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Job Scheduling Maze in Distributed IT Landscapes - Part 2
Job Scheduling Maze in Distributed IT Landscapes - Part 2
December 1 2008
Part 1 of this blog series
outlined the problem that, as the number of systems, applications, databases, and whatnot platforms increases, the IT business community requires a holistic approach across all these various systems to provide a single point of running IT jobs and
. It also pointed out the difficulties in achieving this noble idea, and introduced
Advanced Systems Concepts Inc. (ASCI)
enterprise job scheduling
and workload automation solution.
The ActiveBatch architecture has always been a multi-tier approach (enabling centralized job scheduling with distributed job execution) consisting of the following elements:
ActiveBatch Job Scheduler
-based layer consists of the ActiveBatch automation intelligence and logic to understand the requirements presented in operating a real-time, event-driven system;
– This database tier is where the “job” definitions and templates are maintained along with how the “jobs” are to be triggered (i.e., date/time-based, event-based, data-based, or on-demand). This layer also determines which resources are required (e.g., servers) to run the defined jobs, and what to do upon a job’s success or failure, or based on other information. This layer uses either
Microsoft SQL Server
– This client layer is the interface in which the user, developer, or operator interacts with the ActiveBatch system. Workflow design, programmatic connections, or simply review of jobs’ status (success or failure) can be monitored or reviewed. There is a raft of possible client-side technologies, such as
Microsoft Common Object Model (COM),
Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP)
for cross-platform environments, Windows-based applications,
Command Line Interface (CLI
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
ActiveBatch Execution Agents
– This tier represents the physical or
virtual hardware and software systems
, which execute the “jobs,” applications, processes, etc., as directed by the abovementioned ActiveBatch Job Scheduler. Execution agents can run on a number of
operating system (OS)
Windows Server 2003
ActiveBatch Job Library
feature that will be explored later on).
A fully operational ActiveBatch instance requires each of the basic architecture layers, i.e., Job Scheduler, Database, Client/User Interface (UI), and a minimum of one ActiveBatch Execution Agent. Most ActiveBatch shops have Windows systems. But even some like, for example,
that have over 90 Linux servers and only a few Windows systems, still strongly support ActiveBatch as a key approach to integrating applications, databases, and platforms into coherent workflows.
Panoply of Job Types and User Views
As mentioned in
, ActiveBatch attempts to provide “Intelligent Automation” for its users with an approach that can minimize or eliminate scripting. Up through Release 6, the product has offered the following five types of jobs (by comparison, most of other counterpart job scheduling products only support one or two job types):
-- lets users run user-written
executable program files
. For example, I could un the
Windows Internet Explorer
executable (IEXPLORE.exe) and pass
Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
as a parameter to open the TEC's home page. Worth noting here is the "Copy Script to execution machine" option for running scripts as a process, as well as the ability to allow pre- and post-job steps;
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Job
-- can initiate a series of
FTP and/or Secure FTP
commands in a heterogeneous fashion, using the following secure protocols: Secure
Socket Layer (SSL) v3 and v2
Private Communications Technology (PCT
), Transport Layer Security (TLS),
Secure Shell (SSH),
or without embedded security;
File System Job
-- lets users perform operations such as Copy, Delete, Rename or Move Files, or Create New or Delete a Directory, without regard to the specific platform they are on, and what
they might need to use.
Email Job – lets users compose e-mails, whereby
email servers and/or clients
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
can be utilized (not necessarily only
Microsoft Exchange Server
). A notable capability is the use of variables to create alerts/triggers (e.g., when a certain stock symbol reaches certain value); and
Script Job -- where the script (rather than an executable file, e.g., a
Visual Basic Script [VBS]
piece of code) is placed into an ActiveBatch job so that it can be executed on any system rather than being limited to the system where the file resides. Scripts using virtually any script language can be used, and if ActiveBatch does not provide an extension the designer can simply add it to the list. However, the server running the script must be able to associate with the relevant file extension.
Various Views to Monitor Jobs
Furthermore, ActiveBatch comes with a number of different ways of viewing and monitoring ongoing enterprise jobs. To that end, the
view shows operators’ job schedules in a calendar view (
), whereas the
shows daily job executions in a detailed list. Both views can be used by operators to monitor the status of jobs that have been run, are still running, or are scheduled to run (past, present, and future). Jobs can be filtered by days or execution status (i.e., “Show me only jobs that have failed, aborted, not run, or are still executing!”).
can be used by job designers as well as administrators and operations staff to identify load levels (to balance loads) or quiet periods for system’s planned maintenance, etc. Finally, the
helps administrators with setting policies, defaults, etc. Part 3 will unveil the latest enhancements and options offered within Release 7.
ASCI continues with ActiveBatch’s ongoing development with a cycle of 18 months between versions. This allows the vendor to offer existing and new customers the ability to take advantage of new features and approaches in technology by applying them for improved performance and usability.
product release, the ActiveBatch Backend layer was changed from a proprietary database to the much more standard
Microsoft SQL Server
. This has enabled the vendor to take advantage of the database programming power that the
“stored procedure” capabilities
could deliver. Also, these two database systems were the primary databases used by the ASCI’s target marketplace as part of their IT infrastructure, thereby reducing the learning and training costs for users.
Moreover, ActiveBatch V4 added support for additional OS platforms such as
, and Linux to the previously supported Windows,
HP Tru64 UNIX
, and OpenVMS environments. The client interface was updated with a new
graphical user interface (GUI)
operations to simplify the design of workflows. Finally, the
High Availability capability
was added, remote management access was provided for Internet access, and remote management was made possible using BlackBerry devices.
release, performance became paramount as ASCI took advantage of the power of the supported databases. The vendor was able to test actual performance of up to 2,000 disparate server connections (i.e., execution agents), and over 1,300,000 jobs triggered in a 24 hour period. Moreover, ASCI says that there are no architectural limits in this regard.
As for managing workflows and all ActiveBatch objects such as Jobs, Schedules, Calendars, Users, Servers, Alerts, and more, the product was now able to put these objects into a one container called a
. Finally, while ActiveBatch had always fully exposed its Microsoft COM interface for programmatic access to its objects, methods, and properties, this release added a
programmatic access for users who were not Windows-based, for true cross-platform capabilities.
ActiveBatch V6 – The Game-changing Begins?
release had many major enhancements. For one, it introduced the framework for the abovementioned
containing templates to applications and key functions used by IT departments in support of the customer's business. The goal was to reduce code scripting, so that users could simply add key information (e.g., select options in a wizard-like style), and ActiveBatch would be able to run jobs behind the scenes.
These templates include a variety of jobs, such as follows:
Structural Query language (SQL)
Data Transformation Service (DTS)
SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS)
creation, etc. The library also caters to functions like Secure FTP,
file operations (compressions), email jobs, etc. The use of ready-made job libraries within ActiveBatch eliminates both errors through reusability and the hassles of creating scripts. In layman terms, complex workflows can be composed by selecting options from a library of routines rather than via pesky coding of scripts.
The V6 release also featured a much improved audit system for compliance and control with both internal policies as well as governmental regulations. In addition, there is the capability for dynamic policy auditing using the
feature. Also, policies can be mandatory or optional, and users can also conduct policy version comparisons.
The release offered
Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM
Microsoft Operations Manager [MOM]
) to fully manage and monitor objects in the ActiveBatch system around the clock. V6 also introduced the
capability for Smartphones and PDA’s (beyond BlackBerry devices).
Furthermore, ActiveBatch Windows execution agents now fully support
as well as
ones as appropriate. Other general changes for improved IT service levels entailed the following:
setting expected start times for event-based jobs;
alerting for delayed and late running jobs;
setting the maximum dispatch time.
As another major enhancement, ActiveBatch 6 introduced the concept of
to allow for its job scheduler to be made available as a
within or outside of the enterprise. Each organization’s unit will see its “Job Plans” populated with its ActiveBatch objects, but, if so required, will not be able to see or access other users’ plans and objects. In other words, each user/tenant is isolated, secured, and “blind” or transparent to the other. Each unit’s plans are published as directory references for secure access.
Last but not least, event management capabilities were enhanced for non-Windows-based systems. The options range from file triggers, centralized logging (log files can be made directly to the UI/client regardless of platform type), and
silent (push) installations
. The system also features integration of jobs to be executed on a
system, or for a mainframe job to trigger other workflows on Windows, Linux, UNIX or OpenVMS systems.
Part 3, the final installment of this series, will analyze the latest
release, as well as the product’s market opportunity. Your views, comments, opinions, etc. about enterprise this job scheduling solutions, and abut the software category per se are welcome in the meantime.
We would also be interested in hearing about your experiences with these software solutions (if you are an existing user) or your general interest to evaluate these solutions as prospective customers.
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