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JSI Tip 2798. OpalisRobot - An Energizing Solution for The Southern Co.

OpalisRobot        \[Opalis\]

An Energizing Solution for The Southern Co.

Kenneth McIntire, Senior Systems Analyst The Southern Co.

The Challenge

Energy to Serve Your World. That's the motto for leading U.S. electricity producer Southern Co. ( ). But providing electricity for the entire southeastern part of this country and other regions internationally is no easy task. The Southern Co. runs hundreds of servers company-wide, 24 hours a day seven days a week. The servers handle hundreds of applications that support Southern Co. business, from the organization's storm tracking system to its customer service management applications. Those applications require constant support from batch processes. The Southern Co. needed a simple, low-cost solution for providing flexible batch-processing capabilities in a Windows NT environment.

The Situation

After considering a number of other products, The Southern Co. chose OpalisRobot for its user-friendly operation, functionality and competitive price. It is currently installed on five servers: three in Atlanta and two in Birmingham, Ala. Approximately 50 project developers across four states use OpalisRobot to manage business applications. "Instead of using OpalisRobot solely for its server monitoring, automation and reporting capabilities, we use it in a unique way," said Kenneth McIntire, senior systems analyst at The Southern Co. "OpalisRobot's automated support for batch processing is what really attracted us to the solution. It's the perfect fit for what we needed; it basically runs itself."

The Solution

Rather than use OpalisRobot from a purely server administration standpoint, Southern Co. application project teams decided to utilize it as a development tool. The developers create batch processes and schedules to run programs needed to support business applications. Some of these processes are small, performing daily tasks such as kicking off a database update program when the input file arrives from a remote system at 2:00 a.m. Others are more complex, such as the collection of procedures used to automate the transfer and coordination of material orders from a mainframe materials system to a PC-based central warehouse system. From small file processes that update financial data, to mission critical procedures that help line crews rebuild storm-ravaged transmission systems after a hurricane, OpalisRobot has the flexibility to do it all. What's more, the developers have been able to create a self-operating system. According to McIntire, the administrators almost never have to perform any support on OpalisRobot. "There is minimal need to train new staff members on the intuitive OpalisRobot tool," McIntire said. "We show them the very basics, and they're off and running with little or no guidance. When we first started using the tool, developers would often find new product capabilitites we didn't know existed."

The Benefits

While OpalisRobot's easy administration feature is one of the main reasons it was selected for the project, the Southern Company chose the product for its powerful yet easy to use batch processing. Several benefits have stemmed from this feature. "OpalisRobot provides a standard, yet flexible framework for developing our batch processes," said McIntire. "Our developers no longer have to deal with the technical aspects of coding these processes from scratch and monitoring them each day to make sure they work correctly." McIntire also said when a client's schedules or processes change, the developers can quickly make adjustments using OpalisRobot. What once took days to program now takes a few minutes. The productivity gains are significant and Southern Co.'s clients love the quick response to their requests. OpalisRobot provides The Southern Co. more of one of today's essential resources: time. Its batch processing capabilities successfully manage the company's mission-critical business applications seamlessly, and at a low cost. Software: OpalisRobot running on Windows NT 4.0 with SP3 installed and Intel processor. Hardware: Dell servers.

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