Product Reviews

Job-Scheduling Utilities: Advanced Systems Concepts ActiveBatch 3

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

Advanced Systems Concepts Incorporated appears to be smart in everything it does, from its Web site, customer care and products to its evaluation program. I was thoroughly impressed with the reviewer's guide for ActiveBatch and the pre-sales support as well as the download, setup and operation of the product. The company holds partnership affiliations with Microsoft, Compaq, Affinity, HP and Sun.

Pros: Well thought out and easy to use, even though it's enterprise-class.
Cons:
Software's price will prevent most administrators from purchasing it.

ActiveBatch uses a three-tier methodology—a notion which increases scalability, but adds complexity to the system. There's a client component that you have to install on the client computers, a job scheduler and an execution agent. Execution agents can reside on Windows, Unix or Open VMS computers (in the ActiveBatch Cross Platform Enterprise Edition only). The job scheduler and clients live only on Windows NT or Windows 2000 computers. The software is available in a variety of editions that can cover the range from large cross-platform enterprise environments to small shops with only one computer that will be running jobs. One execution agent comes with the software; additional agents are available in specially priced multiple packs.

The software installation went quickly and provided four different ways of accessing the client interface: MMC, ActiveBatch Admin program, command line interface or the ability program jobs through COM objects. On a Windows XP computer, I had trouble accessing the MMC shortcut and actually had to launch the MMC program then surf around for the ActiveBatch.MSC file, but it loaded without any problems.

Advanced Systems Concepts ActiveBatch
The dedicated ActiveBatch program. (Click image to view larger version.)

The idea behind ActiveBatch is that you install the software on the computers participating in the scheduling environment then set up a queue from which you schedule your jobs. ActiveBatch uses a virtual machine paradigm, allowing the software to add additional "machines" to the overall system, irregardless of the physical machines present. This makes ActiveBatch highly scalable. By having an MMC-like console available in which you define one or more ActiveBatch physical computers, you can create a solid batch infrastructure in which to create and launch your jobs plus offload some of ActiveBatch's operation to different boxes. This kind of scalability and flexibility might make the software a little bit more difficult to learn to manage, but overall I'd say it's worth the effort.

Pricing for ActiveBatch is moderate: A typical 10-server installation costs around $5,000. ASCI charges 20 percent for support, thus bringing the costs of an average installation to $6,000. Also there is a version upgrade plan in which your software's version level is guaranteed for a specified period without incurring costs later on. For ten servers, the version upgrade plan is $2,500.

In my testing, I simply right-clicked the queue I'd created (through the help of a first-time configuration wizard) and selected New Job Wizard from the context menu. The ActiveBatch New Job Wizard guided me easily through the steps to create my job, set up its schedule and launch it with a success notification through e-mail. The job ran perfectly and quickly.

ActiveBatch keeps track of the jobs you've run in its Runbook, allowing you to keep comprehensive information about jobs that have run, are running and are scheduled to run, as well as each job's status. The look and feel is similar to that of Outlook Today, so any admin who's worked with Outlook should feel fairly comfortable in the ActiveBatch Admin environment.

The ActiveBatch demo that I ran utilized a proprietary database, but if you purchase ActiveBatch it will come with a SQL 2000 database from Pervasive as well as allow you to use your own ODBC drivers to connect to an in-house database.

About the Author

Bill Heldman www.billheldman.com 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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