Job-Scheduling Utilities: Advanced Systems Concepts ActiveBatch 3
These three packages let you automate tasks you need to accomplish daily.
- By Bill Heldman
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.
| 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
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.
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.