Stonebranch Bolsters i OS Support in Workload Automation Tools
August 19, 2009 Alex Woodie
Stonebranch recently announced updated releases of its workload automation software that feature better support for IBM i OS environments. With the version 3.2 releases of Infitran, its managed file transfer product, and Indesca, its collection of job scheduling agents, Stonebranch is giving customers the capability to manage all workload automation tasks from the comfort of their system of record–the System i.
If you’re not familiar with Stonebranch, you’re not alone. The company has maintained a relatively low-profile, at least from a System i perspective, since it was founded in 1999 by three former executives of German software developer Beta Systems Software, including Stonebranch CEO Wolfgang Bothe, executive vice president Gert Adolphsen, and CTO Nathan Hammond.
From its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Stonebranch’s three founders–a German, a Dane, and an American, as it were–concentrated on developing a next-generation, cross-platform workload management tool suite. The company often claims its software provides a centralized view of an organization’s dispersed workload management activities, while maintaining fault tolerance and full audit trails. So, what does that mean?
In the real world, the software is commonly used to ensure the delivery of daily executive reports from a mainframe or midrange system to numerous destinations. Other uses include managing bulk transfers of data into data warehouses, or moving data to a backup or archival system.
Basically, the software finds a use whenever a big file transfer is important enough that it really shouldn’t fail (perhaps for regulatory measures), and it involves multiple jobs spanning enough servers or systems to become a complicated mess to try and do it manually or through scripts (50 geographically dispersed servers is a good rule of thumb).
With the company’s 10-year anniversary celebration in full swing, a customer base approaching 500, and a solid 30 percent annual growth rate, Stonebranch ownership decided to take advantage of the recession and start beating the marketing drum for Indesca and Infitran a little louder, particularly in the North American market, which the company views as ripe for workload automation software.
One of the new American evangelists for Stonebranch is Jon Gatrell, who recently left an 11-year career at Inovis to join the young software company. As the vice president of product management, Gatrell will be relied upon to get the Stonebranch solutions in front of a wider audience.
While the marketing side of the house is getting louder, that doesn’t mean Stonebranch has lost site of the engineering and product development. Approximately 80 percent of Stonebranch’s customers are AS/400 shops. The server may not be central to all of them, but it’s undoubtedly the platform of record for a good percentage of them.
Stonebranch’s midrange customers told the company they wanted to be able to use all of Indesca and Infitran capabilities on the i OS server. And that’s what Stonebranch delivered last month.
“Basically we brought out some more capacities on this platform around event management and monitoring that previously we only supported on other platforms,” Gatrell says. “We did port new capabilities to the i OS because our customers asked for it, and really we’re seeing an uptick in some i interest, which is a great thing.”
Previously, the i OS functionality of Indesca and Infitran was akin to one of the “agent” platforms that Stonebranch supports. In other words, a Stonebranch user could start jobs and move data to and from the System i using Stonebranch’s C-based software, but they couldn’t manage all of this activity (in addition to the file transfer and job scheduling activities on other platforms) from the comfort of their System i server. Users could only manage the whole kit and caboodle from a Windows machine or a zSeries mainframe.
With the version 3.2 releases of Indesca and Infitran, the System i can now function as the master controller for cross-platform workload automation, just like Windows and mainframe.
Specifically, the new release introduces capabilities around re-try and re-start for Infitran, and event monitoring for Indesca. “So you have both fault tolerance in your communications across cross platforms, and better management on i around that visibility,” Gatrell says. “We really kind of brought microscopic event management of your job, as well as your data movements across the data center or data centers.”
It’s worth noting that, while Stonebranch positions Indesca as a job scheduling solution, it’s not a job scheduler per se. Instead, the software is often deployed on top of existing job schedulers, such as the Java-based job scheduler from UC4 or Cron, the time-based job scheduler for Unix and Linux.
“Ultimately what we’ve done is provide more or less an interface to the native scheduling capabilities on each platform, so you can manage [all workload activities] from a single platform,” Gatrell says. On the System i, Stonebranch’s software will work with i OS’s native job scheduling capabilities, as well as third-party job schedulers from Help/Systems, Halcyon Software, and others.
Indesca and Infitran can be purchased and deployed together or separately. Pricing depends on the number of servers involved and the number of agents. An entry-level solution involving both products starts in the $40,000 to $75,000 range. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.stonebranch.com.
This article has been corrected. Stonebranch’s workload automation software for i OS is written in C, not RPG. IT Jungle regrets the error.