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EN 4 GC2020 Healthcare spoke 2

Why Your Automation Platform Needs an IBM i Agent

Read Time
5 mins
Last updated
Feb 16th, 2021

Orchestrated automation platforms enhance the power of IBM i systems

IBM has been offering technology solutions to businesses for a very long time now. 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 IT infrastructure and operations due to their sheer power and reliability.

That said, IBM has faltered a bit compared to newer players on the software side. IBM’s traditional 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, IT staff gain time to focus on more strategic tasks. Consider the manual restarts that AJS requires after just about any error. In a modern IT environment, operators need an automation platform that resolves small errors by restarting jobs or schedules.

Here are some of the most popular functions that OpCon can enhance through the use of our IBM i Agent.

Message Management

The IBM i LSAM message management server examines message queues and looks for messages that meet predetermined message filters. The existing capability of IBM's message reply list 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 management rule a user creates can specify any or all of three response actions. 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 the IBM i partition to the OpCon environment and gaining access to the rich automation and orchestration functionality within OpCon. It is also possible for message management to engage any other Agent automation tool or to call any IBM i command or program.

RPA for Menu-Driven Software

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a powerful tool for simple automation, but OpCon’s agent for IBM i can handle more complex, human-like tasks as well. OpCon’s Operator Replay utility emulates human interaction with the IBM i operating system in a way that can be automated. The OpCon server can initiate an Operator Replay script from a job that is part of an OpCon schedule.

Operator Replay then uses the script to mimic human interaction at the keystroke level. The script driver reads the screen displays sent by the host programs using direct, secured access to a virtual display device. Operator Replay has rich logging capabilities, and it can even capture screen data and define responses to that data. Responses to the display content include an ability to redirect the script logic depending on the evaluation of the captured 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 IBM i output queues. As long as a user defines scan parameters ahead of time, IT can automate scans of these spool files to gain additional data insights. Depending on the results, they can trigger additional OpCon automation events and even override the IBM i report of a job's success or failure.

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 is difficult to manage. The Job Tracking and Queuing feature in OpCon allows these external jobs to be tracked, queued, or captured for monitoring by OpCon.

How does this feature help organizations with mainframe automation better than the IBM i Advanced Job Scheduler does? There are three main areas.

Awareness
Job Tracking and Queuing enables OpCon to see jobs started by IBM i users or by other programs. This is a crucial function 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.

Support
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.

Capture
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. Captured jobs can be modified at restart time with different parameters.

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 compiling Control Language programs. Scripted jobs can support step-level restarts and the scripting tool supports many optional features that resemble compiled program capabilities.

File Transfers

In addition to possessing all the features listed above, the IBM i Agent software supports SMA’s file transfer protocol. There is also a unique FTP 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. SMA File Transfer Protocol uses TLS-secured connections and the FTP job type can optionally support the IBM i secured method for simple FTP jobs.

Request a Demo

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

In this article

The IBM i Advanced Job Scheduler can easily be replaced with a modern automation platform that extends the life of a Power Processor and opens up new capabilities for your IT Ops team.

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