In a recent survey by InformationWeek, over 50% of IT managers named cost as the primary limitation to data center automation.
In this enlightening presentation, you’ll learn about:
- Required vs. “nice to have” features.
- Budget creep prevention tactics.
- General product costs and comparisons.
- Yearly maintenance fees, and what they should be covering.
- Intangible savings areas.
Afterwards, you’ll have a better understanding of fair pricing, and which questions to ask to make sure you’re paying the right price for your IT needs.
Welcome everyone to today's webinar, “How to Contain the Costs of Workload Automation.” My name is Pat Cameron, and I'm here today with you from Skybot Software in beautiful Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I hope today that you will pick up a few tips on what to look for when evaluating a workload automation tool and how to screen some of the costs that are involved with that purchase as well. As an introduction to myself, I've got a little story to tell about my experience with automation or on automation, as it were. Back in the olden days of the 1980s, I was an operations manager at a hospital here in Minnesota. At that time, we had a System/38 that was our patient information system and nothing was automated. We had data entry clerks and we also had 24/7 operators who had checklists that ran jobs throughout the day and the night. The billing was run in the evening and then we had a day-end process that ran reports, orders, and financial reports, etc. And that day-end process was started shortly after midnight and was run by the operators.
But twice a year, when the clocks change for daylight savings time, the operator had to manually change a system value so that it would be in sync with the rest of the world. The operator was supposed to run that command at 2 a.m. and to fall back to 1 o'clock. Well, one year, when it was time to fall back from daylight savings time, the operator thought she'd get a head start on her checklist of things to do and she fell back early. I don't remember exactly when, but it was around 12:30, I'm sure, because the problem was that she stepped that time back to before midnight. So what happened was as the time marched on, and it became midnight again, the system itself automatically changed the date to the next day. Well then instead of being Sunday morning, it was really a Monday morning as far as the system knew. So day-end had started once and the date changed in the middle of it. No one really noticed until later on Sunday morning when business office people noticed some funny dates on their reports and the nursing station started logging in and some noticed that the system date was not correct.
Well, you can imagine the amount of restoring and rerunning of jobs that occurred that Sunday and into Monday. It was really ugly. We had to re-register patients because they were registered into the hospital on the wrong date. So we had downtime during business hours, and we had to run a couple different day-end processes and it kind of went on and on. It was awful.
So I also need to admit that I thought that our schedule at the time was just too complex and too unique to be automated. Then there came the HelpSystems and over the past 13 years, I personally have helped hundreds of customers automate their data centers; HelpSystems has helped thousands and some of our customers actually run lights out. So I just want you to know that I'm a true believer in system and workload automation, and I feel your pain if you're not using an automation tool.
Evaluating Workload Automation Tools
Well, this is our agenda for today, and again, I hope you'll pick up some tips on how to evaluate a good workload automation tool that's right for you. We'll be covering why and what to automate as well as some of the costs that are incurred when purchasing and implementing an enterprise scheduling tool. You want to be very clear on all of the costs that are associated with your automation solution before you go ahead and purchase. You'll want to also be able to balance your budget constraints with the features that are required for your business and for your IT shop, but it does take some work to find the real true cost of ownership for an automation tool.
Well before we get into the details, I'd like to get an idea of who we have out there. I've got a little poll that I'll open, and I just would be interested in finding out what platforms you are running in your data center: Mainframes, Windows, Linux, Unix, System i. AIX is kind of a Unix flavor. So when the poll comes up, if you could just elect one or more of the options, it would just be helpful to me to get an idea of what's all running out there in your data centers. I know working with customers across all kinds of different operating systems that sometimes the Unix world or the Linux—any of those “nix” are managed maybe by a different group than Windows and from a different group; yet if you've got a Mainframe or System i that there might be on a little chunks of people that are managing different pieces of your systems. And there might not be anyone that has the big picture or anyone that's actually taking a look at how all those systems depend on one another.
Right, we had a few people go ahead and answer. I'm going to go ahead and close that poll, so you still have 15 seconds to answer if you would, and then we can take a look at the mix. It looks like we've got some Windows Shop, Unix, System i out there, some Linux. So actually it looks like we've got . . . let me put those up so you can see over on the right hand side. So we've got quite a mix of operating systems that you all are trying to manage.
Well, the first question that we want to answer is why automate at all? And one of the reasons might be that you're running in a crisis mode and we see that everywhere. If your staff is working in crisis mode most of the time, that's not a good thing. Managing a crisis can be kind of fun, actually. When I was in the operations world, I kind of like that adrenaline kick. But not if it's there all the time, and you don't see an end to it.
But how much time do you or your staff actually spend putting out fires? Do you have smart people that are doing mundane tasks day after day after day, and maybe you would be able to free them up to do something a little bit more challenging. Can you see that server workload across all of your servers from one place? Do you have system administrators that are logging in in the evenings or logging in on the weekends to make sure that those processes are running as they should on time and without error? And you have any Monday morning surprises? Those are usually pretty ugly. Have you ever missed a service level agreement? Is your bonus tied to that SLA? I bet if missed one, you know the date of that missed SLA. So in order to not miss those SLAs, you need to know who is running what, and when is it running because this could absolutely affect the resources that you have available on your system. So if you're not in control of who's running what, it could cause those missed SLAs.
Are those jobs running at the best time of the day or night? I do have people that are running reports or SQL queries during the daytime, and maybe it would be better if they were scheduled to run at night and then the results would be on their desks when they got there in the morning or in their email in their inbox. Is there any way that you can be notified of delays or errors so that you don't have to go looking for them?
Understanding the Dangers of Downtime
Downtime. Keep in mind that the downtime is typically defined by the user. It could be a system that's down. We all know when the systems are down, but it might be an application that's locked up or an application that's down, maybe just a workstation that's down, or report that they didn't get on time. Recent downtimes can be caused by human error. It doesn't necessarily mean that that's a big disaster. Somebody might have done something to cause the system to error out like my daylight savings time downtime.
What I found in a lot of shops that were prepared for disaster but what we might not be prepared as much for manual errors, and they will happen. If you need to re-run processes because the resources that they need aren't available, some customers have jobs that will try and try and try to run and set some kind of a retry until the resources that they need are there, that adds a lot of overhead to your system that really isn't necessary. It might be just a sample as the timing issue, and the fact that nobody's got the big picture. Nobody can see what's running across all of your servers.
Talking about running across all of your servers, there certainly could be dependencies from one system to the next from one application to the other. Is that schedule of yours documented somewhere, or is it mostly tribal knowledge? Do you have a person that works nights or works weekends or works comes in for a month then, and they might be the only one that really knows how that process runs.
Well they take vacations and sometimes they get sick, and that's just a fact of life. Then what? What do you do when that occurs, when that one person with that knowledge isn't there? Is your server environment kind of Wild West, or do you have security and audit reporting in place? Do your Windows staff know what your next environment is doing and does it matter? Maybe because you certainly might have dependencies from one group of systems to the other. And again, it comes back to those dependencies and having that big picture. A lot of applications that we buy these days have their own simple scheduler, but they don't really work for the entire workload. So maybe it's time to take a look at something that will work across that workload.
How Workload Automation Solves Operations Issues
So, how can automation help solve some of these problems? Automation can take you out of that crisis mode so that you can take control of your system. Taking control of your processes running on your systems and document them will make your life a lot easier. Control also includes knowing what scheduled when and where and not being the only person that knows it. Documentation is always a pain, and sometimes it gets forgotten because it's kind of the last thing to do. So if it can be made part of the scheduling process, then it too will be done automatically.
I'll go along with taking control. There certainly might be some ad hoc jobs that need to be run periodically. You know when we talk about maybe the 80-20 rule: if you can automate 80% of your system jobs, that would be great. So there are certainly maybe that 20% that still needs to be run manually. If there is, you still will have history, security, and easier error recovery if those ad hoc jobs ran through some type of centralized scheduler, enterprise scheduler.
You want to go from chaos to calm. In order to do that, you need control and knowledge of what's going on in your IT department. You need to be assured that you'll be notified of any problems and that you'll be able to meet your SLA. You should be able to manage your systems by their exceptions. HelpSystems has talked about managing by exceptions for the 30 years that we've been around. You shouldn't have to watch your schedule and watch your systems to make sure that everything is running smoothly and on time without errors or delays. But if there are delays and if there are errors, you want to be assured that the person that's responsible for fixing that delay or fixing that error is notified immediately so that you don't have a small problem growing into a larger one.
And the big picture, workload automation using an enterprise scheduler will give you the big picture. You need to know what's going on across all of your servers and all of your different applications at any time of the day or the night. Dashboards and flowcharts are nice features that are a quick way to get that information when you need it or display it for maybe your operations area or for executives. You also need the ability to forecast so that you can schedule maintenance and necessary downtime for your systems, and that forecast again needs to be across all of your servers and all of your applications.
Control the assurance that you'll know if there's a problem in the big picture. We'll bring you job security. Be a leader in your IT department in promoting automation. You'll be a hero when accounting gets the reports every time that they need them, when you never miss an SLA, when your systems are up with no delays, again, you'll be a hero. That will allow you then to spend time thinking of innovative and creative ways to manage your IT department and automate more processes rather than spending time putting out a bunch of fires.
What Can You Automate?
But we've talked a little bit about why automate. Now what exactly can I automate on those systems? As I said earlier, when I was the operations manager of the hospital, I thought that our processes were too complex and too unique to automate. But over the past 13 years, I've learned that they weren't at all, and they are automated now.
We've worked with retail customers, banking customers, insurance, health care, and helped them to automate their data centers and some are actually running lights out. So one of the things I learned is to start small. I took a gardening class once and the first thing she said to us was, "Start small with your garden." I didn't do that, and I planted a huge perennial garden, and it made me about crazy for the first few years. So start small and start with the easy ones. Daily report, anything that you've got that's running hourly or daily or weekly and doesn't have a lot of dependencies but can kind of run on its own, get those scheduled right away.
Again, those ad hoc processes, the 20% that you can't automate, take a look at those if you want to have audit history and job history, as well as security around those ad hoc processes. Talk to accounting. Talk to people in the business offices. You'll find that some of those . . . like accounting I think is kind of famous for having a mini IT department. Accountants like to get in there and work with the data and print their reports and get processes running. Maybe you'll find out that they're running the same process every morning. And if you can automate for them, they're going to save time and energy in the accounting department, as well as in your IT department.
Automating File Transfers and Backups
A lot of customers spend a lot of time these days moving files from one system to another, pulling files in from their clients or vendors. I talked . . . I did a product demo with a customer, a prospective customer, a few weeks ago and found out that one of the persons in their department was spending two hours every day just running file transfers interactively. The reason that they felt that they had to run them interactively or run them manually was because they had different file names. I think it was that the date was appended to the name of the file every day. So what you want to do is make sure that your scheduler can handle such things as variables or monitoring for changes in files and what is that that's actually triggering your job stream. A lot of times, it's files that are coming in from other applications or from other servers.
So once you've got the easy stuff, daily reports, file transfers, then start taking a look at the more complex types of schedules, dependencies that might be across applications or dependencies across servers, dependencies on those files or other processes that are running. What is it that actually drives your schedule? You're going to have to do a little work and get that documented so that you know what is it exactly that pushes that process to start running. It might not be time-based, but maybe with the tools that you have now, there's a gap in that schedule because you've got to schedule the next process to run at a certain time, hoping that the previous process is completed. You can schedule dependencies one after another. You're going to compress the amount of time that it takes for those batch type processes to run.
Another important process to go ahead and automate, get that that high on the list are backups. Backups are so important to any IT shop. You want to make sure that all of the objects on your servers are backed up so that they can be restored if they are damaged by human error, system error, et cetera. Like I said, I think most shops have built some type of high availability environment, and they have a great disaster recovery plan that has been tested. But it's the small problems, such as somebody deleting the wrong file or updating the wrong set of data that can cause a lot of headaches for your operations area, and you want to make sure that those backups are completed, they completed normally, everything was backed up, you want to make sure that they're validated so that if you can do a restore of just one file or just one directory, you can pull that from your backup very easily.
Automating Other Critical Business Processes
Besides backups, you want to be able to automate any kind of system maintenance. Log archiving, archive any types of files maybe based on the size of the file. You're also going to want to be able to automate any type of reporting that you need to do, especially for audits. When your auditor shows up once or twice a year, you don't want to have to spend a week gathering that information. Automate that throughout the year, and it'll be right at your fingertips when you need it.
And then typically the last thing to automate is month-end. There's always a lot of dependencies. It's always just a little bit different than other processes that are running. Many times you've got somebody that's coming in to monitor that process on the last day of the month. So in order to eliminate that, you need to be able to automate that month-end process, especially if you're using multiple schedulers. How can you consolidate those and put those into one enterprise scheduler?
Critical business processes. You need to make sure that they run at the proper time, in the proper order every single time. Operators and production control staff can get busy with other tasks and cannot maybe guarantee the time that a process will run.
IT is basically a service provider to the rest of your business. We provide services to business departments. We provide those backups. We provide report processing, file transfers, and any other types of event-driven processes. So you want to make sure that those services are provided in the correct way every single time. There are a lot of free schedulers out on the market, but make sure that whatever scheduler you decide on, they can handle those dependencies, resource needs, and error recovery and error notification options.
Pricing Models for Workload Automation
recovery and error notification options.
There are a number of different pricing models out there in the market, and we'll take a look at some of those and some of the things to look for when you get down to the cost of your automation solution. So once you decided to evaluate a workload automation tool, keep in mind there are a lot of different pricing models. I can't get into specifics for each vendor, but I will show you a list of things to watch out for.
Number one. Is the vendor focused on automation, or is it just a small piece of the business? Over the years, there have been lots of acquisitions of scheduling tools and scheduling companies that have been going on, and you want to make sure that . . . is that product that scheduling tool was acquired by a larger company, is it still being enhanced and is it still supported?
Another thing to look for is does the solution require dedicated our specialized hardware, or can it run on hardware that you already own? Other types of pricing, there might be different charges for different platforms. Mainframe versus Windows: what's the difference in that pricing? Are there different modules for different functions? So once you've got your business requirements set down, do you need to purchase a separate module for scheduling? Maybe another one for notification, maybe another one for monitoring your systems or interfaces to your application? So your initial quote might look very reasonable. But once you get all those extras tacked on, it just might blow your budget, and you don't want to do that.
So what exactly is included in the price? Software, hardware, services, and different modules. This information is from a vendor analysis that we commissioned in 2010, and the only reason that I bring it up here is just to show you the disparity in the level of pricing for some of the pieces of an automation tool. You can see here that . . . so for instance, a Windows agent can go anywhere from $600 for $1,200. So it could double in price depending on the tool that you select. Also for the server, we've got a doubling in price as well. They can go from anywhere from maybe 18K, was what we had in our in our analysis that we commissioned, up to 50K. So that is a huge difference in the amount of money charged or those solutions to better make sure that you get the functionality that you need when you're paying those types of prices.
We'll take a look at some of the details for some of those pricing models. Like I said, cost for automation tools and enterprise schedulers can go from free up into the millions of dollars. One thing that vendors do is bundle the scheduling piece and the automation piece in with other products. So you might not be really clear on what is the actual cost of that scheduling piece. If it's being bundled with other modules and other processes, are you going to really use the rest of the products in that bundle?
Again, let's take a look at the 80-20 rule. We're only going to use maybe 80% of the products that we purchase? Make sure that you're not paying for features and functions that you're not going to use. But then on the other hand, take a look at the tools that you that you're using now or that you have on hand. Maybe some of those can be consolidated so that you're using fewer products or maybe some of them need to be replaced. If you can simplify the operations in your IT department, go for it.
Tiered pricing, almost everybody's got some type of tiered pricing. But what do the tiers depend on? Are they tiered by the CPU or by the size of the CPU? Are they tiered by the platform? Unix, Windows and Mainframe, Linux: how are they tiered and how are they priced? Peer to peer, how is that price? Some of the scheduling models don't have a central server. So how are those prices handle? Does it require a dedicated or specialized hardware? Make sure that you include that additional hardware cost in your final cost. Be sure to determine the cost for different tiers of hardware.
You probably might be running on a number of environments than your IT department, though some of those environments could be adaptors maybe for an application, an SAP environment that you've got. Do you pay extra for the adapter in order to manage your SAP jobs with your enterprise schedule or your automation tool? Oracle is another, an E-Business Suite. Oracle has got a number of products. So if there is an adapter or some type of an interface, is there extra charge for that?
Additional charges for maybe test development or QA environments as well. And then there are some models out there that charge by the number of jobs that you're running through the schedulers. Some customers that I've spoken with have used that, have had that pricing in the past. And what will happen is because if they get past a certain threshold, they don't want to put jobs in their enterprise scheduler, so leave them in cron or they'll leave them in the Windows Task Scheduler so they don't have to pay the cost of adding those jobs to their enterprise scheduler, their automation tool.
Well then what that's doing is defeating the purpose of having an automation tool or an enterprise-type scheduler. So if you decide on a model that's based on the number of jobs running through the scheduler and you certainly might . . . that might be a good fit for you, keep in mind that when you start out, maybe you're just running a couple of hundred jobs through the scheduler. But as your business grows or as you find more opportunities for automation, you might end up in the thousands. So keep in mind, are you willing to pay more as you grow?
So one of these models does not fit everyone, and one model is not better than the other. So when you do start looking at pricing for automation tools, you'll have to decide what's right for you. I just want you to be aware of all the different options that you have out there.
Services Options for Workload Automation Software
We'll talk a little bit about 80-20, but I just love this quote. So we have kind of a new way to look at that 80-20 rule. In January, I did a webinar with Torsten Volk. He's an analyst at EMA. And our webinar was about automating your data center in five easy steps. And I'll send you a link to that webinar in just a minute here. Well, how he used the 80/20 rule is maybe what you want to look at is once you get your business requirements setup, that if you can get 80% of those for 20% of the cost, maybe that's the way to go. It depends on what your budget is. So keep in mind when you're evaluating the solutions to go back to your business requirements. What is actually required to run your business as opposed to what is nice to have or what sounds good or what looks good. The reality is customers install a scheduling solution to solve a problem. The change occurs when something happens, they've outgrown what they have, maybe it's too expensive. But once they solve that problem, a lot of times they just move on to the next.
But will you really implement all of those bells and whistles that are in the product over and above what your business requirements are? And if they need a bunch of consultants to help you with that implementation, what is the reality that you're going to really use that?
Well, some of the other things those vendors also bill for are services. Some companies make their revenue on services. So what you need to do is determine how many services or what amount of services are needed to get that product installed, up and running and get your staff up to speed to be able to use it. When you're thinking of purchasing an automation tool, you should be able to have a trial period that you can use that product and that's going to help you determine a few things. One is, is it easy to install? If you can't install it without help from the vendor, maybe you need to think about that one. How much training will be involved? Is it pretty intuitive? Are we going to need training maybe for just the advanced functions, or do we need real basic training, or is it pretty intuitive?
Services are good to have, it's nice to have that expertise. Sometimes when you're doing an implementation and it's good to have extra hands, you can increase your staff for just a temporary period and then move on as your implementation proceeds. The other thing that trialing a product will help you test is the support, how easy is it to contact? Are there a number of ways to be able to contact that support? How knowledgeable are the technicians and how responsive are they? So use those trial periods to determine installation, training, support. You're going to be living with this product for a long time so you need to determine if it's a good fit.
Typically, the more complicated the product, the more services that are required. And if it's that complicated, are you going to use it? If it takes a lot of time for maintenance, is it really going to be worth the value that you're getting for that product? Some of the other maintenance is fees that are paid annually. Do your maintenance. These cover enhancements are updates for the product. What actually is included in those annual fees? So when we talk about services, there are some vendors that that require consulting fees, along with the software. Make sure that you get what you're paying for. So if you need to have consultants come in to help with upgrades or installations, is it really worth it? All of those additional services costs are going to add the cost to your purchase. Again, some vendors require a service contract as well as those software costs and maintenance costs. So if you're adding on a bunch of services, keep in mind what that's going to do. Take a look at that original quote and make sure that you get all those additional costs included in that quote.
The Cost of Maintenance
But now we bought the software, and we've taken a look at the services that we need, now we're going to take a look at maintenance costs. We'll find out exactly what's included in those annual maintenance fees. Support. Is support included in the maintenance fee? And what type of support? Are there a number of ways that you can reach support? Are they on chat, through the web, email, phone? Is that support 24 hours, or do you have to pay extra for premium support? if I've got to pay extra for after-hours calls, and I know that if I call at 2 o'clock in the morning because I'm having a problem, if I know that I'm going to get a big bill, I might think twice before making that call. And I wouldn't think that a vendor would want to discourage the use of their support. So again make sure that you test out the support during your trial period to make sure that it's going to meet the needs that you have. Are there different tiers for maintenance? Sometimes the maintenance fees again are based on the number of jobs or the hardware platform, what type of changes incur a hardware change in addition to the maintenance fee or the maintenance fee increase.
Certainly, people need to make revenue, and they need to make money and maintenance fees will increase annually. But what type of our percentage is going up, and again, our hardware change fee is included in that annual fee. I just want to make sure that you're very clear so that you can put a budget together for next year and maybe the year after and the year after that and you're going to know approximately what those maintenance fees are.
Our enhancement is included in that maintenance fee. And if they are, or if they're not, find out if they are. Where do the ideas come from for those changes or enhancements to the product? How often are they added? Find some references that are using that product and find out when the last time an enhancement was added to that automation solution. What is the process used to add those enhancements to the product line. Is there a way that you can know that your voice is being heard? Well, I would really recommend on that note to check with a number of references about how enhancements and product upgrades are handled.
New version. Are they chargeable? Already included in your maintenance fees? How often are they released? When was the last new version, another thing to ask a reference? What is the complexity of the installs for those versions? When I was doing some research, some vendors again require consultants to come in and install those new versions because they're so complex. So you want to make sure that new versions can be installed with just a minimum disruption to production. And can they be installed without additional services or consulting fees from the vendor. So what type of maintenance fee increases have been charged? Typically maintenance fees are between 15 and 20% of your software cost. So I would make sure that maintenance for your automation solution is within that area.
The ROI of Workload Automation
I've got a spreadsheet that we put together that is kind of a quick way to figure out your return on your investment. And this spreadsheet will be emailed to you after today's webinar. I also got a question: we also will be sending out the slides after the webinar, and I think we've got a couple tip sheets, too. So yes, you will definitely get information about this webinar when it's completed.
So when you're figuring out your return on your investment, there's a couple things to keep in mind. One is if you write your own scheduler and I worked with a lot of customers that started out on home grown, you think it's cheap, but then then married to it. So if any changes occur with the operating system, you've got to make sure that your solution grows with the operating system. When your company grows, you've got to make sure that your scheduler can handle it. A lot of the customers that I've dealt with, that's the reason that they're coming and looking for some type of a solution. A number of years ago, many years ago it could be, they wrote their own scheduler and that worked great for a long time. But now their company has grown and it's become more complex, and they're not scheduling experts. And so they're looking for that expertise from somewhere else.
Also you've got to be able to manage changes to applications such as SAP or Oracle, etc., so you've got to make sure that your scheduler is compliant with those other applications. So I'd really recommend that the scheduling experts maintain your scheduler and then you can concentrate on your core business and as an IT department provide that service to your clients and customers and other business divisions.
Create a position that's maybe a production control or an operations analyst, put somebody that is accountable for automation. Make it a project; if nobody's accountable, it won't get done. If the project, and if somebody is accountable for it, then it will get done. And it kind of is ongoing. You're never really 100%. So there are always new ways to automate, maybe other business department’s processes, etc.
When you're working on your return on investment, keep in mind a few of the intangibles as well. This is going to allow you to meet your SLAs. Are you going to decrease the amount of downtime because you're going to have less errors because there won't be errors, you won't be rerunning jobs, your jobs won't have gaps or delays in them because they're waiting for resources to be available. And to be honest, you're going to have peace of mind. If there's a problem, you'll be notified. Manage your systems by exception. You don't have to log in on the weekends. You don't have to log in on month-ends to go ahead and check a process even if you don't have to run it. So your quality of life is going to be better, and it's going to be easier for you to hire people because your working conditions are going to be better.
Evaluate Your Business Requirements
Let's take a look at some of those business requirements that you need to take a look at to decide just which automation tool is going to work for you. First of all, if you're running various applications on your systems, so I'm sure you are such a SAP and Oracle that I already discussed, make sure that the automation tool that you use is compatible with those applications. What type of interface do you need? How close do you need that interface to be?
If you have cross application dependencies, you want to make sure that those can be handled by the scheduling tool, and also be able to manage multiple applications across multiple servers. Make sure that your workload automation tool is compatible with all of the hardware that you have. You certainly may have crossed platform dependencies as well as cross application, so you need to be able to manage multiple servers and very diverse hardware from one place. That big picture, that consolidated view, is so important to be able to manage those servers.
You need to comply with audit requirements. Service level agreements—you need to be able to meet them even if you don't have formal SLAs, you certainly might have some unwritten rules about the timing of job, completion, system availability, etc., and you need to be able to meet those SLAs.
Audits. You must be able to audit any changes that are made to system, anybody that runs the job maybe or runs the process outside of its schedule, you need to know who that is and when that occurred and be able to report on that really easily because, again, when your auditors show up a couple times a year, you don't want to spend all kinds of time gathering that information. You want it at your fingertips.
Are there other executive reporting requirements that you have as far as auditing or SLAs? And change control: how easy is it to move from dev to a test to a QA to a production environment? All of those types of change control options need to be supported by your scheduling tool. And you need to be within budget. It’s the reality. You've got the staffing constraints. You don't want to have people work and paying over time on weekends and evenings. You also want to maybe free up your system administrators from those scheduling tasks. Again move it to a production control area or operations area or the help desk area so that you can keep your system administrators doing that high-level managing of your servers.
So it's really important to define your needs. There are all kinds of schedulers out there that have a lot of bells and whistles that you will be paying for. Make sure that it's something that you need, something that you will use. So keep in mind that 80-20 rule, 80% of the features 20% of the cost and balance the budget with the features. Are you really going to use all of those extras?
Objective Analyses of WLA Tools
There are a number of reports out in the marketplace that evaluate workload automation tools and you can use them for reference, and I'm going to send you a link. I've got a link to a report that Gartner has done that compares the number of workload automation tools. I'll send you that link. Now this is going to take you to the Gartner page. You would have to pay if you want to download that that report, but it certainly might be useful for you if you are in the process of evaluating workload automation tools. Well, I've got one from Gartner, and now I've sent one out from EMA.
I've got one here from Forrester, and I believe you'll be getting these links in your follow-up after the meeting, handouts as well. And so those you would all have to pay for, but there is a nice little option on Wikipedia, good old Wiki that lists about 26—I believe it was when I looked yesterday—26 different job schedulers that you could use as part of your workload automation. I give them nice charts, a nice table comparing different job schedulers and the options that they have.
So these tools are a lot more objective than marketing information that you're going to get from vendors. So again, what I would say is the long and the short of it is define your needs first and then look at the choices. There are a lot of vendors out there, and they have a lot of different features and functions. Make sure that you're buying ones that you need. Budget is always right there at the top of the list. What are your top five requirements today? And can you get 80% of that functionality for just 20% of the cost. It's absolutely something to look for. So get the details on the cost, software service and maintenance, and be sure to try it out. Make sure that you can get a free trial for, I don't know, 30 or 90 days so that you can test the port, test the solution, make sure it's going to work, and make sure that it works for you.
Skybot Scheduler: Affordable and Robust WLA
So I can't leave without just saying one quick thing about our Skybot Scheduler, which is our workload automation tool. I would just recommend, please give us a try when you're evaluating different enterprise scheduling tools, and I think what you'll find with Skybot Scheduler is that we've got the features that you need, and a price that will fit your budget. We're easy to install, easy to get up and get going and test our support. I do see some familiar names out there that have worked with our support in the past, and I know that you'll find we're the best in the business.
So, that's the information I have for you today for the cost of workload automation tools and how to manage some of those costs. If you have any questions, you can send them to me over in the chat section on the right hand side of your screen and I'd be happy to answer those questions for you I don't see any out there yet.
Michael is asking if he can get a copy of the slides. Absolutely. We'll you send you a little packet. It might not be ready today, but absolutely, you'll get it by tomorrow. As soon as we have those handouts ready, we'll get those to you. Also with a link to the recording so if there's anybody else that you think might be interested in this information, you're certainly welcome to share that with them.
Somebody is asking me, what's the highest that I've ever heard of a customer paying for a workload automation solution? It's really high. We've got one of our customers was using a different tool and moved to Skybot Scheduler. I don't know what they paid initially, but they were going to add some agents to their workload tool. I think they're running about 70 different AIX agents and each of the agents was going to be $250,000. They have 70 of those and they certainly might not have paid that initially. But big bucks up into the millions certainly. Thank you for that. Any other questions?
Well I wanted to kind of wrap this up in about 45 minutes today because I don't want to keep you too long, I know everybody's busy and need to get back to what's going on in your world. So I want to thank you very much for joining us. Oh, I see I've got another one. What are your thoughts about having two scheduling products?
One for the more visible applications such as SAP and another for the simpler solutions. You know we do have customers, Barbara, that are running multiple schedulers. To me, it depends on if there are dependencies across those, you know, you might have a simple system. But if there are dependencies with those more complex applications and the more visible ones, maybe SAP exactly, you want to be able to simultaneously take care and support all those dependencies and then, again, it depends on your support structure I guess. If whoever is supporting those SAP applications doesn't need to worry about those other smaller systems then you certainly could have two scheduling products. It does diminish the visibility overall, and you don't see the big picture. But we absolutely have customers that are running multiple schedulers kind of for just that reason. If I've got a group that's supporting my SAP application, for instance, maybe that they can certainly be on a separate schedule or from some of the other smaller apps that aren't so visible.
Comparing Robot SCHEDULE and Skybot Scheduler
Mike is asking about the difference between Skybot Scheduler and Robot SCHEDULE Enterprise. I know Mike is a customer. I've talked with him a number of times. Skybot Scheduler and Robot SCHEDULE Enterprise. So Robot is a line of products . . . for those of you that aren't familiar with HelpSystems, the Robot products run on the IBM i and that's where we started about 30 years ago. And then a number of years ago, we realized that we needed to be in the open systems or distributed systems market as well. And Skybot . . . or Robot SCHEDULER Enterprise is a product that grew from that need that we have customers that are running the IBM i as their central production system and then they have some of those dependencies across their Windows and Unix systems. So we developed a Robot SCHEDULE Enterprise for that.
Skybot Scheduler is not attached to the IBM System i. You don't have to have an IBM i as your central scheduler. Skybot Scheduler, the server, can run on a Windows or a Linux or an AIX system and then your agents can be on any of those systems as well. So we've kind of severed that tie to the IBM i . . . it kind of rhymes, doesn't it? So that's the difference, Mike. The functionality is about the same, and we took all the great stuff from the Robot SCHEDULER that we learned over the past 30 years and put it into Skybot Scheduler, so I'd be very familiar to anyone that's coming from the Robot world to this Skybot world.
Thanks for that. Good to hear from you. Right. Somebody's reminding me with this all new code. That is true. We didn't pullanything over from the Robot world. Everything is new in Skybot Scheduler, new and fresh and all web-based. If you would like to take a look at Skybot Scheduler, you've got my contact information here. Be sure let me know. Would love to set up a demo and show you our Skybot.
All right. Well thank you, everyone, for joining me today. You are free to go. Have a great day. I hope things are running smoothly in your world and are as nice as they are here in Minnesota. So have a good day and we'll see you next time.