A Job Scheduler for the Ages

By By Derrick Harris, Managing Editor

November 12, 2007

More than a Job Scheduler

It’s funny how we argue over semantics in the world of distributed computing. Whether a particular software product creates a grid or a fabric or whatever varies depending on whom you ask and, quite frankly, under which buzzword its vendor chooses to market it. Therefore, one might be a little underwhelmed by Advanced Systems Concepts Inc.’s  (ASCI) decision to market its ActiveBatch software as a “job scheduler,” even though its list of capabilities lends the product to far sexier (and more nebulous) labels.

ActiveBatch, branded from its inception in 1997 until 2000 as Batch Queue Management System, is geared toward job automation over distributed and heterogeneous platforms, including those running Windows, Linux, IBM AIX, HP-UX, Solaris and/or OpenVMS operating systems. The only requirement in terms of operating systems is that the job scheduler must be on a Windows machine. As for its distributed nature, ActiveBatch has tested to be scalable up to 2,000 server connections, and up to 1.3 million jobs per day. In terms of what kinds of ActiveBatch can handle, pretty much anything (scripts, applications, file operations, etc.) is fair game so long as it can support a command line — and no rewriting or recoding is required.

Where ActiveBatch really earns it stripes, though, is in the breadth of scheduling and automation options it offers. According to Jim Manias, vice president of sales and marketing for ASCI, jobs can be scheduled to run simply by time or by a variety of triggers, including the completion of other jobs or the presence of a particular file (or the lack thereof). Going more granular, specific exit codes from completed jobs will trigger corresponding jobs to begin, and when setting file-based automation, jobs can be programmed to be triggered by whether or not a file contains specific attributes.

In addition, ActiveBatch’s workload balancer can send jobs to either to predetermined machines or to available machines, and to either one machine or to a group of machines. It also can handle transaction processing based on user-defined criteria, such as the size of the queue or the time of day. And the product’s Job Steps feature opens the doors to parallel processing by allowing users to decompose jobs into various parts that run on separate machines at the same time. New in Version 6 is a feature called Virtual Root, which allows for multi-tenancy of the job scheduler, enabling transparent distribution of jobs over various departments within an organization. It is event-driven processing at its finest, and all designed with the goal of maximum efficiency or, as Manias puts it, reducing “slack time.”

“Twenty-four hours is not what it used to be,” he said. “People have less time … to be able to deal with ensuring that they achieve the success that they sign up for in terms of service levels.”

Also very important to ASCI is the ability to resolve, or at least mitigate, problems as quickly as possible. Aside from server to server failover, ActiveBatch works with Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), a collection of about 15,000 hardware and software commands within the Windows OS that allow users to register certain events. Manias gives the example of a user registering the termination of a specific service with WMI, wherein the alert generated by WMI would trigger ActiveBatch to restart the terminated service. One customer, he added, has ActiveBatch programmed to page security to the server room should the intrusion switch on a server be flipped between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Another key aspect of this mitigation strategy is to ensure that jobs get done correctly and on time. To accomplish this, ActiveBatch employs checkpoints that allow jobs to automatically restart from the last checkpoint in case of failure. The solution also incorporates runtime monitoring, which compares the current runtime to historical averages. If, explained Manias, a job that normally takes three hours were to complete in 10 seconds, ActiveBatch would assume something went wrong and rerun the job.

“Everything is done in what I refer to as ‘near real time,’” said Manias. “I would not use it to monitor carbon rods in nuclear reactors, but certainly in the near-real-time world which makes up today’s global economy, it has absolutely been proven to be a top performer.”

A Wide Range of Customers

One customer that appreciates ASCI’s dedication to problem resolution is Canada’s Equitable Life Insurance, which, according to systems administrator Andrew Garland, uses ActiveBatch for “pretty much all” of the company’s batch scheduling, including billing, checks and Web server updates. On top of the product’s functionality, Garland also takes advantage of the personal support offered by ASCI. Any problems — such as hot-fix-requiring problems that have arisen after service pack update — are fixed very soon after calling, he said.

Furthermore, Equitable regularly tests the limits of its test environment by “[hammering] our applications fairly hard, probably harder than they are intended to [be hammered],” often to the point of maxing out the old operating systems on which they run, admits Garland. Instead of telling Equitable it’s out of luck because it has joined Microsoft in discontinuing support of those operating systems or suggesting an OS upgrade, ASCI tries to help Equitable work around these issues.

Garland also notes that he was impressed by the relatively low price of ActiveBatch, and he continues to be impressed by the product’s cross-platform capabilities, its easy-to-use GUI and the ease with which he can add or subtract machines to his distributed architecture.

Among ActiveBatch’s other users are Dutch Yellow Pages publisher Truvo, who adopted ActiveBatch as a cross-platform scheduler to manage the processing of book production data; Conshohocken, Penn.-based Ecount, a Citi-owned provider of prepaid services, which uses the solution for processing banking transactions, and utilizes a variety of job triggers to make more efficiently coordinate its business processes; and Denmark’s Jyske Bank, which chose ActiveBatch to increase the scale of the bank’s batch processing environment and to do parallel processing. According to a case study on the ASCI Web site, ActiveBatch has helped Jyske Bank to quadruple the number of portfolios it can process during its nightly batch processing window, and is helping the system become self-repairing and self-managing via its alerting and event-driven processing capabilities.

According to ASCI’s Manias, about 60 percent of the company’s business is in the United States, with a good portion coming from the financial industry. Other sectors where ASCI has seen traction for ActiveBatch range from health care to manufacturing, including at least one fast food chain. Corpus Christi, Texas-based Whataburger leveraged the solution to distribute its back office operations across the chain’s numerous outlets, which has allowed the company to perform real-time cash analyses, among other things.

Lots of Bells and Whistles; More to Come

Aside from the numerous features already mentioned, current ActiveBatch customers running Version 6 also receive the benefits of ASCI’s points system. Users must purchase points, which can be allocated as they see fit among any machines — physical or virtual. While it might seem like an unnecessary step, Manias says otherwise, explaining that having points allows users to switch execution agents from machine to machine simply by deleting the queue from a machine in reallocating those points to any other available machine. With the tight budgets and timeframes in today’s IT world, commented Manias, “reusability becomes a big factor.” And for those who need to scale their ActiveBatch infrastructure in a hurry, the job scheduler can create and install a lightweight execution agent on-demand. Version 7, which is slated for release in 2008, will introduce “agentless” computing for those who are interested.

The upcoming version also will offer historical analysis, wherein users can see the history of particular applications on certain servers and allocate jobs accordingly, and “green” technology that suspends power to inactive systems based on user-defined criteria.

However, the most unique feature of ActiveBatch is one that already exists: mobile management. That’s right, with the purchase of the Wireless Server software add-in, users can monitor and manage their ActiveBatch environments from their smartphones, PDAs or Blackberries. Says Manias about this feature, although really speaking for the ActiveBatch solution as a whole, “We’re not the brontosaurus, monolithic, intergalactic kind of mainframe system.”

More information about Advanced Systems Concepts can be found at www.advsyscon.com/

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Mosquitoes, [email protected], the Last Journey & More

June 29, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This