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Why Your Automation Platform Needs an IBM i Connector

Why Your Automation Platform Needs an IBM i Connector

  • May 26th, 2020

  • 1492

In this article

The IBM advanced job scheduler can be replaced with a modern automation platform that extends the life of a mainframe and opens up new capabilities for your IT Ops team.

Orchestrated automation platforms enhance the power of IBM mainframes

IBM has been offering technology solutions to the healthcare industry for multiple decades. Newer companies and technologies have stolen much of the spotlight in the last decade or two. Nevertheless, IBM mainframes continue to play an essential role in healthcare IT due to their sheer power and reliability.

That said, IBM has faltered a bit compared to newer players on the software side. IBM’s native tool for scheduling jobs is the IBM Advanced Job Scheduler, or AJS. AJS dates to at least the early 1990s, and it was a powerful tool when it first arrived on the scene. But newer players offering more full-featured automation orchestration platforms have largely outpaced the IBM Advanced Job Scheduler.

Relying on AJS eats up precious work hours and drives up costs. IT staff must devote time and energy to monitoring the system and executing the many manual interactions AJS requires. Not to mention, IT staff will quickly begin to resent the after-hours calls necessary to resolve AJS errors.

With a full-featured automation orchestration platform, hospital IT staff gain time to focus on more strategic tasks. Consider the manual restarts that AJS requires after just about any error. In a containerized orchestration environment, the environment itself resolves many small errors by restarting schedules.

As the only automation platform with its own IBM i connector, OpCon is the automation and orchestration solution most integrated with IBM i mainframes. Here are the top six functionalities that OpCon can enhance through the use of IBM i Agent, our IBM i connector software.

Message Management

The IBM i LSAM message management server examines message queues and looks for messages that meet predetermined message response rules. The existing functionality is limited. The OpCon interface greatly enhances message management capability.

Users can use the IBM i agent menu to create additional message response rules, or users can add new parameters for responding to IBM i jobs directly within the OpCon environment.

Every message response rule a user creates can specify one of two types of responses (or even both). Using message management, users can automate the process of sending an answer to a message that needs a reply. Users can also direct the server to generate an OpCon event, bridging the connection from mainframe to the OpCon environment and gaining access to the rich automation and orchestration functionality within OpCon.

RPA for Menu-Driven Software

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a powerful tool for simple automation, but OpCon’s i connector can handle more complex, human-like tasks as well. OpCon’s Operator Relay utility emulates human interaction with the IBM i mainframe in a way that can be automated. This powerful tool can execute an IBM i replay script to start a special Operator Replay session.

Operator Replay then uses the script to mimic human interaction on the keystroke level. Operator Replay has rich logging capabilities, and it can even capture screen data and define responses to that data.

IBM i Spool File Scanning

OpCon’s SCANSPLF utility can automatically find and scan the content of IBM i spool file reports located in the mainframe’s output queue. As long as a user defines parameters ahead of time, healthcare IT can automate scans of these spool files to gain additional data insights.

You can also define captured data response rules, thus giving the SCANSPLF utility the ability to act on those scans according to your instructions.

Job Tracking Outside the Agent

External, user-submitted jobs are another reality that the IBM mainframe doesn’t always handle well. The Job Tracking and Queuing feature in OpCon allows these external jobs to be tracked, queued, or captured for processing by OpCon.
How does this feature help healthcare organizations with mainframe automation better than the IBM Advanced Job Scheduler does? There are three main areas.

Job Tracking and Queuing enables OpCon to see jobs started by IBM i users or by other programs. This is a crucial functionality that makes OpCon a full-featured solution because OpCon isn’t limited to being aware only of the jobs that its schedule or event created.

This feature also enables support for managing IBM i job features that most automation programs couldn’t easily manage when operating outside the IBM i operating system.

This tool also allows users to capture entire job definitions from the IBM i system. These job definitions can be adapted and reused many times over: once OpCon captures them, users can initiate the job start requests from OpCon directly.

Multi-Step Jobs Execution on the OpCon IBM i Agent

With this feature, IBM i Agent for OpCon users can set up a single batch job on an OpCon schedule to execute multiple commands and/or program calls—without the need for Control Language expertise.

File Transfers

In addition to possessing all the features listed above, the IBM i Agent software supports SMA’s file transfer protocol. There is a unique job type in OpCon that supports file transfer jobs between a variety of operating systems, giving users great flexibility for transferring files between disparate systems.

Request a Demo

IBM i Agent for OpCon is a powerful suite of tools that can significantly enhance your IBM mainframe automation efforts. Interested in seeing this tool for yourself? Request a demo today.

Want to learn more about automation? Schedule a demo of OpCon!

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