IBM i job scheduling is a basic operational need, no matter what software you use to set up and run your operations schedule. If you’re running production processing on an IBM i, you’re using job scheduling software.
Most IBM i shops start scheduling jobs using the generic job scheduler that’s included with the IBM i operating system. The generic scheduler is accessed by using the Work with Job Schedule Entries (WRKJOBSCDE) green screen command or by using the Management Central Scheduler feature that comes with IBM Navigator for i. The generic job scheduler is basic, without a lot of bells and whistles. It allows you to schedule jobs that run on a regular basis on certain days at certain times.
At some point, many organizations find the basic IBM i job scheduler doesn’t meet their needs. They need more advanced capabilities such as calendaring, multi-step scheduling, and parameter processing. That’s when they start looking at and implementing third-party IBM i job scheduling packages, such as SEA’s absScheduler software.
Beyond IBM’s free job scheduler
A good third-party IBM i job scheduling product can do so much more than the free WRKJOBSCDE and Management Central Scheduler that comes with the operating system. It allows you to schedule your batch processing around your business needs, rather than scheduling your business processing around your batch job scheduler.
Let’s look at some of the more advanced features in third-party IBM i job schedulers. Here are seven valuable ways an advanced IBM i job scheduling product can meet actual business needs, that the free IBM i job scheduler can’t do.
#1: Using multi-step scheduling rather than CL processing
With the free IBM i job scheduler, you can only schedule one program or command to run for each job scheduler entry you create. Job scheduler entries generally kick off CL programs that contain all the job steps to be executed when the entry is submitted. Third-party schedulers allow you to create job plans where you can add, delete, and change job steps within a job plan, rather than having to create CLs for each job scheduler entry. You can easily perform multi-step processing within each submitted job, without constantly rewriting, compiling, and testing CLs.
#2: Multi-division processing by using parameters
If you need to run the same job plan for several different corporate divisions or departments, IBM’s basic job scheduler forces you to duplicate the same job stream/job plan with different hard-coded parameters. When you need to change or add steps to a heavily-used job plan that’s used for different entities, you need to add them to every job plan that was based on the original plan.
Newer IBM i job scheduling software allows you to run the same job plan multiple times with different parameters. If you had to run the same job plan to produce audit reports for five different divisions, for example, you could schedule the same plan five times with different parameters for each division. You don’t have to duplicate job plans over and over with minor revisions to select different data. One job plan can be run several times with different parameters to cover multiple locations.
#3: Creating effective run dates for one-time jobs
While most job schedulers allow you to schedule one-time jobs to run on specific dates, there is nothing in the IBM i job scheduler to prevent you from accidentally running a one-time job a second time, which can be disastrous. Some third-party job schedulers support effective dates for running a job plan. You specify the effective dates for when the job plan can run, and no one will be able to run it outside of those dates. Effective dates are great for insuring one-time maintenance jobs will only run once.
#4: Running jobs on an irregular schedule
Most third-party IBM i job schedulers have calendars where you can create job plans that need to run on a specific date (say the 1st or 15th of the month), on a specific day of the week, or on a holiday. Many shops also need to run job plans on floating days each month, such as the third Thursday, the first Monday, the nth business day, or on the last day of the month. IBM’s free job scheduler doesn’t support scheduling jobs to run on floating dates where most third-party job schedulers support this functionality. Third-party schedulers can also set up job plans to run every n days, which is a capability that also isn’t available with the free IBM i job scheduler.
#5: Running job plans at different times during the day
Third-party job schedulers can set up job plans to run multiple times a day and you can specify what times of day they should run. You can specify explicit times to start running job plans, such as at 3:15, 6:30, or 10:45, or create job plans that run every n hours or n minutes. Multi-time scheduling is great for running recurring jobs that perform the same function (such as printing out pick tickets or shipping labels), which need to run many times a day as orders are released.
#6: Including job plan failure or change instructions
Another function that’s not available with the free job IBM i job scheduler is the ability to include instructions with regularly scheduled job plans that tell the operator or responder what to do if the job fails or is automatically changed (i.e., who to notify, what actions to take, etc.). In some third-party schedulers, failure instructions can be specified and delivered at either the job plan level or at the individual step level for a job plan.
#7: Using multiple job descriptions while running a job plan
Job scheduling entries generally specify job plan library lists and other job parameters through a job description that’s in effect for the entire job. Problems occur however, when a submitted job needs to change its library list or parameters midway through the steps in its job plan.
For example, the first half of a job plan may run steps for recording shipped orders while the second half would process all the financial transactions that have to be posted after order fulfilment. Without the ability to change job descriptions, you would have to create a different job plan to change your library lists from an order shipping job description (and associated library list) to a job description more appropriate for financial processing. Many third-party IBM i scheduling packages can change job descriptions in the middle of a running job plan.
Getting what you pay for, and more
As I said, the free IBM i job scheduler is a good basic package that performs basic job scheduling without any bells or whistles. But, most shops need more than basic job scheduling, and a third-party IBM i job scheduling package can perform much more robust scheduling than IBM’s free package. Above, I listed out just some of the common business needs a third-party scheduler can accomplish that you can’t do with IBM’s free software. If you want to find out more about how a third-party IBM i job scheduler can help your shop, please feel free to contact us at SEA for more information.