Automation is easy if you apply some basic principles. The first principle is that you need to apply rules to system events. Your automation software uses these rules to take a course of action when an event occurs. For example, with your rules, Robot Console works like the autopilot on a boat or plane: It steers the system through the night or the weekend while you rest. And, if something unexpected happens, it responds automatically and can use Robot Alert notify you.
Rules and Message Sets
Robot Console message sets contain the rules that automate events. You can use them to do many things, including automatically answer inquiry messages, suppress messages, and convert informational messages to response-required messages. My first tip is to put common messages into a table and create a rule to suppress them. This removes hundreds, or even thousands, of messages and gets rid of the message “noise” that the operations team hates. With a message set, you also can change the message color and add alternate text to further define it. I recommend both.
Message Sets and Message Centers
Next, I recommend using a Robot Console message center for your escalation and notification process. From a message center, you view the events from QSYSOPR or resource monitoring. Robot Console can notify users of a critical message or resource failure—it can tell Robot Alert to send an email, text message, page, or other notification. You can even redirect exception events to Robot Network at the data center central console or another message center anywhere in the network. You can create what I call “expert message centers” for your needs. You might create one for each business application or for system issues (send all storage, printer, and security error messages to a message center, for example).
Robot Console message sets let you specify which message center receives which events. You can redirect messages to a specific message center by message ID or by resource message ID. And, you can use a message set table to build a list of message IDs that you want processed the same way. For example, you can put all printer message IDs into the table and create a rule in the message set that says, “Redirect any printer error message in QSYSOPR to the printer message center.”
I also think it’s a good idea to have a message center for security errors from QSYSOPR. Put the message IDs from security related events into a table and have a rule that moves these messages to this message center. You can send all printer and security errors from multiple partitions to one message center in your network, automatically.
OPAL (OPerator Assistance Language)
OPAL is a powerful part of Robot Console for automation. It’s a macro language that you can use to automate some of your complicated message management procedures. It can use IF-THAN-ELSE logic to suppress, redirect, and answer messages; call programs; and execute commands. Customers can log in to access the OPAL Cookbook, which is full of automation “recipes” that our customers have submitted, as well as our Robot Console OPAL Reference Guide.
One example of the power of OPAL is the informational message, “CPF2401 - job ended normally.” Typically we don’t care about this message because it means everything is normal. But, if it’s for a critical batch job like a high availability (HA) job, we might want to know that the job ended. With OPAL logic, we can tell Robot Console to make an informational message related to an HA job response required. Now, we’re automatically notified when the HA job completes normally.
These are just a handful of automation tips when using Robot Console. Other best practices include resource monitoring, message groups, notification lists, reports (like the Good Morning Report and the Most Common Message Reports), and setting up purges to keep the right amount of message history.
Whether you have one or many IBM i servers, Robot Console handles all the heavy lifting of managing messages and monitoring resources.