What is the difference between Job Scheduling and Workload Automation?

There are so many terms buzzing around the web that even we as software vendors often don’t know which category our products exactly fall into: Are we doing enterprise job scheduling, batch processing or workload automation? Do we orchestrate processes, control our processes Big Data and DevOps?

Often employees from the specialist departments also search for a specific solution on the Internet, but are unable to clearly distinguish between these different terms.

If you are currently on a specific search and have the same problem, we would like to help you to research in a more targeted manner and present the individual terms in more detail below. Let’s start at the beginning:

What is a job / batch?

Historically, the term ‘Batch Job / Batch Processing’ comes from punch cards that were processed one by one in a batch. In IT, a batch job describes bundled tasks, commands and programs that are executed automatically in the background.

In simple terms, the term ‘batch processing’ describes that one instruction is executed for a particular ‘data pile’ and the next instruction further processes that ‘pile’ Typical examples of this are an MRP run for all incoming purchase orders, settlement runs or a payroll.

But the idea behind it has not changed until today: The user should be relieved of the burden of manually controlling and monitoring these processes. Time and costs should be saved. Batch processing is therefore very similar to ‘punch cards’ concept, because in classic batch processing several ‘batches’ of a script file were processed in a time-controlled manner.

Seen in this light, the classic batch job can be reckoned as a pioneer for automation. The limited possibilities of this processing and the associated susceptibility to errors led to the development of Job Scheduling decades ago.

Job Scheduling as a Pioneer in Automation

Traditionally, job scheduling tools have always been system-bound: in the past, they were used to automatically process business-critical processes in the background in only one system. A good example here is the payroll of a company: at a certain point in the month the salaries of the employees are settled and paid. According to this, the ‘payroll’ job is triggered on a certain, fixed date. The schedulers were traditionally linked to the respective operating / ERP software in order to be able to process the corresponding jobs automatically at scheduled times. In SAP, for example, uses SAP Job Management (SM36) and in Microsoft the Task Scheduler. The basis of these Job Schedulers are calendars and clock times. However, the limited options available led to the following problems:

  • Dependencies cannot be modelled properly
  • Processes may not stop when errors occur
  • Overtakers are possible depending on the amount of data and errors
  • No special or business calendars
  • No consideration of different time zones
  • No collective overview between different systems
  • No central control
  • No automatic error handling
  • No revision security, traceability of the planned jobs

As a result, the need for more agile third-party solutions that enabled cross-system and more centralized job scheduling gradually developed.

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Explanatory video – Why use Workload Automation for SAP?

Workload Automation = Job Scheduling 2.0:

The constant expansion of digitization and the improvement of interfaces between systems ensured that increasingly complex processes could be fully automated. In order to take advantage of the resulting increase in efficiency, and thus the competitive advantage, there was a demand for job schedulers that could operate across systems and at the same time allow central control and monitoring. With the help of such workload automation tools, it is now possible to automate a company’s entire supply chain wherever no more specialist decisions are required.

The terms ‘Workload Automation’ and ‘Job Scheduling’ are often used synonymously. Tech Target describes workload automation as follows:

“Workload automation is the practice of using software to schedule, initiate, run 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 or a business is conducting at any given time. Workload automation makes it possible for much of that processing to take place without human intervention. Workload automation is often used in virtualized and cloud environments.”

As indicated here, the latest efforts of the WLA tools are going towards hybrid environments and multi cloud systems. New application areas have also been opened up. Business warehouses have become data lakes for Big Data. In software development, complex DevOps processes were added.

In addition, the demand for end-to-end coverage with simultaneous real-time execution is becoming increasingly relevant.

Due to these highly efficient but complex processes, uniform monitoring and compliance is now coming to the fore in order to realize traceability in hybrid landscapes.

Finally, workload automation encompasses a wider area and more complex processes to meet the growing needs of enterprises. At the same time, job scheduling remains a sub-area of the entire background processing.