ESI gets onto new schedule with software deployment

With technology budgets tightening, companies are looking to get more value out of their IT infrastructures. Toronto’s Exchange Solutions Inc. (ESI) is no exception, and it turned to job scheduling software from UC4 Software Inc. to help it meet the challenge.

As a business process outsourcing firm, ESI’s chief architect Mark Baughman explained that the company designs and develops applications for clients that ESI also hosts and runs in its data centre. ESI’s business is changing, though, as the company goes after more international opportunities and the needs and expectations of its clients evolve.

That’s also making for changes on the hardware side. While traditionally each client had its own dedicated hardware in ESI’s data centre, today more of a shared services model is evolving, with back-office computing resources shared among clients to generate cost savings and to make more efficient use of the resources.

A big part of ESI’s business is receiving batch information from clients and processing that information. Baughman said ESI was processing the information as it came in, which wasn’t very efficient or compatible with its evolving business model.

The company’s existing solution for process scheduling, which Baughman said had been operational for eight years, was a Unix-based collection of custom programs and scripts that monitored the file system for the arrival of new files from clients, triggering ESI’s background processing to load and process the data.

“One of the key things for us internally was the knowledge and support effort to maintain the existing solution as we brought up new instances of applications, as well as limitations in capabilities,” said Baughman.

He added that another limitation was the current system was working in reactive mode, processing the batch workload as it arrived.

“We really needed to better manage our computing processes, and manage when jobs run in a distributed environment from a centrally managed facility,” said Baughman.

ESI purchased job scheduling and automation software from Broomfield, Colo.-based UC4 Software in the fall, specifically for a new solution negotiation platform designed by ESI that is going live with one client in May. Baughman said this will be a test case, and if successful the UC4 tool will be rolled out further across ESI’s hosted application portfolio.

“Our intention is to go through the learning curve,” said Baughman. “[UC4] is our strategy for batch job scheduling going forward, and we will continue to leverage it for new solutions as well as plan a migration strategy for our existing customers.”

Mark Loehr, chief operations officer for UC4 Software, said the firm’s job scheduling software is designed to work on a range of platforms, from Solaris to Microsoft, as well as with a variety of applications, from SAP and PeopleSoft to Oracle. The idea is to tie all job scheduling across the application infrastructure together through one common, enterprise-wide interface.

“A lot of those applications have their own internal scheduler but a lot of times [companies] have other scheduling needs than just running their People-Soft jobs,” said Loehr. “They need to run backups, maybe with Veritas or Legato, or maybe it’s a homegrown application, and they want to manage it all from one central point.”

With some applications, such as Siebel, Cognos, and HP’s OpenView, UC4 interfaces with the existing scheduler. With others it will replace the internal process, and Loehr said many applications don’t have a process scheduler to begin with, in which case UC4 acts as the scheduler.

“Some of them have their own job scheduling software, but what we specialize in is really enterprise job scheduling, bringing in all of those pieces that have been acquired in the data centre over the years to one central view of automating these processes,” said Loehr.

That’s important because, increasingly, applications don’t exist in isolation within the enterprise application infrastructure, said Loehr. After a batch of data is processed in one application, another app from another firm may be triggered for backup, for example.

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