Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Plumbing the Taxonomy Part 7: Production

As we conclude the "what" dimension of the taxonomy, the topic of this post is about "Production" - the day-to-day running of scheduled, coordinated activities that keep the mainframe and related business running smoothly.

Many of the solutions that are responsible for this value also have an automation aspect - most notably, those which are considered Workload Automation. In those cases, this is the "workload" value as complementary to the "automation" value of such solutions.

The workload includes running all of the "batch" tasks that production applications require. Other words used for "batch" include "offline" and "background". 

Your average user never knows or thinks about these things, because they don't talk to them. We're all used to dealing with banking machines, which are online or foreground. But there's a need for additional processing that doesn't require people to intervene - but does have to run regularly.

As an example, when you receive your utility bill in the mail, it was likely created and printed by programs running in batch mode, which pulled up the account information for you and every other customer, turned it into a bill, and sent it to the printer, all without human intervention.

And it is precisely the ability to schedule such things to run regularly without manual involvement that allows these bills to be created and sent out with such regular reliability.

However, it's not just a single step process. Often, there are "jobs" (i.e. a set of programs that are designated to run together in the same sequential order every time) that run first to perform one task - such as get all the billing information for today to be further processed - which are then followed by additional ones that only run if the first ones complete successfully (which they don't always do, for many different reasons).

So workload automation allows for the grouping, scheduling and coordination of many such jobs and applications in a regular, automated manner that only requires human intervention when there's a change or a problem that isn't readily solved by further automation.

Next time, we dig into the "why" dimension.

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