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Expect More from Your Job Scheduling Solution

by Dr. Astrid Tschense-Oesterle | SAPinsider

July 1, 2008

To heighten efficiency and free IT resources to work on more strategic taseks, a job scheduler should go beyond routine processes to support dynamic processes.
 

 

Companies have long depended on job schedulers to run their background jobs — for batch processing, for example. Traditionally, job schedulers were simply considered tools to ease the workloads of huge companies' IT departments, helping to run background jobs like data cleanups and to create backups.

Over time, however, companies realized that job schedulers could also become an essential part of their business processes. After all, even small organizations have certain repeated tasks — such as financial end-of-period consolidation and reporting, or any process that regularly runs across multiple applications — that have become too large or too slow to be handled by manual processes alone. Routine process scheduling, then, has become part of a job scheduler's responsibilities.

Today, companies should expect even more from a job scheduler. To heighten efficiency and free IT resources to work on more strategic tasks, a job scheduler should go beyond routine processes to support dynamic processes. It should automatically monitor your environment and start or manage technical job processes and process chains. And it should provide complete, centralized management of all background business processes. The SAP Central Process Scheduling application by Redwood does all of the above.1

 

To heighten efficiency and free IT resources to work on more strategic tasks, a job scheduler should go beyond routine processes to support dynamic processes.

Not Your Average Job Scheduler: SAP Central Process Scheduling Delivers Time-Saving, Event-Based Enhancements

SAP Central Process Scheduling by Redwood is a real-time process automation solution through which you can automate periodic, unattended background executions within a distributed computer network. It also allows you to set up event-driven jobs. This way, you can make a job dependent on a certain event, meaning that the job's start time will become independent of how often per day the job runs. This enables your business to flexibly react to current business situations while still running efficiently (see sidebar).

At the same time, you can use SAP Central Process Scheduling to manage the integration of these jobs with existing scheduled or batch processes to minimize performance issues — which background processing demands can cause — and optimize customer response times. This? fusion of batch and event-driven processes can involve multiple applications from different vendors and can span many operating system environments — including mainframe, UNIX, Linux, and Windows.

Even if your company already has some kind of job scheduler in place, I'd strongly encourage you to consider moving or upgrading to the latest version of SAP Central Process Scheduling, available with SAP NetWeaver 7.0 to make use of its new functionality and expanded system integration. Let's step through some of the new features of this version.

 

Business Automation Enabler

The latest version of SAP Central Process Scheduling contains the Business Automation Enabler, a new application programming interface (API) that links SAP Central Process Scheduling with your SAP systems. This tool integrates job scheduling capabilities that can make IT departments' jobs easier with SAP applications they rely on, enabling users to trigger scheduling tasks directly from their SAP applications.2 That's why it plays an important role in business scenarios supported by solutions like SAP ERP Financials and SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI). With the Business Automation Enabler, job scheduling becomes an integrated part of your business scenarios. SAP applications have direct access to the scheduling solution and can start their relevant jobs in both SAP and non-SAP system landscapes (see Figure 1).

 

Figure 1
SAP system landscape integration with SAP Central Process Scheduling

SAP Solution Manager Integration

The Business Automation Enabler also allows for a new dimension of integration between SAP Central Process Scheduling and SAP Solution Manager. By supplementing SAP Solution Manager 7.0 with the Process Scheduling Adapter for SAP Solution Manager,3 which integrates with the Business Automation Enabler, you can enhance the automated data exchange between job requests, change management, job documentation, business process monitoring, and SAP Central Process Scheduling.

The major benefit of this new integration with SAP Solution Manager is the fast implementation of high-priority jobs. A change request workflow with predefined Web and change request templates gives key users control of job requests. This also offers users — and administrators — visibility into background jobs through comprehensive documentation, allowing them to discontinue unnecessary background jobs. What's more, the integration also allows administrators to establish meaningful job naming conventions in central job documentation, and to document error-handling procedures and escalation paths, speeding up troubleshooting.

Although SAP Central Process Scheduling does not technically require SAP Solution Manager in order to run smoothly, I recommend that customers take advantage of this integration capability.

Integration with SAP NetWeaver

While standalone versions of SAP Central Process Scheduling have been in the market for years, the new version integrates with SAP NetWeaver 7.0. It is a Java application that will be a standard component of SAP NetWeaver as of releases 7.01 and 7.1.1 (see Figure 2). This version will be fully integrated in SAP NetWeaver and will play a strategic role in SAP's further application development. It will also cover all functionality that users familiar with the ABAP scheduling transactions SM36/37 are accustomed to. What's more, unlike ABAP scheduling capabilities, SAP Central Process Scheduling is not restricted to one system but acts for the whole SAP system landscape.

 

Figure 2
The architecture of SAP Central Process Scheduling in an SAP landscape includes tight integration of SAP Central Process Scheduling with various SAP, non-SAP, and operating systems

In addition, companies can purchase an enhanced version of SAP Central Process Scheduling — a pay-as-you-grow version that allows companies to purchase licenses for a wider set of advanced process scheduling functions. This means companies can pay only for the scenarios they need, and that upgrading is always possible. You can find detailed feature lists for both the free and licensed version of the solution at www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/nw-scheduling.

No matter which version you choose, its integration with SAP NetWeaver means that the scheduler's job repository can act as a schema in the SAP NetWeaver database, allowing process servers —which are Java-based processes running in SAP NetWeaver — to run and monitor background jobs in both local and remote systems. Job repository and process servers are also available for all platforms and databases according to the corresponding SAP NetWeaver Product Availability Matrix.4

Enhanced Monitoring and Alerting Capabilities

Because SAP Central Process Scheduling is not specific to one application or operating system environment, it is often used to manage regular IT housekeeping tasks, such as back-up processing. With the new SAP Central Job Processing solution, users can further benefit from integrating the application workload with system tasks.

For example, rather than setting up the system so that a backup simply starts at a given time, you can program it to launch the backup as soon as the production workload has completed, thereby maximizing the use of system time. Integrating the solution into a system management framework through SNMP, log messages, or automatic function calls further ensures that any job failures are pinpointed as soon as they occur (see Figure 3).

 

Figure 3
SAP Central Process Scheduling's Web UI provides a job monitoring overview with f?iltering options, short descriptions of the jobs, and a corresponding details area

SAP Central Process Scheduling uses real-time resource monitoring to track various system metrics, such as CPU utilization, memory usage, and paging rates on each system in the environment. Not only is this information useful for load balancing, it can also be used to alert operations staff of underlying stress in the environment so that IT can preemptively correct the situation before a failure occurs.

Rule-Based Interpretation

SAP Central Process Scheduling delivers complex, dynamic calendars that you can use to account for time-based dependencies that govern when processes run. This way, if a process-triggering event occurs, the process will only run under the appropriate calendar conditions you specified.

For example, if maintenance is scheduled, the system will automatically pause the jobs in its queue so the system can be shut down rather than requiring an administrator to manually shut down each job.

SAP Central Process Scheduling in Action with SAP ERP Financial Closing Cockpit

Let's consider an example of how SAP Central Process Scheduling can help a company better handle its current processes.

Corporate governance imperatives require greater control and supervision of the financial close and reporting cycle. Additionally, companies looking to decrease the overall cost of finance may strive for more automation, efficiency, and process standardization.

The financials department, however, must overcome several unique challenges to optimize its efficiency. Time windows for closing cycles are very small since the performance-intensive allocations processing cannot start before payroll accounting ends; calculating these allocations earlier could mean using incorrect or incomplete numbers.

To achieve a fast financial close, then, companies must complete multiple process steps correctly, on time, and in the proper sequence. Any gap in communication may cause delays that place closing deadlines in jeopardy.

The SAP ERP Financials Closing Cockpit has helped mitigate some of these issues simply by bringing the overall management of the closing cycle to a single user interface (UI). The resulting transparency facilitates wider collaboration and allows users to quickly spot and resolve problems and bottlenecks. The Closing Cockpit's UI displays all key process tasks, dependencies, workflows, task owners, and their statuses.

 

NOTE! The Closing Cockpit in SAP ERP 2004 and SAP ERP 6.0 is restricted to starting close tasks in one SAP ERP system. With SAP ERP 6.0's enhancement package 3, however, you can use the integration with SAP Central Process Scheduling to initiate and monitor tasks in multiple systems.

When you use this functionality in conjunction with SAP Central Process Scheduling, you reap the added benefit of its scheduling and monitoring functionality, which integrates with multiple types of financial software for both SAP and non-SAP applications (see Figure 4). This means that you can coordinate and monitor closing tasks across complex software landscapes, greatly reducing the likelihood of errors and schedule delays. SAP Central Processing also allows users to control processes and correct task sequencing.

 

Figure 4
SAP Central Process Scheduling integrates closely with the SAP ERP Financials Closing Cockpit

SAP Central Process Scheduling is poised to handle future trends in the financials space as well. For example, as more companies move toward a shared services setup, they will need a guaranteed way to monitor and automate tasks across servers and locations. By using SAP Central Processing and the Closing Cockpit, IT teams will be able to start remote tasks in systems outside of the one running Closing Cockpit.

Conclusion

Look critically at your job scheduler — it can be so much more than just a simple tool to run background jobs or batch processes. With its rule-based process execution and event-driven functionality, SAP Central Process Scheduling by Redwood empowers your systems to react to real-time events at precisely the right time, using the most current information available.

Through its ability to manage high levels of throughput, its resilience in supporting mission- critical systems, and its dynamic management of business-critical workload across multiple operating systems, SAP Central Process Scheduling is an ideal solution for the challenges of integrating the real-time business environment with existing background processing jobs.

To learn more about how SAP Central Process Scheduling can help you maximize the value of your SAP systems, visit www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/ nw-scheduling.

 

Additional Resources

  • "Don't Let Background Processes Slow You Down" in the Optimizing IT with SAP Solution Extensions special feature in the July-September 2008 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com)

  • "Data Center Optimization Through Event-Driven Process Automation"
    by Richard Page in the Performance and Testing Tools supplement
    (SAP NetWeaver Magazine, Winter 2007, www.NetWeaverMagazine.com)

  • Job Scheduling for SAP by Kees Verruijt, Arnoud Roebers, and Anjo de Heus (SAP PRESS, http://store.sapinsider.wispubs.com)

1 For more basic information on SAP Central Process Scheduling by Redwood, see "Don't Let Background Processes Slow You Down" in the Optimizing IT with SAP Solution Extensions special feature in this July-September 2008 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com). [back]

2 In the past, it was only possible to trigger jobs from the job scheduler solution itself. [back]

3 This tool is currently in ramp-up and is scheduled to be available with SAP Solution Manager 7.0. [back]

4 To access this matrix (a color-coded guide that allows you to check information on how central SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and 7.1 systems and various connected systems fulfill interoperability rules) visit http://service.sap.com/pam. [back]


 

Dr. Astrid Tschense-Oesterle (astrid.tschense-oesterle@sap.com) has been working for SAP since 2001. She is currently a part of the product management team for SAP NetWeaver Lifecycle Management and is an expert regarding the SAP Central Process Scheduling application by Redwood, as well as Java monitoring and management. Astrid has also written the SAP PRESS book Java Monitoring Infrastructure in SAP NetWeaver '04.

 

 

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