Volume 11, Number 21 -- June 14, 2011

Skybot: When Automated Scheduling is Not for IBM i

Published: June 14, 2011

by Dan Burger

Assuring jobs run on time and in the right order is a frequent operations issue. To reduce the risks that come with jobs running out of order and those that never run due to malfunctions or oversight, companies frequently turn to job scheduling automation software. In IBM i shops, one of the trusted names in this line of work is Help/Systems, a company that's taken care of such things for more than 25 years. Recently Help/Systems expanded its reach beyond IBM i-centric software.

Skybot Software is Help/Systems' first foray into a non-IBM i market. It's been set up as a separate group within the Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based company.

What took Help/Systems in this direction? It begins with the multi-platform reality that exists in most IT departments. Where once a single platform dominated IT departments, that era is pretty much in the history books now. Even in IBM i shops, it's common to find Windows servers playing a larger role. The same can be said about Unix and Linux. And although Help/Systems has addresses this issue for several years with its Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise software that manages those non-i platforms, it does so by running on the IBM i server.

For some companies this is the answer, but where there are multiple platforms there are camps that want control of their own job scheduling on their preferred platforms. Loyalty to specific platforms is a strong bond. Skybot was introduced for these situations.

It wouldn't be unusual for a company to have separate copies of scheduling software for each of its platforms, says Tom Huntington, vice president of technical services for Help/Systems. In those circumstances it makes no difference that Help/Systems has designed scheduling software that allows a single copy to control multiple platforms, from a console on the IBM i or a console on any of the other platforms.

Huntington describes Skybot as Help/Systems' fifth generation of Robot/SCHEDULE, which first debuted in the days of the System/38. The second generation corresponded with the launch of the AS/400, a time when Help expanded the number of automation modules to include tasks such as systems and message management. Controlling multiple platforms from the familiar green-screen interface was next in the evolution, and the next milestone was reached with the addition of features such as a GUI and a wider array of security features and an emphasis on event-driven scheduling.

"We started working on Skybot Scheduler when we started working on Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise," Huntington says. "The code bases for the two products are very similar."

Skybot prospects are companies that either don't have an IBM i server in the IT department--or if they do, they don't chose to run scheduling software on it. In some cases, a company may have migrated to a different platform, but the IT staff still wants enterprise-strength scheduling software. In other cases, IT staff may have migrated to new companies and new platforms. Huntington says those that are familiar with Help/System products have, for years, made inquiries about the availability of non-IBM i-centric products.

Both Skybot and Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise are delivered in a similar fashion. Both can be downloaded from the Web and both have Java agents for platform independency. Neither one is priced according the number of jobs put into the scheduler, which is the case with some Help/Systems competitors. Huntington explains that such pricing leads to creating exceptionally large scripts that attempt to accomplish too many things, which ultimately defeats the purpose of having an automated scheduler.

"Customers want granularity; they want restart capabilities and to be able to keep up on service level agreements. They also want to include automation rules to monitor automation and make sure things are happening on time," he says.

"In the midsize market outside of the IBM i, companies are in a place where AS/400 shops were in the early days of that system," Huntington continues. "These IT departments have grown up with the businesses as they expanded. Now they've reached a point where they don't have the sophisticated tools that are typically used in enterprise IT. They are looking at things like enterprise scheduling, monitoring, and those types of things. To me, when you have mission critical business applications, you need automated scheduling."

The Skybot Scheduler agent supports the following operating systems:

  • Windows XP Professional, Vista Business, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2008 R2 (Windows 7 server)
  • AIX 5.3, 6.1, 7.1
  • Redhat Linux 3, 4, or 5
  • SUSE Linux 10, 10SP1, or 11
  • HP-UX 11v2 or 11v3
  • Sun Solaris
  • Java Virtual Machine version 6 (installed automatically on Windows agent systems)

The host server for Skybot Scheduler contains the database that stores batch job management information and an HTTP server that sends information to a browser. The Skybot Scheduler server runs in Windows, AIX, Linux, and Java environments. It requires a box with at least 2 GB of memory (4 GB is recommended) and a 160 GB hard drive.

For more information, see the Skybot Software website at www.skybotsoftware.com.


Help/Systems Updates Job Scheduler GUI

Robot/SCHEDULE Gets New File Transfer Capabilities

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