You probably already know that implementing a workload automation tool could streamline your processes and save you time and money, but how do you know which product to choose? There are numerous considerations. You want the job scheduler to be easy to use for everyone who operates it. You want to be able to support complex dependencies without a lot of extra work for your team. And of course, you want to make sure you are getting the best ROI for your budget. This guide will walk you through the factors your company should consider when choosing an enterprise job scheduler. After reading the guide and filling out the Enterprise Job Scheduler Key Requirements Checklist, you can approach product vendors with all the knowledge you need to make the best choice.
Implementing an enterprise scheduler can be a daunting task. There are a number of decisions that need to be made to make sure you arrive at the best solution for your enterprise. At HelpSystems, we have been in the job scheduling business for thirty years and have experience helping thousands of customers automate their data centers.
This guide introduces you to the factors that your company should think about in order to find the best workload automation tool for you. After you have learned about the various considerations, use the Enterprise Job Scheduler Key Requirements Checklist to determine exactly how they apply to your business.
Do You Need an Enterprise Job Scheduler?
The first question is whether you need an enterprise scheduler at all. Here are some of the indicators that it’s time to consider an enterprise scheduling solution:
- Manually managing multiple systems or VMs
- Multiple applications
- Schedule dependencies
- Audit or reporting requirements not being met
- Downtime cause by processing delays or errors
- Missed service-level agreements (SLAs)
- Cross-system interoperability
- Heterogeneous environment
- Lack of centralized interface for managing processes
- Operators performing high volume of manual monitoring and scheduling
- Job scheduling dependent on knowledge of one employee
Let’s look at an example of a hypothetical up-and-coming company, Fortunate Financial. Fortunate is struggling to maintain control of its processes as it expands from a handful of servers to dozens. Logging into each server to complete routine tasks is time-consuming and leads to more innovative projects being delayed. Even more inefficient is the time spent writing code to deal with dependencies.
If those issues sound familiar to you, it’s probably time to look at an enterprise job scheduler. Trying to manage schedules and dependencies across multiple systems and multiple applications can eat up system administrator time and developer resources. Make sure you’re aware of what kind of manual work each employee is doing and how much that time is costing the company. Later, when you have estimates from several job scheduling solutions, you can determine your potential ROI for each one.
Determine Functional Requirements
Advanced job scheduling solutions will offer a wide variety of useful functions. Of course, it would be great to have as many features as possible, but you might find that some aren’t worth the expense to your company. On the Key Requirements Checklist, determine which functions are absolute requirements, which ones would be nice to have, and which features you don’t need at all.
Back at Fortunate Financial, the decision has been made to look for an enterprise job scheduler. The company’s key concern is its high volume of file transfers.
Traditional batch scheduling was based on time. You chose what time you wanted a process to start, and if there were other resource dependencies like file changes or process completion codes, you had to write a program to look for the dependency or have an operator watch for it. Then you would submit the successor process. As business processes and outside events such as file arrivals started driving schedules, more efficient ways to schedule became important for productivity. Job schedulers had to evolve to be more event-driven.
Without an enterprise job scheduler capable of automating and tracking the completion of events, IT departments open themselves up to delays and errors they can’t afford. An enterprise scheduler with these capabilities will instantly improve efficiency.
Fortunate Financial is still using a traditional solution for their file transfers. When a job is dependent on a file arriving, the job is scheduled with a lag time in hopes that the prerequisite file will have arrived when the job starts. This makes the entire process slower than it should be, and puts Fortunate at high risk for errors if a file doesn’t arrive on schedule. Consequently, the most important feature the company is looking for in its new workload automation tool is support for file event triggers. The IT department anticipates that this will allow them to compress the time needed for the process while also ensuring greater accuracy.
Service-level agreements also drive productivity within IT departments, and meeting those agreements affects customers’ confidence in IT services. Your enterprise scheduling tool must be able to handle a variety of triggers to make sure that orders are processed correctly and quickly.
Below is a list of some of the functional requirements to consider in your decision:
- Easy to use for non-programmers
- Supports multi-system dependencies
- Supports multi-application dependencies
- Supports file event triggers
- Supports grouping jobs
- Supports all required platforms
- Supports multiple environments (production, test and development)
Determine Operations Requirements
IT is typically responsible for the data center running smoothly and without errors. The processing of tasks and jobs needs to be on time and has to meet any SLAs in place, whether those agreements are formal or informal. Business expectations must be met or exceeded by the operations area.
At Fortunate Financial, employees are worried. Their paychecks and even their jobs depend on meeting client service level agreements (SLAs), but the current job scheduling tool in use isn’t reliable enough on tight deadlines. Sometimes employees return to the office in the morning to discover that something has gone wrong in the job stream overnight. One of their biggest concerns is finding a tool that will notify them immediately of any problem or delay, day or night.
Some of the operations requirements that might be key to your company are:
- Meeting SLAs
- Help Desk integration
- Auditing functions
- Reporting functions
- Notification functions
- Monitoring functions
- Disaster recovery or high availability functions
With the 24/7 nature of business today, having a workload automation tool solves the problems of unexpected down-time caused by human error or a task running when the required resources are unavailable. The required resources might include disk space on a server, an active service (e.g. FTP) or a file update. A comprehensive workload automation tool will have retry capabilities so that the processes will wait for the required resources, and notification abilities to alert support staff to the delay.
Determine Business Requirements
As Fortunate Financial expands, each department looks for technical solutions to streamline their processes. Decisions are made based on the needs of the individual departments, leading to a large number of disparate systems and applications within the company. The ideal workload automation tool will integrate with all of them.
Chances are, your company is also running a large number of applications across all the business units. These may include ERP systems, CRM Systems, Accounting systems, HRIS systems, or warehouse management systems and all of the modules included in any of them. Depending on the core business, all types of processes may be run during the day or night. Files are moved, summaries are created, inventories are updated and financial transactions are processed. It all needs to be on time and without error to keep the business running. A few examples of business requirements are:
- Application interfaces
- Web service interfaces
- FTP interfaces
Determine Budget Requirements
Last, but certainly not least, determine the budget constraints for your purchase:
- Software costs
- Hardware costs
- Annual maintenance costs
- Implementation project costs
- Personnel costs
- Support costs
- Downtime costs
- Overtime costs from manual errors
- Initial training costs
- Ongoing training costs
- Cooling or electrical costs
First, consider your current costs, including not only your job scheduling software, but the cost of time spent on manual tasks that will no longer be necessary with your new tool. Then, use this information to determine a budget for your new solution. You may need to get estimates from several vendors to give you an idea of the range of costs for an enterprise job scheduler. Typically the costs are based on hardware type or operating system, the number of systems and/or the number of jobs that will be scheduled.
With your requirements in hand, schedule product demonstrations with 2-3 vendors. Ask all pertinent questions and make sure you get satisfactory answers. You don’t want to waste time testing a product that doesn’t meet your needs or blows up your budget. Get some firm numbers from the vendors and use the information you have entered on the Key Requirements Checklist to calculate your return on investment.
Enterprise Job Scheduling with Automate Schedule
Automate Schedule is an affordable automation solution for Windows, Linux, and UNIX servers that’s flexible and easy to use. Automate Schedule supports complex, event-driven job scheduling and integrates with your business-critical applications.
Furthermore, it gives you automated auditing and reporting capabilities and custom notification options so that you and your team stay aware of important scheduling events across the enterprise.