When you build runbooks in Orchestrator, it is important to understand the underlying rules of the workflow engine. By following these rules, you can easily create workflows to automate resource-based jobs and complex data processing runbooks. Orchestrator provides a small set of simple rules with an abundant set of utilities to manipulate the workflows to create the widest available options of workflow configuration.

For additional help, please refer to the on-line documentation for System Center 2012 - Orchestrator.

We recommend to first run runbooks in a test environment before you run runbooks in a production environment.

Orchestrator Data Bus

The Orchestrator data bus is a mechanism used to pass information from one activity in a runbook to the next activity. The data flowing along the path of the workflow is called published data, and each subsequent activity in the runbook adds its own data to the data bus.

Opalis 6.3 Legacy and Pipeline Data Bus

You can import runbooks authored in Opalis 6.3 into Orchestrator. Opalis 6.3 pipeline mode runbooks will import directly into Orchestrator. Opalis 6.3 runbooks that were not configured to run in pipeline mode will likewise import into Orchestrator, however these runbooks will appear as “Checked Out”.

The legacy activities from Opalis 6.3 will appear with a question mark in the Runbook Designer and will need to be manually replaced with the Orchestrator equivalent activity.

The following table shows legacy activities in Opalis 6.3 and their Orchestrator equivalent activity.

Legacy activity from Opalis 6.3 Orchestrator equivalent activity Orchestrator category

Create Folder (Legacy)

Create Folder

File Management

Delete Folder (Legacy)

Delete Folder

File Management

Copy File (Legacy)

Copy File

File Management

Move File (Legacy)

Move File

File Management

Delete File (Legacy)

Delete File

File Management

Manage Text File

Append Line

Delete Line

Find Text

Get Lines

Insert Line

Read Line

Search And Replace Text

Text File Management

Rename File (Legacy)

Rename File

File Management

Get File Status (Legacy)

Get File Status

File Management

Monitor File (Legacy)

Monitor File

File Management

Monitor Folder (Legacy)

Monitor Folder

File Management

Starting Point

A runbook can only have one starting point. This starting point can consist of a Monitoring activity, the Initialize Data activity, or an Action-type activity from the Activity pane.

There are two types of activities:

  • Monitoring

  • Actions

Monitoring activities are invoked from an external source and are used to start runbooks. When you select a Monitoring activity, a runbook runs the activity and loads the activity into the job process that hosts the workflow runtime. The activity continues to run after it is has generated events. This means that the job process does not stop running during normal processing of the runbook.

We recommend that you choose carefully when deciding how to monitor systems and to keep Monitoring activities consolidated for better administration and better design for reusable runbooks.

Actions are invoked by other activities and carry out required procedures in response to the event detected by the Monitor. The names of the Action-type activities describe the action that the activity performs.

Smart Links

Smart links provide precedence between two activities. However, smart links also provide filtering capabilities for the data bus with which you can limit the data arriving at the activity that follows the preceding activity in the runbooks. Link conditions provide sophisticated sets of functions for complex rules building. For more information about link conditions, see Smart Link Properties.

Embedded Loops

Each activity can loop over its own activity so that you can retry operations if they fail or test the output information of the activity for valid data. You can also use these mechanisms to build wait conditions into your workflows.

When a loop is configured for an activity, it runs with the same input data until a desired exit looping configuration is reached. The exit that is configured is built in a similar way to smart link configurations. You can test any published data item as part of the exit or do not exit configuration. There are special loops such as Loop: Number of attempts and Loop: Total duration with which you can build time-out and maximum retries into looping conditions.

Loops run for each piece of data passed to the activity.

For example, if you use a Query Database activity and it returns three rows, then the next activity is Append Line. Append Line normally runs three times. If you have a loop on the Append Line, it runs three separate loops. After the first data item has looped through the Append Line activity, then the next item goes through Append Line and loops until it exits, then the third. After all three items have been processed, then the next activity in the runbook runs.

For more information about looping, see Activity Looping Properties.

Published Data Types

When you add Published Data to an activity, you will see various data items with certain icons next to the name in the Published Data dialog box. The icon represents the type of data that is found in the value. Each icon corresponds to one of the following values:

  • String value

  • Date value

  • Number value

  • Boolean value

For more information about published data, see Published Data.