Help/Systems Enables Graphical Viewing of Job Schedules
by Alex Woodie
Help/Systems last week announced Robot/SCHEDULE 9.0, the newest version of its OS/400 job scheduling utility. With this version, AS/400 and iSeries operators can view their jobs and compare selected jobs to one another, a normally difficult task in a text-based environment. This new graphical capability is being delivered through an interface to Microsoft Visio.
Help/Systems' line of OS/400 systems management software is designed to automate operator processes that are generally performed manually, and to eliminate or reduce the chance of operator error. Robot/SCHEDULE furthers this cause by handling job scheduling and managing batch jobs so that AS/400 and iSeries servers automatically start jobs on time or in reaction to events within a network of OS/400 servers. Robot/SCHEDULE includes facilities for setting up tasks with varying degrees of complexity. For instance, one job won't start until another designated process is complete. The process is described by the term "reactivity."
According to Tom Huntington, Help/Systems' vice president of technical services, Robot/SCHEDULE is powerful enough to manage high levels of complexity related to interconnected jobs. "But because it's so powerful," he said, "you can build a schedule that's so event driven, so dependency driven, so reactive, that it's hard to visualize, it's hard to see it in a linear fashion. It's almost a spider web. In Visio, we can see how complex these batch jobs really are."
Version 8.0 of Robot/SCHEDULE, released more than two years ago, included a Windows PC fat-client option, in addition to the standard 5250 interface. This version, which has seen slow adoption among the 8,000 users of the product, provided a graphical environment for setting up job schedules. But it didn't provide the capability to graphically view the jobs and compare them with one another.
With the new Robot/SCHEDULE 9.0, users will be able to select a subset of their jobs, and output a file to the Microsoft Visio program. Robot/SCHEDULE ships with a customized Visio stencil and template that allows users to see job properties and relationships, including reactivity, at a glance. When a user clicks on a job, its custom properties display immediately.
Allowing users to view how their various OS/400 jobs relate to one another provides several benefits, Help/Systems says. First, users will be able to print out the Visio worksheet and use it for training, meetings, and discussions. They can also identify inefficiencies or find openings in a job schedule where more jobs can be added.
The new functionality will also find use when companies want to see how new workloads will affect existing workloads on an AS/400 or iSeries server. Robot/SCHEDULE is often used to automate nightly batch processes, Huntington said, but adding new workloads can upset the delicate balance of resources. "This will help them answer question about how the process flows at night," he said.
If the user has installed Robot/CLIENT, the 9.0 release of Robot/SCHEDULE will allow the user to see the interdependencies that the iSeries workloads have with other workloads running on Windows and Unix systems, Huntington said.
Microsoft Visio is a Windows program that provides diagramming capabilities that help people document and share ideas and information in a visual format. Robot/SCHEDULE users who simply want to view their jobs in Visio can download the free Visio viewer from the Microsoft Web site. If the user wants to further manipulate the data in Visio to make it more readable, they'll need to buy a full license from Microsoft. In either case, users won't be able to upload new job processing workflows to Robot/SCHEDULE; the transfer of data only goes one way.
This latest version ships with a couple of other new capabilities. First, users can now create an audit log of all modifications made to their job schedule. Help/Systems says that every job schedule addition, change (including override codes), and deletion is included in the log, as well as the name of the user who made the change and the time and date it occurred. Version 9.0 also includes a new DO feature that gives the operator a greater degree of control over jobs.
Robot/SCHEDULE 9.0 is ready to ship and ranges in price from about $3,000 to $21,700 for P50 shops. For more information, visit www.helpsystems.com.
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Last Updated: 5/28/02
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