UC4 Extends Job Scheduler to SaaS and Cloud Apps
February 9, 2010 Alex Woodie
One of the challenges facing enterprise computing architects is how to manage and coordinate an IT infrastructure that spreads from the organization’s data center to one or more software as a service (SaaS) or cloud computing providers. For job scheduling software developer UC4 Software, which recently announced its UC4 Agent for Web Services, the answer is found through the magic of Web services and service oriented architecture (SOA).
UC4’s job scheduling software helps to manage applications running across a wide range of operating systems, including IBM i/OS, z/OS, Unix, Windows, Linux, MPE, BS2000, OpenVMS, and many other “legacy” platforms. The software, which runs on standard X64 platforms, allows job schedules to be set according to time or events, such as changes to data, resource thresholds, message queues, or database triggers. More than 40 of UC4’s 1,700 customers use the job scheduler with i/OS servers, UC4 says.
UC4 took a big step toward alleviating complexity in heterogeneous IT infrastructures with the launch of Workload Automation Suite version 8 in April 2009. When working with version 8, the goal is that all administrators need to know is what applications they have and how they fit into overall business processes, and the UC4 software handles the dirty grunt work of actually connecting the bits together.
Later in 2009, the company launched an agent for VMware that allows virtualized server resources to be automatically re-allocated based on application demand. It also bought a company called Senactive that developed software designed to help IT shops predictably manage and optimize their resource allocation and process flows, and gained certifications from SAP and Oracle for its ERP-specific job scheduling agents.
That brings us to this January’s launch of the UC4 Agent for Web Services, which is designed to allow Workload Automation version 8 users to manage and control jobs running on the servers of SaaS and cloud application providers. The Web Services agent works with any SaaS vendor that offers an API written in either Web Services Description Language (WSDL) or Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), or handled via XML documents.
The agent is expected to give UC4 customers that rely on SaaS or cloud computing providers the same level of time and event-based job scheduling automation and predictive workload modeling for their SaaS and cloud apps as UC4 provides for their on-premise applications, says Matt Busch, product marketing executive for UC4.
“This provides our customers the ability to go out there and work with those Web services APIs to continue automation, so that they can still get the same cost benefits, the error reduction, the service level management, the reliability, and the auditability of the processing, without having to rely on human intervention, which always introduces the potential for human error,” Busch says. “I don’t think our customers are going to be interested in taking a step backward and opening these [SaaS and cloud apps] up to manual processing, and having to do the manual coordination through telephone calls and e-mail.”
One of UC4’s beta testers for the new Web services agent is using the software to help automate workloads spanning its on-premise applications and Salesforce.com, the popular SaaS CRM software provider. The customer, a large media company that UC4 did not have permission to name, needs to ensure that the latest data from its on-premise invoicing and order entry systems is synchronized with its cloud-based CRM system. While UC4’s software does not provide data synchronization itself, it does control and automate the applications that do.
The one caveat to the Web Services Agent is that it requires the SaaS application vendor or cloud provider to expose a suitable API that works within the SOA construct. Salesforce.com, as one of the largest SaaS vendors–if not the largest–does expose the necessary logic via WSDL, SOAP, and XML. But UC4 could not name another SaaS or cloud vendor that its agent would work with.
There’s no doubt that the flexibility inherent in the SaaS and cloud model is going to drive growth in this method of computing. However, until the manageability and controllability gaps are addressed–for example, there is no standard API for automating cloud-to-on-premise workflows–enterprises will be hesitant to take full advantage of the new cloud models.
It’s going to take some time to hash it all out, says Fred Kohout, UC4’s chief marketing officer. “We believe customers are going to adopt hybrid computing environments. They’ll have physical, virtual, and cloud,” he says. “We understand that none of these adoption curves are light switches. It takes time. But eventually every customer will end up with this hybrid environment. So we’re comprehending and building out what those clients will need to automate across those three environments.”
UC4’s Web Services Agent is available now. Pricing for the agent starts at $20,000. For more information, visit www.uc4.com.