Imagine that you’re trying to drive through the busiest four-way intersection in town. Four officers are directing traffic. Each officer is responsible for one of the four corners at the intersection. Unfortunately, each is operating independently, unaware of what the others are doing. Chaos ensues. Traffic is snarled, and successfully navigating the intersection without a collision is nearly impossible.
Now, imagine your job scheduling environment. Is it similar? Are siloed scheduling groups directing different aspects of the workload? Do they struggle day after day to guide critical jobs quickly, yet safely, through the congestion? 

How Did This Jam Begin?

Batch scheduling used to be relatively simple. Similar types of jobs were grouped together and run in batches because it was more efficient to process them together than one at a time. Each batch process ran a specific task at a particular time. For example, check processing for invoice payments ran on Thursdays at midnight.
But job scheduling has changed. Its role has expanded radically. Today, its purpose is to support IT workload automation, that is, the orchestration of multiple IT processes to automate an overall business service. The processes are complex. They run on disparate platforms. They link to other business processes. They are often triggered by events and conditions instead of running at specific times of the day. Here’s an example:
An online book retailer has a Web application running in a Windows virtualized environment connected to a Linux database server. Orders are collected and book titles are compared against the warehouse location of the titles. When at least 25 titles are ordered from the same warehouse location or more than five hours have elapsed since the earliest order, a pick list is automatically created for an employee to pull the titles from the shelves and start the shipping process.
IT workload automation encompasses not only batch processes but also real-time processes. With online ordering, for example, accumulating orders from multiple customers and scheduling them for processing and shipment is a batch process. Sending an order acknowledgement by email to the customer and reducing the inventory count by the number of items ordered occur at the time the order is placed.
When you try to use old job scheduling processes and tools to meet the demands of complex workload automation efforts that combine batch and real-time processes, you can end up with congestion, collisions, and frustration.

How Can You Get Out of the Jam?

The solution lies in doing the equivalent of replacing the four traffic officers in our busy intersection with a single traffic light that synchronizes the flow of traffic. That traffic light is a unified, holistic, centralized and automated approach that lets you manage scheduling from a single point, with one team using only one tool set. To create that new approach, it’s important to address five key business issues.

  1. Complexity. Gone are the days of simple batch scheduling. Effective scheduling in today’s environment integrates batch and real-time processes into a single, orchestrated and automated job flow. Traditional batch jobs, Java applications, Web services, and message-oriented middleware have to work together as one. These job flows are complex, so you need bidirectional communication between the scheduling tools and the various IT processes that support the overall business process. Message transfer provides the vehicle for this communication. Through message transfer, the scheduling solution triggers, manipulates and coordinates job flows using popular messaging standards, such as JMS and WebSphere MQ Messages.
  2. Heterogeneity. IT workloads today need to run across Windows servers, Linux servers, Oracle servers, UNIX machines, and mainframes. To accommodate this heterogeneity, IT workload automation processes and scheduling tools must support all popular platforms as well as popular industry standards, such as J2EE, Web services, message-oriented middleware and .NET. 
  3. Scalability. Business users constantly demand more and better IT services. To handle the growth without degrading performance, it’s important to create processes and implement tools that support expansion in two dimensions: 1) the number of automated processes to be scheduled and 2) the workload that the processes handle. Scalability is crucial in large enterprises where the number of processes and workload volumes are already extremely large and rapidly growing.
  4. Business perspective. It’s time to no longer think in terms of IT jobs. You should approach scheduling from a business perspective — providing a single, holistic and comprehensive view of business services. This view must encompass the relationships of the overall business service to both the underlying IT services and infrastructure components that support it. It’s also important to assign, monitor and manage service levels from a business service perspective that spans multiple IT services and infrastructure components. This business perspective is known as business service management (BSM), a comprehensive approach and unified platform for running IT that reduces cost and maximizes business impact. 
  5. Service-oriented architecture. SOA)\ is here to stay because of the many advantages it offers in streamlining application development. That means you must be prepared to support scheduling in SOA environments. At a minimum, you must support Web services, which is the predominant SOA approach today. 

What’s the Payoff?

As many companies have already discovered, IT workload automation delivers quantifiable business benefits.

  • A telecommunications company realized a 30 percent savings on elapsed times for billing runs, a 75 percent reduction in headcount and a 5 percent aggregated CPU resource savings.
  • A government agency achieved a 60 percent savings in staff, a three-hour savings in elapsed run times, significant reduction in run-time errors, and 100 percent compliance with mission-critical service level agreements.
  • An energy provider completely automated workload elements and integrated SAP-scheduled processes with the production batch environment, which enabled the provider to reduce the job scheduling staff by 25 percent and save nearly four hours daily for SAP basis administrators. 

The bottom line is that a holistic approach to IT workload automation eliminates the traffic jams that interfere with the completion of critical IT workloads. Such an approach takes your business to a whole new level of automation. The benefits include lower costs, better service, increased agility, tighter integration with the business, and compliance with internal policies and external regulations. 

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