Do You Need Enterprise Scheduling Software?

IBM i, Windows, UNIX, Linux
August 30, 2016


Job scheduling was simpler when you only needed to worry about your IBM i (AS400) server and its batch processes. It is probably no surprise, but several dynamics have changed over the past decade—including the business landscape and timing related to managing IT infrastructure—which have forced us into worrying about processes on other platforms. Because of that we need solutions that integrate the business process and keep a pulse on complete business transaction for scheduling.

Fragmented scheduling poses frequent and systemic challenges across the multiplatform environment. For instance, a bank might have a deposit file that comes into their network; this file is a prerequisite for a task on the IBM i server. Yesterday (and maybe yet today) you might have operations personnel looking for these file transfers throughout the day or night. Once they physically see the file, they might execute a script to launch the process that extracts this data.

Another setup we often see has data being sent to a Microsoft SQL Server each night at 7:00 p.m., with another process scheduled at 8:00 p.m.—except the second process is made with MS Task Scheduler. This process is intended to keep the data warehouse fresh with new business data. But the combination of the WRKJOBSCDE on IBM i and MS Task Scheduler result in no control—we end up throwing processes over the wall of these different operating systems.

This fragmented approach to running computer systems eventually results in failure and, consequently, finger-pointing exercises across the different server teams. The lesson is that these free schedulers are not free if they cannot handle your business. A complete business cycle does comprise multiple touch points in our server farm. Some common IT functions that occur unmonitored or in a manual flavor are FTP, checking services, file monitoring, website checking, data warehouse transfers for business intelligence, and sharing of backup devices across unique operating systems. They are not integrated because your IBM i team is not working with the Windows team or visa-versa.

These different processes could be controlled from one central console, eliminating guessing games and trying to time events. Integrating them into a central scheduling tool will improve your service-level agreements with the business and prevent the scenario where IT learns about problems from business because no one is centrally monitoring the entire process. It will also go beyond preventing mishaps—enterprise scheduling will improve the value of IT to the business itself.

Enterprise Scheduling, Enterprise Benefits

Automated scheduling has several benefits that you may have been receiving for years with your current tool set, but this product has been only focused on one operating system, like IBM i. Automation will eliminate the human element of running processes; and as we know, this eliminates errors. The usual suspect is that humans running computer tasks manually will make mistakes. It is always just a matter of time before: we forget, we run out of order, we get sick, we make a keying mistake, and/or we get interrupted, we manually adjust for a one-time exception. These little human errors along the way end up costing your organizations downtime which results in lost revenue and lost customers. It destroys the IT reputation with the business and results in lack of confidence in your ability to deliver.

Enterprise scheduling has additional benefits. When combined with automation, it will help you comply with regulations, too. We often hear that the automated scheduling tool is used to provide reports to the internal or external auditors, which makes it much easier to pass IT audits. Automated reporting also helps with internal development meetings. Enterprise scheduling will document how business processes run and in what order. These tools will have job flow charting tools that are very handy during staff meetings. It will eliminate development project errors because someone communicates the wrong order in night processing.

Consistency is another benefit of adding automation across the multiplatform environment. It allows you to replace time-oriented tasks with event-driven scheduling, which narrows your batch processing window and minimizes that chance that a critical event will happen out of order. When the file is pushed to your Windows server for the bank deposit transfer, the FTP script that needs to happen immediately will happen, immediately.

Automation tools will also bring increased security to your environment. The person creating the new task can be an operation analyst who is not writing code or needing *ALLOBJ or Root authority to change things on the server. The tool sets up and gives them the authority to create jobs that run your scripts and establishes the appropriate dependencies without compiling a program or requiring special admin rights. This separation of duties is very important when it comes to passing IT audits.

How do you plan for downtime? After all, downtime doesn't affect just one server but the entire network, so its planning is critical. How do you know what is going to run next or this Saturday when you plan for a hardware upgrade? Forecasting is another benefit of scheduling software. It can help you plan when you have windows of opportunities to add new processes or to do some scheduled maintenance.

In order to keep our jobs from becoming outsourced, we have to look for ways to become more productive. If I am the data center manager, I am constantly looking for ways my team can take on more work. But in order to do more work you have to have the proper tools. Enterprise scheduling software will help you build repeatable rules that run your business process. The more rules you have, the more automation. The more granular the rules, the more flexible the schedule becomes. This will allow you to rerun processes as you react to business needs.

Today's IT manager has to look outside normal boundaries for opportunities to improve IT. The more you can do for the business the more the business will do for you. Our role in the business world has become one of deploying new technologies. We have to become better than our competitors at deploying and maintaining IT technology. Enterprise scheduling is here to help you do that.


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