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EMA Impact Brief: Skybot Scheduler 3.0
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This brief was written by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), an industry analyst firm specializing in IT and data management technologies.
On July 10, 2012, Eden Prairie, Minnesota based Skybot Software released version 3.0 of its Skybot Scheduler Workload Automation (WLA) software. The release of Skybot Scheduler 3.0 comes only a few months after the February launch of Skybot 2.5 and demonstrates the company’s commitment to offering a simple and easy-to-use, enterprise-grade workload automation platform.
Skybot Software was founded in 2010 by Help/Systems, the makers of Robot, a leading suite of operations software for IBM Power Systems servers. Skybot Scheduler is a workload automation platform for distributed environments, running Windows, UNIX, and Linux servers, and was designed to eliminate the complexity and heavy upfront investment necessary for the implementation of traditional workload automation solutions. Offering a job scheduler that can be rapidly implemented, with a minimum need for professional services and training, can be seen as Skybot’s key strength. Cron and Windows Task Scheduler jobs can be imported or managed through a browser-based interface. Skybot offers most of the dynamic job triggers – file arrival, SNMP traps, calendars, email events, external applications – required to run even complex job flows and provides robust forecasting, monitoring, agent grouping, multi time zone support, and job stream auditing.
What’s New in Version 3.0
In version 3.0, Skybot offers three new vital enterprise-grade features. Each one of these features adds tremendous value to Skybot Scheduler, turning the software into a true alternative to the much larger and more costly workload automation platforms.
- Job Suites provide the ability to group together multiple jobs as a single process, enabling users to manage the entire job suite as one entity. Therefore, job suites can save significant maintenance effort, as they facilitate the central administration of multiple jobs. Jobs can be reused across multiple suites, while being centrally managed, and allow for the same triggers as individual jobs.
Business impact: From a business perspective, Skybot Job Suites help reduce workflow complexity, allowing the organization to wrap a standardized interdependent set of jobs into a single entity that can then be reused across the organization. Standardizing job workflows and making them easier to manage helps eliminate errors and saves administration time on a daily basis.
- High Availability: Skybot Scheduler now offers a High Availability (HA) setup, where the PostgreSQL backend database is replicated in real time to a standby server via streaming replication. In case of disaster, the administrator turns the standby server into the master. As soon as the new master is online, all agents will fail over automatically and workload execution is resumed.
Business impact: Skybot’s new HA capabilities are essential when it comes to trusting Skybot Scheduler 3.0 with mission-critical scheduling tasks. EMA applauds Skybot’s recommendation to “rotate” the production environment between master and standby server every quarter, as HA capabilities must be constantly verified.
- LDAP1/Active Directory2 (AD) Support: Skybot Scheduler 3.0 now supports LDAP and Microsoft’s Active Directory (AD) authentication protocols. LDAP and AD groups are mapped to Skybot user roles, enabling the organization to manage users and user groups via a central identity management tool.
Business impact: Managing users and user groups from a single location outside the workload automation platform increases operational security and audit compliance, while decreasing administrative effort. LDAP/AD support can therefore be regarded as a “must have” feature for any enterprise-grade workload automation software.
Following the "80-20 rule," the appeal of Skybot Scheduler lies in the fact that the software offers about 80% of the features that can be found in much higher-priced platforms at roughly 20% of the cost.
Main Improvements of Version 2.5
The most notable feature additions of Skybot Scheduler v2.5, which was released in May 2012, were advanced workload lifecycle management capabilities, as well as numerous improvements to the user interface and job flow designer. Skybot’s lifecycle management solution facilitates the easy export of jobs and scheduling objects from a test to a staging or production environment. To simplify the process, Skybot offers the ability to map agents between test, staging, or production environments to ensure immediate operation within the target environment without the need for manual adjustments. The lifecycle management solution also doubles as a migration tool, allowing the administrator to import third-party job definitions.
User interface improvements in Skybot Scheduler v2.5 have reduced the number of clicks necessary to perform common tasks, such as assigning event monitors to agents or displaying the jobs assigned to an agent group. Since v2.5, the job flow designer supports conditions that have to be met for scheduled jobs to run, advanced filtering capabilities to find specific jobs, and the ability to search 168 hours of job history.
Workload automation is probably the oldest discipline in the data center, traditionally operated by highly specialized engineers. Most organizations do not have documentation or even a clear understanding of the numerous cron and Windows tasks their business-critical applications depend upon. When scripts do not complete as expected, the administrator has to manually debug the problem, while these critical applications are offline or only partially functioning. In today’s SLA-driven data center, manually managing workloads seems archaic.
Many organizations have addressed this issue by adopting one of the standard workload automation solutions by established vendors such as CA Technologies, BMC, IBM, ASG Software, or Cisco Systems. While these solutions often provide excellent value if all of their capabilities are utilized, often customers simply do not need the expansive feature sets they are paying for on an ongoing basis. Why pay for a high-end solution, when all that is needed is a robust and easy-to-use enterprise scheduler to replace the current ill-documented and insufficiently monitored maze of hand-written automation scripts?
This is where Skybot Scheduler 3.0 comes in, offering a robust enterprise scheduling solution at a much lower cost compared to the much larger solutions. The three new key features of version 3.0 – job suites, high availability, and LDAP/AD integration – are evidence of Skybot’s commitment to rapidly turning its scheduler into a true alternative for customers interested in an easy-to-use and robust low-cost solution.
The trends identified during the 2012 EMA Radar for Workload Automation demonstrate the validity of Skybot’s approach. Lifecycle management, ease-of-use, SLA-awareness, and central control of jobs across the enterprise are all included in Skybot Scheduler 3.0, making the software a true contender in the workload automation marketplace.1 Lightweight Directory Access Protocol is used for managing distributed user directories through an IP network. 2 Active Directory is Microsoft’s implementation of LDAP that the company created for Windows domain networks.
Founded in 1996, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) is a leading industry analyst firm that provides deep insight across the full spectrum of IT and data management technologies. EMA analysts leverage a unique combination of practical experience, insight into industry best practices, and in-depth knowledge of current and planned vendor solutions to help its clients achieve their goals. Learn more about EMA research, analysis, and consulting services for enterprise line of business users, IT professionals and IT vendors at www.enterprisemanagement.com or blogs.enterprisemanagement.com.
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