Halcyon Gets Its Task On
March 12, 2013 Alex Woodie
Halcyon Software last week introduced new software that helps IT departments organize the tasks that must be executed on a daily basis. Whether it’s checking DASD consumption on an IBM i server, preparing Windows machines for backups, or checking the log for network errors, Halcyon’s new Task Supervisor will provide a central repository for storing and working with the various IT-related tasks performed by data center employees and products every day.
Task Supervisor runs on a SQL Server database and delivers Web-based interfaces that IT employees can use to view lists of tasks that need to be performed. The software, which costs $500 per month, lists tasks in the proper sequence, and also includes links to runbooks that list a company’s procedures.
Time critical tasks are especially good candidates for listing in Task Supervisor. For example, the product could display a list of all actions that must take place before a backup job is kicked off at 8 p.m., such as ensuring that users are logged off the system and batch jobs have ended.
The task lists in Task Supervisor can be dynamic. That is, the program can require users check off the completion of certain tasks. If the users don’t input a task as completed, their Task Supervisor screen will change colors to remind them to execute the task.
Task Supervisor can’t automate any tasks. It isn’t a “human job scheduler,” and it doesn’t provide automatic enforcement of tasks. (There are, as yet, no APIs for administering electric shocks or direct caffeine injections.)
The software can, however, directly hook into Halcyon’s systems monitoring and management tools for IBM i and other platforms. In this manner, tasks that are managed by those software products, such as checking the IBM i server for disk space or checking for abnormally ended batch jobs, can be monitored and checked off the list without human intervention.
Halcyon got the idea for Task Supervisor from a managed service provider (MSP) client that utilizes its IBM i systems management tools to automate more than 100 IBM i partitions that it runs on behalf of clients. One day, one of the MSP’s data centers was flooded, and although the IT workers were evacuated, the IT gear continued to run.
However, without access to their lists of tasks, the data center employees were at a loss when it came to remembering what tasks they needed to perform remotely to keep the data center running, says Donnie MacColl, Halcyon’s technical services director.
“The problem was, everybody in the data center knew a task they should be running, but it was held in Notepad, an Excel spreadsheet, in Lotus Notes, in Exchange, or on a paper-based list,” he says. “So everybody knew what they should be doing individually, but nobody knew what they should be doing as a whole.”
The MSP asked Halcyon if it could develop something for them, and Halcyon obliged. At the time, the company’s executives didn’t think much of it, until they spoke with other MSP clients. “It actually started running at that MSP just as a favor really,” he says. “As we spoke about it to other people, we found this was a really common problem.”
There don’t appear to be any other tools quite like Task Supervisor. MSPs often have a unique set of requirements when it comes to management tools, and Halcyon has been catering to MSPs needs for quite some time. “We were surprised. It’s so simple, but it hasn’t been done before,” MacColl says.
While Halcyon designed the product with IT-related tasks in mind, it can also be applied to more general tasks. For example, a list of tasks could be set up to help guide the HR or payroll department employees through the process of setting up new hires, or for reminding the facilities team to bring up a new chair, or configure a telephone as part of the new hire process.
The software includes facilities for automatically inputting lists of tasks that employees store in other products, such as Lotus Notes, Excel spreadsheets, and MS Exchange. For more information, see www.halcyonsoftware.com.