Self-serve Automation: JAMS at Bruce Power

About the Company

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Bruce Power is Canada’s first private nuclear generator, providing 30% of Ontario’s power. Its eight units provide over 4,000 full-time jobs to highly skilled employees, and thousands more indirectly. Bruce Power injects billions of dollars into Ontario’s economy annually, while producing safe energy that produces zero carbon emissions.

The Challenges

Bruce Power’s steady growth since the 1960s has engendered a culture of service. Both the IT Operations and Development teams routinely refer to the plant’s 4,000 employees and hundreds of contractors as their customers.

Prior to centralizing workload automation, Bruce Power depended heavily on Windows Task Scheduler. “That became limiting quite fast as we continued to grow. And, the need to run jobs that had more steps or called specific executables grew exponentially,” explained Developer Jeff Shaw. The native tools often failed to provide alerts when jobs had issues and they provided no methods to track the owner of each job. Windows Task Scheduler also required service accounts to be logged in at all times in order to execute certain job steps and access specific shared drives. The concurrence of these challenges led the organization to seek a centralized automation solution.

The technical diversity of Bruce Power’s applications and platforms also posed a challenge, as Windows, UNIX and Oracle processes all were intertwined in the company’s workflows. To remain responsive to its internal customers, Bruce Power’s IT team needed to reduce the time spent writing scripts and compiling code.

The Solution

JAMS provided the powerful workload automation engine needed to help the plant realize its goal of creating a “self-service engine”.
Since going live with JAMS in the spring of 2016, Bruce Power has automated more than 150 business-critical jobs. In addition to standard Windows Tasks, they’ve automated and integrated jobs from a long list of applications including:

  • Passport
  • Workday
  • Sharepoint
  • NextAxiom
  • Informatica
  • And propriety applications

The Operations and Development teams converted jobs easily with the built-in JAMS conversion utilities and established newly reliable notifications that are routed directly to the experts and owners of the processes.

Bruce Power has leveraged JAMS to provide self-service IT to its internal customers. An expanding catalog of repetitive requests can be fulfilled quickly and easily by the plant’s service desk team. The HP OpenView console and internal web pages both contain hooks into the company’s master schedule. Web buttons provide a front end to JAMS so that jobs can be submitted easily by non-technical staff and a detailed audit trail is stored, providing critical information such as who ran the job and when they ran it.

Through hyper efficient service desk requests, Bruce Power business users use JAMS to:

  • Enable/Disable mailboxes
  • Create Active Directory security groups
  • Create or remove Exchange distribution groups
  • Add and remove members of Exchange distribution groups
  • Delete distribution groups
  • Create and delete Lync accounts
  • Target a specific user and find all the workstations where that user is logged in
  • Remove local profile from multiple workstations

By providing just a few parameters, business users get the results they need in minutes, without burdening the IT staff with their requests.

The Benefits

The Operations and Development teams at Bruce Power have both been positively impacted by the efficiency and centralization of all of their processing that comes with implementing JAMS. “Prior to JAMS I spent a quarter of the day doing exchange administration,” said Rob Brunato, Senior Information Systems Analyst. “I’d also need to create 2-3 network folders per day. Now, I focus more on incidents and server health.”

Shaw, too, reflected on the 20+ days they have saved the plant and have shifted to high-value projects. “In the last 6 months, since going live with JAMS, we’ve automatically processed about 3,000 requests, each of which would have taken us 5-10 minutes. We have saved a tremendous amount of time and energy since implementing JAMS.”

Streamlining Tagout
One job example that highlights the savings achieved with JAMS is the Tagout process. The plant’s operators need to print out special tags 24 hours a day – a safety protocol shared by energy providers worldwide. When a print spool would lock, it delayed the delivery of mission-critical safety information and significantly increased the time needed to perform maintenance tasks. The troubleshooting steps required to resolve the print delay included having to contact the person on-call which could take up to a half hour for a response. Now, a JAMS job with appropriately elevated privileges can clear the print queue and get an operator back in business almost immediately.

JAMS supports the plant’s policies and best practices for minimizing overhead. The workload automation solution has provided Bruce Power with the ability to store and encrypt individual user accounts, completely eliminating the need for global accounts. Leveraging parameters has reduced the overall number of jobs the plant needs to manage. Repetitive jobs, e.g. Workday processes, have been reduced to 5 jobs and 10 setups. Users need only provide a few relevant parameters (e.g. server name or user account) to kick off a multi-step workflow.

Bruce Power leverages JAMS parameters to optimize its release workflow as well. Brunato explains, “We have three separate environments that have the exact same folder structure, the exact same names, and what changes when you promote from Dev to QA to Prod is just variables that point to different servers or different users.” The flexibility of JAMS supports rapid testing and deployment, and minimizes the time needed to automate each newly created workflow. Bruce Power no longer needs to write scripts or compile code to automate new tools.

JAMS monitoring and alerting has helped IT staff address issues well in advance of them affecting the business. Brunato says, “The visibility of a job failing before it hits the customer has been huge for us. It’s been very impactful. We can catch failures right away and the users aren’t impacted anymore.”

They’re back up and running in less than a minute instead of the 30 minutes waiting for our on-call staff. It’s improved efficiencies. It’s saving on costs. It’s letting our on-call staff sleep a little longer.

 

Bruce Power exemplifies the positive business impact of centralized workload automation. The time invested in organizing its critical cycles in JAMS has delivered numerous returns to the plant’s IT Operations and Development teams. And they’ve extended those benefits to both the service desk and individual business users. With JAMS, Bruce Power has established a resilient automation infrastructure to support its continuing power generation needs for the next twenty years.