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2/18/2010
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UC4 Offers Automated, Remote Job Agent

The UC4 agent extends the reach of job scheduling outside the data center to Web services and the cloud.

UC4, an IT automation firm, has announced the UC4 Agent for Web Services, an addition to its product line that seeks to extend a common data center utility, job scheduling, into the cloud or other company processing sites on the Internet.

"We think we're on the cusp of another wave of automation in the data center," said Fred Kohout, chief marketing officer at UC4. He pointed to Microsoft's December acquisition of Opalis Software, supplier of run-book automation; BMC acquired IT infrastructure discovery and mapping system supplier Tideway in October and Phurnace in January. Before that, HP acquired OpsWare, an IT automation firm, in 2007.

UC4 is still independent and is aiming at leading the field in extending the ability to automate the startup of an application or a service, capture its results and shut it down to jobs that will run outside the data center in a remote processing site.

The cloud is commonly conceived as a remote data center running applications and charging by the hour. The UC4 Agent for Web Services is designed to run as a controlling hand reaching out from the data center, running one service at one location and another somewhere else.

UC4 Agent for Web Services understands SOAP and WSDL. It's designed to work with an earlier UC4 product, the Automation Engine V8. Through a graphical user interface on the engine, the agent can be activated and connections established through V8 connectors to a remote system.

Without needing to enter scripting commands, common in most forms of cloud computing, the agent can learn from a WSDL file in a Web services directory how to trigger a service. It can prepare variables in the correct format to submit to the service and store response values.

By scheduling use of the agent to activate a process, "you can include a Web service process in batch processing," said Matt Busch, product marketing executive. IT automation, particularly utilities such as job scheduling, get a lot more complex, once services-oriented architecture reorganizes many applications into distributed sets of services.

Coordinated related, but distributed processing requirements will be a challenge that emerges from the use of Web services, including cloud computing, he said.

A task such as extracting, transforming, and loading data into the data warehouse is processing intensive, and could be offloaded to the cloud if the right connectors and triggering agents could be set up to handle the tasks, said Busch.

If a monitor indicated servers rented by a company in the cloud were underutilized, the ETL task could activated to take advantage of the idle processing power. Other jobs might be hard to regularly schedule due to unpredictable traffic at the company's Web site, but the ability to activate remote services or applications could ease that problem as well.

"Things are becoming less planned, more on demand," Busch observed. The Automation Engine V8 is priced at $25,000-$50,000, depending on installation, with UC4 Agent for Web Services priced at $25,000.

UC4 was founded in 1985 and describes itself as the largest pure play IT automation vendor with 1,700 customers. Other vendors that provide IT automation include CA, HP and BMC. It is based in Bellevue, Wash.

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