Right on schedule

By Bob Currier, Network World |  Operating Systems

Trying to get a grip on the hundreds of mundane tasks involved in running a large NT network in today's fast-paced, 24-7 pressure-cooker environment can be overwhelming. When the boss is screaming for a last-minute report on Napster network utilization it can be almost impossible to remember the dirty details of daily life. Backups, disk maintenance and log-file analysis can slip through the cracks. It's enough to make you wish you had a personal assistant. Don't give up -- relief is right on schedule. OpalisRobot can provide you with the extra set of hands you've been dreaming about.

The key to OpalisRobot's success lies in its event-driven scheduling abilities. Traditional schedulers are limited to kicking off applications based on date/time settings. OpalisRobot adds triggers that fire events when files or folders change, when data queries return the proper answer or when a task has completed. The ability to define the completion of a task as an event is particularly useful, as it allows you to chain tasks together. OpalisRobot also allows for the manual triggering of an event, a feature we found quite handy while we were testing the product. It's not always clear if an event will perform as planned, so being able to immediately test your design is important. Once you're sure that the event is configured correctly it's a simple matter to link it to a date/time-based trigger.

The heart of OpalisRobot is a powerful scheduling engine, similar to cron, a Unix utility that's been around for years. But while cron is a command-line, complicated application, OpalisRobot is an easy-to-use graphical tool that beats cron and Microsoft's scheduler hands-down.

OpalisRobot provides an extensive library of more than 50 predefined tasks that cover file and directory modifications, backups, process alerts and Internet applications. Custom task definition is provided for but it's unlikely that the average user will do it. We were particularly impressed with the Internet application monitoring abilities of OpalisRobot despite a slightly confusing setup process.

Object oriented

OpalisRobot gives users two Internet objects to choose from: Test Internet Application and Monitor Internet Application. There are only slight differences between the two objects. The documentation states: "The only difference is that the Monitor object has an additional frequency field that allows you to select how frequently the test will be done. The other difference is that the Test object features a Custom application type that lets you test any Internet application, even if it's not included in the predefined tests." We found these slight differences to be confusing -- the frequency field and Custom application selections could have been made from the same configuration screen.

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