And not only do companies have a growing number of computer jobs to schedule and run, many involve a sequence of actions on distributed systems.
One company offering a solution is Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc., and its ActiveBatch distributed job-scheduling and management system that lets IT staff automate and centrally manage jobs, and integrate them into workflows.
"Even when each individual machine has batch/scheduling tools, that still leaves you with scheduling sprawl," notes Jim Manias, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Advanced Systems Concepts.
ActiveBatch runs on a Windows server, and can manage and schedule tasks, applications and database workflows on network-accessible systems running OSs including Windows, Unix, Linux, and OpenVMS, and VMware, ActiveBatch can work with CRM, ERP, SCM and other business applications, including SQL Server and Oracle; jobs can be existing or new tasks, including packaged or legacy applications.
You create a task, e.g. running an SQL, Oracle or SecureFTP job, using the dialog boxes in ActiveBatch's pre-configured job steps. "You drag a job step in, complete a few dialog boxes, and ActiveBatch does the scripting," says Manias.
ActiveBatch can be event-based as well as date/time based, according to Manias. "You can trigger a job, task or workflow based on event like an email in the inbox with certain keywords directed to a certain email account, e.g. PURCHASE ORDER, HELP, or a file being created or deleted, et cetera."
Additionally, ActiveBatch is also useful for creating workflows that involve multiple systems and OSs. "Suppose I want to start a Unix job and when it's done start a Windows one. These two OSs both have scheduling tools, but they're inward focused -- they don't know about other OS environments," says Manias. "Or if I'm using a SQL Server database, and when it's done want to launch a Unix job, ActiveBatch can do that."
According to Manias, using ActiveBatch helps IT reduce errors from manual operation, and lets admins manage systems they don't know as well. ActiveBatch also lets you do more with VM management, according to Manias. ActiveBatch lets you not just create and clone VMs, but also automatically power them down and delete them, to free up system resources when the VM's task is done.
According to Manias, ActiveBatch is used by SMBs as well as enterprises. "It proves quite useful for them in automating IT functions, so that staff can be free to handle other tasks and enabling companies to do more with less."
For example, TheLadders, a 300-person online job placement/listing company specializing in $100,000+/year jobs, has been using ActiveBatch.
According to David Cohen, Manager of BI at TheLadders, "I switched to ActiveBatch in 2006, primarily for our Business Intelligence and data warehouse group. We were using the OS's task scheduler, guessing when jobs would finish and setting reports to go out after that. When jobs ran wrong, managers would get dataless reports. So I was looking for a scheduler that could be event-driven as well as time-driven."
In a typical week, says Cohen, "We have about four to five thousand jobs, mostly Windows ones, on about six machines. I use ActiveBatch as the core logic layer in filling our data warehouse.
Once they starting using ActiveBatch, "these problems went away," says Cohen. ActiveBatch has also reduced related IT needs: "Instead of needing a full-time person, we can run our shop with about one-third of an full-time database administrator. I attribute that to using ActiveBatch."
In addition, "ActiveBatch gave me information that provided more visibility into how long things were taking. So we can now balance processing across our machines better, and we've seen a fifty per cent decrease in overall processing time," says Cohen. "ActiveBatch has paid for itself many times over. We're now looking to also move to ActiveBatch on our Unix side."
Pricing for ActiveBatch is based on the number of servers involved, and starts at $10,000 for the minimum configuration.
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