Getting Your Batch Up to Scratch

by Alan Smith, SVP, UC4

Most existing organisations rely heavily on batch processing to support their existing applications, in fact, over 50 per cent of current application processing is batch.

Often these processes have been in place for years and are not well documented, and the knowledge owner may have moved on. However, batch processing is not going away any time soon. The efficiencies of batch processing, even in the light of the "real time enterprise", cannot be discarded or ignored. Given the importance of batch processing and the current state of the economy, now is the perfect time to improve your current batch processing mechanisms to drive new efficiencies that can translate into lower TCO and increased ROI of applications.

Most IT staff already have a mental image of "job scheduling" and many people only consider batch processing for those processes that run on very regular date and time based schedules. Enter workload automation, which is the modern, state-of-the-art descendent of traditional job schedulers. Embracing newer concepts such as object orientation, dynamic event processing, and service orientation, modern workload automation products allow organisations to expand their scope beyond simple date and time scheduling. Organisations can therefore target a much wider range of jobs and processes for automation and control. For example, workload automation can control a business process that involves application jobs from multiple applications mixed with BPEL processing. Or, workload automation can be used to leverage SOA for business processing and combine dynamic control of virtualised environments with the ongoing business processing.

In many organisations, the batch processing function is not centralised. Redundant effort is spent managing processing for various applications across multiple operating systems. Large-scale applications and operating systems have their own schedulers that require expertise and effort to manage. This leaves organisations without a "single pane of glass" through which to monitor and manage processing across their enterprise landscape of various operating systems, physical and virtual servers, and applications. Organisations should look to consolidate on a single workload automation product or architecture that also provides very tight integration into their enterprise applications.

Integration between a workload automation tool and applications is more than just the ability of the tool to execute application jobs. In order to best integrate with applications, your workload automation product needs to have the following abilities.

Manual processes are slow, error-prone, and can sabotage compliance efforts. Eliminate them with automation. The manual processes to be targeted should not just include those that have a time- or date-based component, but should include any process that requires intervention, even processes that potentially fall under a "workflow" designation. Organisations can survey end users for the processes they least like performing. Workload automation provides wider coverage so each step of the manual process can be transformed into a "job" which can be strung together into a unified, automated business process.

One critical capability of a workload automation tool is the ability to pay attention to all events that occur within the organisation.

The ability to react to events is a strong tool for the automation of manual processes because the same cues that an end user might look for to determine if or when they should manually perform a process can be detected and used by the workload automation tool to automate the same process. This detection of events is typically much quicker and less error-prone than a human can ever be.

Events expand the scope of automation well beyond the "scheduling" time-based mindset. A centralised workload automation tool can detect and take advantage of events that occur across a variety of disparate servers and applications to drive and control automated processing. Events, therefore, become a kind of "glue" that can connect disparate, previously thought of as unconnected processes together into a more cohesive automated whole.

For too long batch has been neglected by IT Managers and the potential to gain business efficiencies by automation have been carelessly overlooked. With the recession cutting deep into the pockets of staff, getting the most of out IT systems is a top priority and staff looking to cut costs will be sure to get their batch up to scratch to achieve this.

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