Product Reviews

Job Scheduling Utilities: Online ToolWorks SmartBatch32

These three packages let you automate tasks you need to accomplish daily.

This company out of Portland, Oregon is one whose operation revolves around a single flagship product: SmartBatch32 and its peripheral components such as SmartApplets, as well as service offerings. I like this "silo" method of doing business because it means that the company has to live or die by its product offerings.

Pros: Easy to install, configure and begin using.
The need to reboot after installation—what's up with that?

There are two editions of SmartBatch32: Standard edition for shops with one or two servers, and Enterprise edition for larger installations. SmartBatch32 is in its basic architecture somewhat similar to ActiveBatch, in the sense that various jobs can be controlled from a central server (in the Enterprise edition). However that is where the similarity ends. SmartBatch32 is intended for Windows-only installations and can't play in the sandbox with Unix (though you could certainly write scripts that somehow integrate with Unix systems, through, say FTP, Samba or NFS, and then run the scripts through SmartBatch32).

The SmartBatch32 installation was quick and easy; I liked the installation GUI very much. The installation installs one service called SmartBatch32. One irritation factor is the need for a reboot after installation. SmartBatch32 requires a database and can talk to any ODBC-compliant database.

The figure shows the SmartBatch32 screen as I'm creating a new test job. The interface is intuitive and easy to set up. All of the toolbar icons include pop-up tips to show you what they do. I did run into a little snafu in that I didn't know how to save the batch job—I didn't think that operation was as intuitive as it should be (there should be a simple Save button). After getting the job loaded into the Operations folder I simply right-clicked it, clicked Execute and the job ran beautifully.

Online ToolWorks SmartBatch32
The SmartBatch32 Operations area provides a structured view of your jobs.

The most impressive thing about SmartBatch32 is its clear delineation of the job scheduling methodology right in the interface. You can see from looking at Figure 2 that the main area where you'll create and keep the jobs that you're going to run is called Operations. From there you can introduce as much detail as you'd like: a series of steps makes up a particular operation; jobs are comprised of a series of steps; dependencies and so forth. You can think of SmartBatch32 as a repository for various scripts, executables and other kinds of programs around that enterprise that you need to run on a routine basis.

The online tutorial is well written and the SmartBatch32 program is fast fast fast!

Additional Information

When I asked OnLineToolWorks' rep, Jeff Braunstein, about whether the product supported multiprocessing and clustering, I got this technical and unique answer from him, which I thought I'd share with you:

  • You can safely install on a computer that supports more than one processor.
  • SmartBatch32 does not provide direct cluster (Wolfpack type cluster) support. It does support several recovery modes when a schedule on the Schedule Update Window's Advanced tab. The SmartBatch32 Executive Server needs to know what it should do with an out-of-date schedule when it has been stopped and then restarted. What I mean by out-of-date is that some schedule could not be processed because the Executive Server was down or went down during the processing of some object. So there are three options:
    • Set out-of-date objects to Pending: requires operator intervention to delete or resume the object in the Status window.
    • Start pending objects immediately: when the Executive Server restarts it will automatically restart objects assigned to this schedule.
    • Removing pending objects and reschedule: removes the object from the Status window and reschedules the object for its next run date/time.
  • In a cluster environment the SmartBatch32 Service will get restarted when the backup node of the cluster takes over. SmartBatch32 (i.e., the Executive Server) will examine the schedules and the options described above and process accordingly.

SmartBatch32 costs $595 for the Standard Edition on a single computer and $1195 for the Enterprise Edition plus $495 for each remote agent that is going to participate in the job scheduling environment. In the Enterprise Edition you can stipulate which computer(s) the Operation runs on. You can manage multiple databases from the SmartBatch32 admin console.

About the Author

Bill Heldman is an instructor at Warren Tech, a career and technical education high-school in Lakewood, Colorado. He is a contributor to Redmond, MCP Magazine and several other Windows magazines, plus several books for Sybex, including CompTIA IT Project+ Study Guide.


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