How IT automation put Subway on fast track to success

A look at how Subway successfully unified and automated a series of key data center batch processes that put the submarine sandwich maker on a path to success.

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Software management solutions are about automating business and IT operational processes within a single framework, so customers can lower their cost of operations while increasing IT agility. These companies help simplify the complexity of large projects/tasks and facilitate team collaboration. Features include resource and staff management, coordinating schedules, company budgets, task assignments, and time and risk analysis.

Subway is the world's largest submarine sandwich chain with over 37,000 locations worldwide. Subway, but it was struggling to manage multiple dependencies across different systems and find a way to unify and automate its batch processes.

The team needed a system to manage the relationships among the tasks, which determine the order that activities are performed between Sequel Server Integration Services (SSIS) and Data Transformation Services (DTS) jobs. The reason: They couldn’t run the data warehouse load until the OpenVMS and .NET platform was populated and synchronized. The database team was having problems with this time-consuming process of manual handoffs, which made it difficult to manage dependencies between technologies.

"We were relying on a disparate collection of Structured Query Language (SQL) servers to schedule SSIS and DTS packages to integrate a legacy OpenVMS system, a newer .NET/SQL platform and a data warehouse solution. The ability to dynamically manage the dependencies between SSIS and DTS jobs was critical," says Leslie Kosturko, senior data manager at Subway.

According to Kosturko, automating SQL Server jobs across different machines was difficult because the SQL Server Agent provided no way to manage dependencies between different servers or start/stop a job within a workflow. As a result, the database team used a lot of manual flag settings to report status and control job flow. "We determined that a change was necessary, so we began looking for an automated solution that would provide a centralized view of these critical workflows and dependencies, as well as minimize manual flag settings and intervention," adds Kosturko.

Subway chooses a tech solution: ActiveBatch

Subway wanted an enterprise scheduling tool that provided easier methods to orchestrate its data loads and develop the necessary dependencies and alerts. Primary considerations included easy to use, cross‐platform support, and competitive pricing. The company also considered Microsoft Orchestrator but, in the end, the team chose Advanced Systems Concepts (ASCI) ActiveBatch because of the flexible pricing/licensing model and ActiveBatch’s Integrated Jobs Library, which provided the team with a graphical interface of workflows and dependencies between jobs.

"Before implementing ActiveBatch, Subway was using a group of SQL servers to schedule SSIS and DTS packages to integrate business processes with a legacy data warehouse solution—an OpenVMS System—and a newer .NET/SQL platform," says Jim Manias, vice president of ASCI.

Manias explains that Subway purchased ActiveBatch to overcome the challenges of its data warehousing process with a solution that would enable better end-to-end automation.

ActiveBatch gave the team cross-platform support, a centralized control pane, and high value in comparison to other magic quadrant automation solutions. Specifically, the Integrated Jobs Library intrigued Subway because it provided a way for the team to more easily develop workflows without having to rely on time-consuming, custom scripting.

"For cross-platform automation, ActiveBatch has dozens of key integrations for a broad range of technologies, applications, and databases including Informatica PowerCenter, Microsoft Dynamics AX, SQL Server, Teradata, and more. ActiveBatch’s innovative Integrated Jobs Library provides users with over 160 production-ready jobs steps including workflow logic, which facilitates the building of end-to-end workflows across disparate systems, while also reducing the need for custom scripting," says Manias.

How ActiveBatch was installed and deployed

According to Kosturko, ActiveBatch was installed on a standalone, virtual server that orchestrates jobs across many disparate servers, located across multiple data centers that consist of virtual memory systems (VMS), SQL Server (multiple versions), and Teradata. Currently, Subway's data architects and Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) developers establish the ActiveBatch plans and jobs; however, alerts and notifications are sent to network administrators and database administrators when jobs fail or encounter problems. Restarting a job from a particular point is quite useful. The initial task of how to set up the jobs requires planning and should not be considered trivial in a complex environment. These steps include decisions regarding the level of granularity plus how other tools such as SSIS should be incorporated.

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