Help/Systems Widens the Robot’s Reach
April 10, 2012 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops that use more than one Help/Systems tool to automate data center operations can now view the status of multiple Help/Systems products from a single screen, called the Product Metrics Dashboard, which shipped last month with Robot/NETWORK version 11. The company also unveiled a new release of its cross-platform job scheduler, Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise, that can control batch jobs running on Microsoft SQL Server.
Robot/NETWORK is the digital glue that unites various Help/Systems products running on one or multiple IBM i severs. From one instance of Robot/NETWORK, administrators can send out instructions to–and receive feedback from–multiple IBM i servers, and the following Help/Systems products: Robot/SCHEDULE; Robot/SAVE for backups and recoveries; the Robot/CONSOLE job log monitor; the Robot/TRAPPER monitoring software; the Robot/REPORTS report bursting and distribution module; and the Robot/MONITOR performance monitoring and reporting solution (which is a component of Robot/AUTOTUNE). The software can also accept SNMP traps sent by systems management tools from “the big four” (IBM, BMC, CA, and HP), making Robot/NETWORK useful for IBM i-centric monitoring of heterogeneous enterprise IT operations.
The new Product Metrics Dashboard in version 11 is designed to give managers quick insight into specific IBM i-related operations carried out by other Help/Systems products. The new dashboard uses a series of charts and tables to communicate information about Robot/NETWORK statuses, Robot/SCHEDULE jobs, Robot/CONSOLE messages and resource monitoring, Robot/REPORTS report sets, and Robot/SAVE media.
The Product Metrics Dashboard is configurable to a degree. It allows users to view product-generated messages and status across a specific date range. There are also summary and detail views, and users can select which hosts or nodes they view for informational status reports.
While the new dashboard is useful for getting quick at-a-glance information, it’s not meant to replace another GUI, the Status Center, which actually allows administrators to react to events occurring within the monitored systems, and issue commands to rectify problems.
The Status Center, which debuted with the big graphical overhaul in with Robot/NETWORK version 10 in 2007, also sees new features with version 11, including the capability to escalate an issue (a status) to a specific user profile, and a new tab in the GUI that allows the user to see and manage the statuses they’ve been assigned.
“The Status Center is where customers get the important events (exceptions) from their network of IBM i partitions, for example, a message from QSYSOPR or a job that has failed from Robot/SCHEDULE,” Help/Systems vice president of technical services Tom Huntington says via email. “The new Status Assignment allows them to assign these events to team members that might need to fix the problem. It helps to keep the staff accountable for issues. The statuses are assigned to OS/400 profiles. In the assignment you can add notes and even a problem ticket number to correlate the event with problem ticket management.”
The new release of Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise delivers integration with SQL Server, which will help consolidate operational control for customers with big investments in the Windows Server platform.
Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise debuted in March 2009. The software enabled organizations to schedule batch workloads for execution on AIX, Solaris, and Linux servers from a central IBM i host. The software, which uses Java-based add-ons on the target platforms, was quickly bolstered with support for Windows three months later.
Customers have always been able to schedule workloads to run on SQL Server using Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise, since it supports Windows Server. But the new support for SQL Server unveiled last week bolsters the integration between the IBM i and SQL Server environments, and eliminates any chance for errors, Huntington says.
“This integration allows us to directly run these tasks and eliminate the guessing game between when file transfers occur and when to run the SSIS package,” he says, referring to SQL Server Integration Services, a data integration and ETL tool that Microsoft sells as an optional component of its database.
The integration with SQL Server is deeper than what Help/Systems offers with, say, the Oracle database or MySQL running on a Unix, Linux, or Windows machine. For these environments, users still must write scripts to automate the execution of batch processes on the target machine, as well as moving the data. (Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise was bolstered with automated file transfer capabilities about two years ago).
Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise supports all versions of the Windows stack going back to Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2003. The new SQL Server integration feature requires the use of Robot/SCHEDULE version 11, which shipped a year ago.
For more information on Robot/NETWORK or Robot/SCHEDULE Enterprise, see the vendor’s website at www.helpsystems.com.