Automate task execution

In today's fast-paced, computer-oriented business world, companies benefit when they transition tasks from traditional processing to electronic processing. However, this endeavor creates significant administrative overhead because someone must shuffle the data, monitor processes, log results, and handle exceptions. Administrating the transitioning of tasks is a repetitious chore that affects a systems administrator's productivity: New employees wait for accounts and new servers await configuration while the administrator backs up a tape.

You can easily automate a tape backup. But other repetitive daily tasks, such as general file system maintenance and off-hour system reboots, are difficult to automate. One solution is Opalis Software's OpalisRobot 3.0, an automation suite that handles tape backup and more. With OpalisRobot, you can automate resident Windows NT utility execution and service control, file management, messaging, and database execution. You can run these processes separately or chained together in complex flows with interdependencies and decision points. OpalisRobot supplies hooks for event logging and email notification.

OpalisRobot functions as a standard NT service and has a minimal effect on system resources. A client application manages local or remote instantiations of the service and supports the definition and scheduling of automated components. You use the client to define what the service will do; the service does the actual work.

OpalisRobot has extensive options that give the software power and flexibility. Three objects--events, tasks, and links--provide OpalisRobot's structure. These objects interconnect on a working canvas to achieve the desired processing flow. Selecting and placing objects is simple, and modifying previously defined objects requires only a mouse click. Some fields are fixed after you place the object on the canvas. However, you can modify the fields most likely to require updates. To fully understand the services OpalisRobot offers, you need to examine the event, task, and link objects.

Event Objects
OpalisRobot uses event objects to define the entry point into automated task and task-chain processing. In addition to simple date and time events, OpalisRobot supports several monitors that trigger processing based on system events. These monitors react to activities associated with file systems, NT services and event logs, databases, processes, computer status, and disk space usage. You select an event type from a drop-down menu in the event object property editor. OpalisRobot customizes the parameter menus to the corresponding event type based on your selection. After supplying the necessary parameters, the software places a new object icon on the working canvas. You can link this icon to other objects.

Task Objects
OpalisRobot implements task objects to define the processes necessary to carry out the automated task or task chain. OpalisRobot supplies a wide range of object subtypes, including program execution, file management, email, messaging, NT service management, Remote Access Service (RAS) actions, and pings. You can configure a task object to trigger any other OpalisRobot object. You can define task objects with a dynamic property editor and place the resulting object on the working canvas.

Link Objects
OpalisRobot supplies link objects to connect the event and task objects and create a complete, executable process. These objects let you define the ordering and interdependencies you must associate with the event and task objects. In addition to simple component connection, you can combine multiple link objects to logically AND the input conditions on which a task object depends, ensuring that the processing flow proceeds only when the system events trigger the inputs. Likewise, you can combine multiple link objects at the output of a task object to define conditional execution paths. You can drag the mouse from one object to another to place links directly on the working canvas. Double-clicking a link accesses the link object property editor.

Bits and Pieces
OpalisRobot includes a folder system that lets you organize objects. The software's edit features let you copy and paste objects from one folder to another, maximizing reuse of previously developed objects. OpalisRobot's design provides extensibility: When you integrate the software with OpalisRendezVous, OpalisRobot can automate complex file transfer tasks. OpalisRobot includes the hooks necessary for Opalis Software and third-party add-ons, including a software development kit (SDK) add-on.

Putting It All Together
You might wonder how OpalisRobot's objects will help you. Suppose your company implements a document transfer strategy that involves employees routinely placing certain business documents in publicly accessible folders. Several supervisors are responsible for removing documents from the public folders and processing them according to company policy. A limited amount of disk space exists for the folders, so workflow decreases if a supervisor fails to remove files on time. Having one employee monitor the folders, move files, and notify employees as necessary is inefficient.

OpalisRobot helps you automate this activity. Screen 1 shows how you can define two event objects so that both must occur before the software initiates processing. The first event occurs when a folder's disk usage exceeds a certain threshold, and the second event occurs when disk usage exceeds a set threshold (e.g., a folder exceeds its quota and free disk space runs low). These events trigger the Move Files task object, which moves the folder's files to an alternative location. Moving the files triggers a database query to determine whether a supervisor is responsible for monitoring the folder. If a responsible party exists, the query succeeds and OpalisRobot emails a notification of the file move. Otherwise, the query fails and the software emails a message to the systems administrator.

The Verdict
OpalisRobot is an extensible tool for automating processes. The software is a breeze to install and offers an easy-to-use interface. The service component efficiently handles monitoring and tasks without significantly affecting system resources. The software's documentation is adequate for getting started, but it is somewhat disorganized and sketchy. You need to experiment with OpalisRobot to fully understand its options.

OpalisRobot 3.0>
Contact: Opalis Software * 416-253-9383 or 888-672-5471
Web: http://www.opalis.com
Price: $795 for one server license
System Requirements: Windows NT Server or NT Workstation 3.51 or later, NT 4.0 Service Pack 3 or NT 3.51 Service Pack 5, 3MB of hard disk space