What is our primary use case?
Our use cases for OpCon are expanding. We initially went with it because we're a Unisys mainframe company and they were the only scheduler that did what we wanted it to, and that also supports Unisys. But we have branched out into running Windows SQL jobs, and we will soon be starting up API interaction. Hopefully at some point, because we are going cloud and the mainframe is going away, we'll start interacting with that also. We'll start doing that change within the next three to six months.
How has it helped my organization?
I've been here from day one, and it has gone from us manually writing out schedules, and operators having to remember pre's and posts, etc.—all done manually—to getting that automated. Once that was all automated, it was a huge improvement for us because there were considerably fewer errors. The errors are very minimal now. When someone implements a job, if they have a typo or copied a similar job and forgot to change something, those would be about the only errors that we have now. We're down to hardly any. We now have less than one a week.
The improvement with the Solution Manager, so that the programmers can become more aware of what's going on within the scheduler, has really helped us.
OpCon has also saved our IT department time. There is a lot less interaction with the developers. Developers are aware of the information they need to give us to place something into the scheduler. We've set up a template, they send in that information, we get it implemented for them, and they're up and running. We used to ask them to give us two workday weeks to get something implemented for them and, depending on the complexity, that's down to a day or less, at times.
With IT time freed up, we've been able to move forward with other business needs, especially now because of the switchover and the mainframe going away. It has enabled my staff to start studying other aspects of our IT areas.
With the Self Service feature, person-hours have decreased. We still don't use it to its full potential, but it's helped on the development side for testing. It has definitely sped up the developers' testing processes, and it enables them to get things to production a lot quicker. They're happy with that. The Self Service has also reduced calls to our IT department when it comes to testing, for sure. As a result, my staff has a little more time to work on other things, rather than fielding calls left and right from the programmers. That helps a lot.
What is most valuable?
Now that we can get into the API and we're starting to learn that, it's really nice.
We're also starting to use its Self Service and Solution Manager. My team in the data center and some of the development team use the Self Service. Developers are using the Self Service for upon-request jobs for their testing. They used to have to go through us to schedule testing and now they can just go on and kick it off all they want. They have also really appreciated that they have access to view and/or submit jobs.
Working with the various APIs has actually allowed us to keep the scheduler, because there were those in our company who were thinking about looking for something else, given that they were considering it to only be a mainframe scheduler. As new options and agents and connectors have come along, that's opened their eyes a little bit more.
What needs improvement?
It's been a while since we've asked for tweaks. Because we're a little bit of a slower company, they have something out by the time we start checking into, "Hey, can you give us an idea on how this works?" or "This is how we want to use it."
An example is the API. Of course they have a RESTful API within OpCon, but they have that new web services agent that we installed because we have some SOAP APIs and we had to interact with SMA to get things running. Our developers did do some tweaks, but we have now been able to get some test jobs running, and understand how the workflow goes back and forth.
When they initially set up SQL agents, they helped us set up that too.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using the OpCon for 16 to 18 years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability has been very good.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We haven't had any issues with scalability. I've been to a few of their conferences where there are banks that are OpCon customers and they have thousands of jobs that they run, or even hundreds of thousands of jobs. We've got plenty of room to expand.
I'm hoping, with our moving off the mainframe, that we will have a chance to really branch out. Initially, the company just looked at it as the mainframe scheduler, so we weren't really able to ask for additional instances. Hopefully, as we go along, we may be able to grab some of the other options.
We're running on the order of thousands of jobs monthly. Our future usage depends on how well we can get everybody to jump on the bandwagon, but I see it staying at that amount, if not increasing, as we move towards the cloud and other options.
How are customer service and technical support?
From our dealings with them, I think they've done an excellent job when we're in a crunch. They get more than one person on the phone and we haven't ever had any bad experiences with them. When new levels come out they've helped us. And the marketing guy, Christian, he checks in all the time.
How was the initial setup?
Deployment would not take very long now, with the way they have the install set up.
We usually do a test server to start with, just to make sure everything went well before we do production. This last one took about an hour or two on the test side. We ran into something with updating the database. It was something on our side that the database administrators had locked down, so it wasn't working quite right between when we installed in test and installed in production; they had tightened the permissions down. Other than that, it takes us about an hour to get through what we need done.
My implementation strategy for deploying it for the first time would be to put it to test in our test database, and then grab a few jobs from each type of job we run and see how it works with the test database. I would then check with the developers that everything looks like it ran okay and then we would take a weekend and deploy it to production. Of course, we would do testing there as well. Since it's VM, we just have the VM guys ramp up a new server, so it's always a new install and, if it doesn't work, we can always fall back to the old version and the old server.
For deployment, we usually bring two of us in, and that's it. For maintenance of OpCon, we only have one or two people, as backup. We have operators per shift who actually run it, but for maintenance there are only a couple of people. One of them is me, in my role as a data center manager, and the second individual is part of my staff.
In terms of the number of users of OpCon, the numbers have dropped now that we're moving off of mainframe, but we'll be picking back up. Currently there are about 100 programmers that could possibly have access. We don't have that many yet in Self Service. And there are 12 on our staff that use it, including a couple of admins, a couple of implementation people, and the rest are operators.
What about the implementation team?
When we first had it installed, there was a really great guy who came in, who doesn't work with them anymore. We had some training onsite while he was here. We weren't really involved at that point in time in installing it ourselves. It was always an OpCon representative showing up. Now, it's more the case that we install and get a hold of them if we have any issues.
What was our ROI?
We've always been on our own with this scheduler, so it's helped out our department and I feel it's helped out the programmers quite a bit. It has automated a lot of things, which should help our IT as a whole, because we haven't had to have the largest staff.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
At the same time that I'm trying to keep it in our company, everybody thinks it's very expensive. We haven't looked at other schedulers or what they can do for us, but that's what I'm always told.
Aside from the standard licensing fee, there aren't any other costs that come with it. We have the enterprise option so it's one annual fee for whatever we can do with it. You have to have the enterprise level for the mainframe, and that gives us room to grow.
What other advice do I have?
It's awesome to have the automation and to let it do things for you, but you need to stick with it and really figure out how to optimize it.
I'm still working on trying to explain to others in our organization that when it comes to server reboots and things like that, OpCon can do that for them too. They may not be interested in that as they have their own third-party software. I haven't gotten a lot of them to hop on the bandwagon yet. Our VMware guys are still stuck to their guns. We'll have to find out how much we do go into the cloud or on-prem to see if we can't help them out in those areas.
We don't use OpCon's Vision feature yet. Our company is very conservative, so it's a slow process. Unless you can get a lot of people onboard, it's hard to get things pushed through. I'm hoping others will see how well it interacts with the various types of systems and how it processes the jobs back and forth, through the various versions, and that they'll see a little more use for it. Another aspect is budget, because right now we're trying to move to the cloud and a lot of people are being trained at the moment and having to run legacy, side-by-side, versus new. So there's a money-crunch thing.
It's a good product. They can run almost anything you need to run, as far as I am aware. And the staff is really great to work with. It's a plus on all sides, in my opinion.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Which version of this solution are you currently using?
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