ActiveBatch Review

Makes the environmental passback of an SDLC process seamless

What is our primary use case?

We use it for a variety of different tasks, most of which are related to data management tasks, such as scheduling, processes related to updating business intelligence reporting, or general data management stuff. It's also used for some low level file transfers and mergers in some cases. 

We use the solution for execution on hybrid machines, across on-prem, and cloud systems. We have code that it is executed on a cloud environment, various Windows and Unix servers.

We are on version 11, moving to version 12 later this year.

How has it helped my organization?

We found that the solution created simplicity for us with our workflows and process automation. It gives me the folder and job name, then I'm done. I don't have to remember a plethora of things and that makes life a lot easier. Once you get it setup and have it configured, you don't have to remember it anymore. It allows you to focus on doing the right thing. 

I find it super flexible. Every time that I ask if the solution can do something, they say, "Yes." I have not been able to come up with a challenge so far that they have not been able to do.

It definitely allows the ability to develop the workflow. It has reduced the amount of coding. Some groups don't pay attention to that, as they are very much an old school group. I am trying to get people to do things differently, but that's just changing habits.

One process may at some point time run across five different servers in parellel before coming back to a final point of finishing. They built that in, where it say, "Every time we do certain things, execute this package." All I have to do is drag that package into the master package and master plan. It's very modular. 

All our workflows are efficient. This solution allows for tighter integrations across environments where you don't necessarily want developers cross pollinating each others' code. It's more or less about securing code. I have people who are experts in doing PowerCenter. They don't have any idea what they're doing in other solutions. You don't want them accidentally editing the wrong code. Therefore, it helps keep related things isolated, but allows them to communicate.

For code maintenance, it's really simplified it. For things that are coded, like day-to-day Unix or Windows level batch type jobs, this means I don't have to rewrite the code and I can easily migrate it from the environment. I can do this by leveraging variables and naming practices. I can basically develop code, do development, migrate it through our four environments, and not made changes to the code at all. It makes the environmental passback of an SDLC process seamless.

What is most valuable?

One of the great features that they have implemented is called Job Steps. It is a much more mechanical way to control processes. It allows us to connect to external providers. For example, we were a big Informatica shop. The development time to create a job that can execute a task or workflow (once you have the initial baseline set up) takes you about a minute to say, "I created this new job in Informatica. I have created an equivalent job to run the batch, then about a minute later, it was done." It improves the development time to market and getting things done.

What ActiveBatch allows you to do is develop a more efficient process. It gave me visibility into all my jobs so I could choose which jobs to run in parallel. This is much easier than when I have to try to do it through cron for Windows XP, where you really can't do things in parallel and know what is going on.

Improvement in workflow completion times has to do with optimization. The ability to do true parallel submittal of jobs, then be able to pay attention to the status of those job simultaneously to know when they are done, that is what creates the optimization.

The solution provides us with a single pane of glass for end-to-end visibility of workflows. It has a very broad, deep scale vision of what's going on. You can go down to an individual job level or see across the whole system and different groups. Because we roll out by project area, each project has their own root group folder that they use to manage their routines. We don't have a master operational group yet that is managing it. Therefore, each of group does its own operational support for it. However, if I look at things in it, there are a lot of shared things that we have put in there. If a machine is taking too long, I can go focus on that. E.g., why is it taking so long? Then, I can let people know that we have a particular routine that is running poorly.

What needs improvement?

I can't get the cleaning up of logs to work consistently. Right now, we are not setup correctly, and maybe it is something that I have not effectively communicated to them. This has been my challenge.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution since 2007: 13 years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is rock solid. The four failures that we have had are related to issues we've done to our server or environment. Mostly, they are self-inflicted failures. There was a bit of cross pollination for what we were doing with security procedures where we experienced interruption. ActiveBatch hadn't updated itself directly to handle that situation.

We use the solution’s API extensibility. It has helped with the stability. It allows us to know when a job fails. If there's a problem connecting to a server or a job fails because something has gone wrong with a server, then we know very quickly. 

Four people are needed for development and maintenance of this solution. I am the primary admin but I don't support the solution on a day-to-day basis. I have a secondary gentleman, who like me, is also an admin. There are two others who primarily deal with the database. There's not a lot to it, except for the log stuff. When it comes to individual job failures, that's not our domain. That's the domain of each group maintaining their space. We also manage security issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We are not the biggest shop out there. In our production environment, there are about 10 group who are doing work on a daily basis. Our user base is primarily developers and a few technical business analysts. There are approximately 50 to 100 users.

We have administrators, operations people, and developers. Administrators have full control across all environments. Operators have the ability to execute and see things across many of the environments. Developers can only work on a nonproduction event. 

For what we are doing on a relatively modest machine, ActiveBatch hasn't had any issues.

I haven't had to scale it yet. It has been a simple server for 13 to 14 years now. I haven't had to go to multicluster. We have a failover setup. However, we don't use that for parallel processing. It is more just for failing. 

How are customer service and technical support?

I'm on a first name basis with many of their engineers and developers. I have passed on some challenging things since my history goes so far back. They have always been very responsive to answering questions and providing the right knowledge base article. They are open to suggestions and very interactive.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We first implemented this a number of years ago, it took our processes from several hours overnight, and not knowing if those jobs failed until we checked in the morning, to having an ActiveBatch team as an overnight team who watched jobs for us. Though, sometimes they would take an hour or two before they realized something had failed. Now, we have it so that team is responding within minutes. The alerting that texts and emails you has improved our ability to respond in a timely fashion.

How was the initial setup?

We installed versions 5, 6, 8, 9, and 11. Upgrades have always been seamless. It has been able to recognize code from previous versions, even 10 years ago, and update it.

Every time we do a redeployment, we go through the same process. We develop, upgrade the dev environment, and have people check to make sure their job still work. We then take that environment and migrate it to our test environment where we totally check it. That usually goes faster because we are just moving the database forward, checking to make sure everything works, and then moving onto the next page. Typically, we do a new server for production. We don't upgrade in place. I've done the upgrade in place without a problem in the dev environment, and it does go faster. I find it very clean, and I've not had a problem. Most of the issues are related to consumers of the tool.

We have only used it in one scenario. It took us a bit of time to get it setup as we have two halves of our processes. One is the data management process that happens multiple times a day. When that is completed, we want see reporting based on these processes. What we have is an event base that is executable. The viewable data sets are in different folders so these two groups don't actually see each other. That is routine, but they are able to read and have scheduled events.

What about the implementation team?

I installed it. To install it and get the environment up and running, it takes less than a day. Once my database is up and I have access to install the software, it takes an hour or two for me to get it up and running.

What was our ROI?

Over the years that I have used this, it has probably saved us several hundred hours of development time for other teams and my own. 

The solution has absolutely resulted in an improvement in job success rate percentage. We can see what the problems are and isolate them sooner. We are able to catch these problems and alert people.

It allows for lower operational overhead.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I buy features when I have need of them.

What other advice do I have?

Right now, we only use the Informatica AI and Informatica PowerCenter. We are looking at  a ServiceNow integration. Some of the other ones, like Azure, we don't need right now as we continue to grow it organically. It's more as teams migrate technologies. We want to have an opportunity to have a conversation with them, and say, "Hey, come in and do it this way."

We are not using all the features yet. E.g. we don't use any load balancing variables.

I would rate the solution as an eight to nine (out of 10).

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Amazon Web Services (AWS)
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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