Product Reviews

Job Scheduling Utilities: Opalis JobEngine 4.0

These three packages let you automate tasks you need to accomplish daily.

Opalis has an extremely interesting offering in its JobEngine 4.0 product. The product is a monster, at least twice as big as the others in this review and taking up 60 MB of disk space at installation time. RAM requirements are also hefty at a minimum recommended 128 MB per installation. But there is a reason why, and I'll discuss it shortly.

Pros: The price is definitely right.
Requires excessive RAM, disk space due to its unique object-dragging interface.

I was initially impressed by the fact that Opalis advertises their software as being Windows XP-compliant (All of my testing was done on a Windows XP Professional computer). However, after getting 98% of the way through the product installation, I met with the dreaded "Installation failure" dialog. The first time I performed the installation, the failure dialog came up and the installation unsuccessfully concluded. On the second pass the installation again put up the failure dialog, but after three clicks on it the program said it had installed successfully. I was able to pull the program up just fine after that. Neither of the previously reviewed two software products gave me an ounce of hassle on my XP machine--it was only when I installed a product advertised to work on XP that I encountered any difficulties. Go figure.

The figure shows the Opalis JobEngine UI. To me, this was a very confusing interface to behold when I first ran it. I did quite a bit of clicking around the menus and right-clicking the objects to see if I could find a wizard I could run, but to no avail. In Figure 3 notice the Scheduling Wizard on the bottom left-hand side of the screen. You can't double-click that wizard, JobEngine doesn't run that way. It wasn't until I pulled up JobEngine's well-written help screens and surfed my way to "Creating Jobs from Scratch" that I discovered how this system works--and I think it's going to take a little bit of a shift in your thinking if you're the average admin that has never worked with such software before.

Opalis JobEngine
The Opalis interface is powerful but takes some getting used to. (Click image to view larger version.)

The idea centers around a workspace into which you drag various representations of activities you'd like to perform. Notice in Figure 3 that I've dragged a Date Time Event object from the lower left-hand Objects - Scheduling pane to the upper-center Workspace pane, giving it a schedule and a title in the process as I dropped it onto the Workspace and an object properties dialog came up. The ability to adjust the object's properties pops up as you drag an object to the workspace. Next I dragged a Run Program Task object to the workspace, filling in the details of my little Copy.bat test. Finally, I connected the arrows between the two, right-clicked either object and selected Trigger from the ensuing context menu. Voila! The batch file ran beautifully and the files got immediately copied. Note too that beneath my work there is a sample grouping of objects designed to simply give you a push in the right direction.

I think that this idea of dragging objects to a workspace is very cool. Once you catch on to the idea, it takes a lot of the effort of job scheduling out of the picture--making it more graphical in nature than programmatic. However, keep in mind that you always assume your scripts, batch files and .EXEs are already out there waiting to be pointed to by your job scheduler, so maybe a graphic object dragging interface isn't all that important. But it's certainly fun. Also, I think this methodology takes up a lot of system resources (disk, RAM) and that may make you want to think twice about the product.

That being said, the price is right. Opalis is a bargain at about $330/computer. Each purchase grants you a satellite license and a user license. Satellite means the ability to remotely connect to a computer that is running Opalis. User license, of course, deals with the ability to bring up the UI.

About the Author

Bill Heldman is an instructor at Warren Tech, a career and technical education high-school in Lakewood, Colorado. He is a contributor to Redmond, MCP Magazine and several other Windows magazines, plus several books for Sybex, including CompTIA IT Project+ Study Guide.


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