usage data out of OS/400 itself, Robot/SPACE takes it a step further, Huntington says. "What they don't have is a logical progression that takes you through step by step," he says. "And one of the [neat] things we can do with this release is track temporary storage. There is no way to track temporary storage at a job level."

Presenting the data in graphical format helps users make quick decisions, says Jim Cassens, Help/Systems' chief technical officer. [The user might say], "'I didn't have a problem a month ago, but now I do. Where did that growth take place?' Now I don't have to run a job, or a bunch of queries. I can get it right from the user interface," Cassens says.

Help/Systems developed CSI--a name for which the company now owns the trademark--with customer input. "I just had a customer who had a major performance issue," Huntington says. "He had some job that started to take temporary storage, but he had no idea which job. He said 'I wish we had a tool in that area.'" Now he does.

Robot/SPACE 2.0 is available now. Pricing is based on CPW and ranges from $2,000 to $27,500. For more information, visit

This article has been corrected since it was first published. Robot/SPACE is available now, not Robot/SAVE. IT Jungle regrets the error. [Correction made 5/18/05.]

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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
Contact the Editors: To contact anyone on the IT Jungle Team
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