BMC Announces "Significant" Overhaul of Job Scheduler

In the new version of CONTROL-M, BMC is trumpeting a job rollback and auditing feature, along with virtualization-friendly amenities

When a product has been around as long as CONTROL-M from BMC Software Corp., updating it or fleshing it out with new features might seem superfluous. After a product's core feature set is stabilized, aren't updates just window-dressing?

In its version 6.3 update of CONTROL-M, which shipped two years ago, BMC did much to suggest otherwise, touting a major new enhancement -- i.e., an "agentless" deployment feature -- for which customers had long been clamoring.

BMC has just unveiled CONTROL-M version 6.4, touting an auditing and recovery feature, dubbed Workload Lifecycle Management (WLM), which it says is as significant an addition as agentless job scheduling.

"I think it's going to be as big a splash as agentless [job scheduling], which was really enthusiastically accepted. I think it's going to be the same thing this time around," says Jeff Brinda, brand manager for CONTROL-M with BMC. "Like [the] agentless [featyre], there's absolutely nothing that the customer has to do to take advantage of this capability except to install the new version of CONTROL-M. There's no agent, there's no software they have to install [remotely]." Brinda likens WLM to the Time Machine system backup and restore utility that Apple Corp. ships as part of its OS X operating system. Like Time Machine (or, to a lesser extent, the Windows System Restore utility), WLM lets operators create new jobs or change existing jobs -- and at the same time gives them a way to rollback these changes should something go awry.

"Think of it as kind of like Apple's Time Machine feature. Say you made changes [to your job scheduling], but you want to be able to go back in time for whatever reason. You might want to report on what used to be there, for example. If you need to roll back and figure that out, you can. What was the configuration of those jobs last week, or last night: you can do that," Brinta comments. ”If you make changes [to your job scheduling] and you have a need to roll those changes back, we can do that automatically for you."

Elsewhere, CONTROL-M 6.4 now makes it possible for operators to embed scripts inside job definitions, which Brinda predicts will be a boon to shops struggling to virtualize their infrastructures.

"What we've added is the idea of embedding scripts so that the job scheduler calls for the execution of the various jobs, in its most basic format. Typically, what others do is to call for the [job definition] from another location, so the scripts that run these jobs are located in one place and the actual [job] definitions are in another," he explains. "What we're allowing them to do is to take those scripts and embed them in the definition itself, so as portable as the definition itself is, the script is now equally as portable."

BMC is also pushing a "smarter" CONTROL-M, courtesy of new "self-learning" capabilities. "We're allowing CONTROL-M to take a look at the way your jobs are running [in order to] examine the best way to run those jobs in the future," he explains. "It gives you some very, very granular statistics on how jobs are running -- what resources they're consuming, how long they're taking to run, stuff like that. Just a lot of information we can use to more accurately predict what [you] might do next week -- or what [you] might do on December 15th, for example."

One CONTROL-M customer, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), expects to make good use of features such as WLM. SMHI hosts more than 2,000 jobs running across a mix of Linux and Windows platforms. Given the complexity of its environment, says Maria Karlsson, a system manager with the organization, the ability to roll back job changes will be a most welcome one.

"One of the things that we really want to be able to do is ensure that upgrades to applications run at a certain time, but when they do, we also want to test them out and be able to roll [these changes] back in the event that something doesn't work out. This [WLM] is a feature we will use a lot," she says.

Karlsson's SMHI colleague, Sten Orrhagen, also lauds CONTROL-M's new support for embedded scripts inside of job definition files. "It's a good feature, and … [it's] even better [that] on a per-job basis you can decide if you want to embed [a script] or if you want it located on the server," he notes. Most of BMC’s new customers last year were on the distributed side, says John McKenny, vice-president of worldwide marketing with BMC. On the mainframe side, he says, most new CONTROL-M growth was the result of customer defections from competing products.

"Many of the almost 100 new customers are distributed systems-only organizations," he says. "There's been very little new customer growth on the mainframe. Most of it is replacing competitive products. It's rare that we get a customer completely new to the mainframe. We just don't see very many flat-out new mainframe customers."

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