Job Schedulers and Workload Automation solutions were designed for different goals, but they’re closely related, and when combined into a single platform can provide powerful orchestration from a single point of control.
What is Job Scheduling?
Job scheduling tools enable IT to automate the execution of tasks based on date-and-time scheduling or other methods of execution such as event-based triggers. Job scheduling tools eliminate the need for manual kick-offs, reducing delays and giving IT more time to spend on higher-value projects.
Traditional job scheduling tools were developed to automate batch jobs that ran on homogeneous mainframes from vendors like IBM and Oracle. This legacy continues today, with native job schedulers being used to automate tasks for specific applications or platforms (for example, Windows Task Scheduler).However, the number of disparate tools and operating systems used by IT teams has grown in recent decades, with many IT teams managing complex, hybrid-cloud environments. In response to this, modern job scheduling vendors provide prebuilt integrations with numerous applications and systems to support the orchestration of cross-platform batch processing -which is where the relation to workload automation begins.
What is Workload Automation?
Workload automation (WLA) solutions are used to manage data and dependencies across disparate tools such as managed file transfers/ETL tools, business process applications, enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, BI platforms, and more.
WLA solutions often provide universal connectors and/or powerful REST API adapters that make it possible to integrate virtually any tool into an end-to-end process, without the need for custom scripts.
In Gartner’s Market Guide for Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms, industry analysts note that service orchestration and automation platforms “do not represent a new market, rather a transformation of a mature market for workload automation tools that aim to manage and automate a complete business process.”
Enterprise workload automation solutions designed for process orchestration can include a range of capabilities that simplify IT automation. Capabilities can include:
- Workload management
- Monitoring and alerting
- Service level agreement (SLA) management
- Process mapping
- Change management
- Resource provisioning
- And more
These capabilities, when paired with REST API adapters, give IT a single point of control from which to streamline real-time data processes and simplify regulatory compliance across automated environments.
Powerful Job Scheduling With Workload Automation
Workload automation (WLA) solutions support job scheduling, but most job schedulers do not support workload automation. For example, WLA includes load balancing to make sure resources have enough CPUs to complete jobs -job scheduling tools often do not.
Additionally, WLA solutions support event-based automation, job constraints, and variables to pass data to downstream scheduled jobs.
As IT environments become increasingly complex, and as the need for rapid integrations and real-time data grows, the basic capabilities of traditional job schedulers (and other point solutions such as cron jobs or custom scripts) are no longer sufficient to meet business needs. As a result, IT teams are implementing WLA solutions to automate, monitor, and orchestrate cross-platform processes without having to rely on custom scripts or multiple scheduling solutions.
For example, SThree, a leading international staffing company, once relied on Windows Task Scheduler as their sole automation tool, until the company’s global expansion made for an increasingly complex IT environment. This prompted calls for workload automation and enterprise scheduling software to automate their manual, script-driven processes and manage dependencies between diverse business applications, with flexible scheduling options that could orchestrate workloads across time-zones.
(You can read more about SThree’s case study to see how the IT team automated its manual provisioning requests.)
Trends in Workload Automation
Customer expectations are rapidly changing. In order to stay ahead, IT teams must be able to rapidly integrate and capitalize on new technologies.
The move towards workload automation and away from traditional job schedulers is a direct result of these larger market trends. The need for simplistic task automation, completed in homogeneous silos, has given way to complex business and IT processes that have to be orchestrated across hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
For this reason, industry analysts expect basic IT process automation to evolve into broader automation strategies that centralize the control of automation across silos.
From Gartner Predicts 2020: “[IT’s] traditional approach to managing complexity via siloed tooling and expertise is insufficient for optimizing the digital experience and the application workloads that enable that experience.”
This becomes especially important in the areas of DevOps and big data/Hadoop automation as businesses rely on real-time data management in order to optimize customer experiences and make faster business decisions.
Managing resources across virtual and cloud environments has also become an issue for many IT operations teams as cloud costs can quickly spiral out of control.
In order to better meet these needs, Gartner has identified a trend toward IT automation platforms that unify workload and infrastructure automation.
“By 2022, 20% of enterprises will use hybrid digital infrastructure management (HDIM) tools to optimize workload placement across on-premises, cloud and edge environments.”– Gartner Predicts 2020
These HDIM tools include business process automation and workload automation tools that can readily integrate with virtually all applications, systems, and technologies, allowing IT to orchestrate processes and resources across the data center, IT infrastructure, and business systems.
As new technologies and the need for data-driven solutions accelerate the pace of digital transformation, organizations will continue to move toward workload automation solutions that centralize and coordinate the automation of enterprise applications.
Workload Automation Software Capabilities
There are a number of workload automation solutions out there. But what key capabilities should you be on the lookout for? Below, we’ll take a look at ActiveBatch which offers one of the more complete suites of capabilities available on the market.
Drag-and-Drop Workflow Designer
ActiveBatch includes hundreds of prebuilt integrations for commonly scripted actions that users can assemble into end-to-end workflows, making it easier to manage dependencies between technologies and applications. There are also integrations for third-party applications, databases, and platforms, plus, a web services API and powerful REST API adapter. Basically, virtually any tool or technology can be integrated.
Flexible Date/Time Scheduling
ActiveBatch incorporates granular date and time scheduling (calendars, fiscal year dates, time zones, custom tags, etc.), and supports scheduling workflows based on the custom business day..
IT needs to provision virtual/cloud machines on the fly in order to meet dynamic workload demands in real-time. To do this, ActiveBatch analyzes historical and real-time data to anticipate resource demands, intelligently distributing workloads to minimize slack time and reduce idle machine resources.
Monitoring and Alerting
ActiveBatch supports dozens of customizable alerts that notify appropriate parties or systems when a specified condition has been raised within a workflow.
There is also support for monitoring and alerting for workflows tied to SLAs or business policies. Users can set warning and critical thresholds (based on absolute and relative deadlines) and establish customized Alert notifications and automated remediation actions for an impending SLA breach.
Self-Service Business Automation
Some workload automation solutions, including ActiveBatch, provide a user-friendly, web-based application that allows help desk and business teams to execute daily and ad hoc processes. IT sets up the environment and empowers various business units to run and monitor specific jobs and plans based upon departmental or individual requirements. This allows business users to run and monitor processes as needed, such as provisioning virtual machines or producing end-of-day reports, without waiting for IT.
Business is changing. Technology is changing. IT is changing.
Integrate, automate, and orchestrate faster with a unified workload automation platform for the enterprise.