Editor’s Note: Given the focus of automating hybrid workloads in 2022, we thought it timely to refresh our 2020 point of view on workload automation.
Some call it job scheduling. Some still call it batch processing. Although workload automation could certainly be considered simply the latest iteration of the IT automation concept. There are several important distinctions that differentiate it from its predecessors. As you will read below, the traditional time-based job schedulers have now been eclipsed by event-based workload automation tools that respond in real-time to business orders, rather than completing them by batch processing.
A Brief History
The concept of workload automation was originally introduced by Gartner in their 2005 "Hype Cycle for IT Operation Management" report. At the time, the scope of IT automation was chained to the static and manual nature of job scheduling. Reacting to the increasingly dynamic demands of IT, the research company introduced the concept of workload automation.
Workload Automation Defined
Workload automation is the practice of using software to schedule and manage tasks related to business processes and transactions. A workload, in this context, can be thought of as the total amount of processing that a computer is conducting at any given time. WLA makes it possible for much of that processing to take place without human intervention. A large number of tasks are scheduled, rather than being done in real-time.
Transactions that require execution at a certain time, or based on a certain event, have thus become the domain of WLA. It is thought of as a more advanced successor to job scheduling because of its ability to automate entire systems, which may contain heterogeneous IT environments as well as disparate job schedulers.
What Workload Automation Does Best
- Central Management. WLA tools were the first of their type with the ability to centrally manage the execution of business processes across mainframe, cloud, or hybrid environments, third-party applications, and operating systems.
- Versatility. Enterprise WLA tools can manage mixed workloads based on business policies, while efficiently assigning and releasing computing resources in an automated fashion to meet service-level objectives.
- Holistic Approach. Workload automation's intelligent approach to IT operations management enables end-to-end automation of enterprise-wide batch processing across the entire enterprise, as well as near real-time workloads across a heterogeneous computing environment.
Like Job Scheduling, but More Flexible
The terms workload automation and job scheduling are often used interchangeably. WLA and job scheduling are in fact closely related; however, workload automation solutions cover a broader range of capabilities than traditional job scheduling. In short, workload automation is an advanced, more flexible form of job scheduler.
What exactly can workload automation do that job scheduling can’t? For one, it can perform automated processes based on web-based events, such as the submission of data to a web-based mobile application. WLA can also be molded to integrate with many different APIs, including SAP, Hadoop, and Informatica, and to perform tasks and processes based on events occurring inside those APIs.
Evolution of Enterprise Workload Automation
The flexibility and agility of workload automation are critical to supporting business processes across an ever more complex IT landscape. Many enterprises have outgrown or migrated off their mainframe and moved completely into the cloud. These companies require a workload automation solution sophisticated enough to support this transition. Others continue to maintain a hybrid landscape that combines distributed, private and public cloud, and mainframe environments, and require their IT automation to function seamlessly across their entire ecosystem.
What the Future Holds
Many enterprises will resist fully moving away from a heterogenous IT ecosystem. Enterprise workload automation of the future will place even more emphasis on supporting hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments of every shape and size. It will offer even more sophisticated and advanced operations visibility, full and central control, advanced file transfer and security features, exceptional scalability. In addition, you can expect WLA to continue to shift towards using predictive elements that will forecast issues well before they arise and use machine learning to solve them, no matter whether they occur in the cloud or on-premise.
In many ways, the future of workload automation has arrived. In Q2 of 2020, Gartner released the Service Orchestration and Automation Platform market guide. This seemingly new category is an evolution from the workload automation category that they started back in 2005. The driving force behind the change is that workloads have shifted to the cloud, creating a whole new level of complexity and potential opportunity. Check out the full 2021 version of the SOAP market guide here.
Containers and container orchestration have and will continue to revolutionize the concept of WLA. Containers are standardized software units that wrap the software’s dependencies and code into one bundle. Software containerization has opened up a new dimension for hybrid cloud WLA. Specifically, WLA is often used to schedule or trigger actions between containerized microservices and either cloud or on-premises environments. In addition, many enterprises use WLA to schedule actions of the containers themselves.
Lastly, given the heterogeneous nature of hybrid environments, the WLA solutions of the future will be completely vendor agnostic, able to work with any existing IT automation technology to ensure that the entire IT landscape, and from a larger perspective, the enterprise’s critical business processes, are managed from one central point of control.
Stonebranch offers workload automation software with the ability to centrally and seamlessly automate all your business processes, no matter what your current environment or incumbent solution. We offer end-to-end visibility, advanced reporting capabilities, secure file transfer you can trust, and much more. Read how customers have innovated with Stonebranch on our success stories page.