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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"The primary users are Subway’s database team," says Manias, "Which is comprised of roughly 15 people. The team dynamically manages its workflows from a central console based on event triggers such as a database update or a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) that's sent or received. The team reported that, so far, ActiveBatch has required 75 percent less time than the SQL Server Agent, in terms of building workflows, updating existing ones, time saved from manually managing dependencies, and more reliable execution of processes."

How the ActiveBatch deployment benefits Subway

Since the deployment, Subway can handle the complexity of its data loads much more efficiently. The team can dynamically manage workflows and dependencies from a central console. And, because they divided these complex workflows into 'manageable chunks,' they can now manage based on event triggers—something they completely lacked when scheduling via SQL Server.

"We can also re‐execute pieces of the workflow, if necessary, as opposed to rerunning the entire workflow from the start, which greatly reduces the amount of time to troubleshoot and address problems as they arise. The option to troubleshoot an issue from a central console instead of weeding through several SQL Servers to find the offending job saves valuable time," adds Kosturko.

Tips and advice to other companies

Kosturko advises other companies to be prepared and plan everything up front. For example, establishing internal standards for development such as what granularity the jobs will have, what other tools will be utilized, how alerting will be established, and how the environment will be organized are key to a successful deployment. "We initially separated our development and production environments by utilizing variables and organizing the environment accordingly. This was inadequate when we needed to test out system upgrades or when making necessary system wide changes such as updated drivers."

Manias notes that organizations facing similar challenges, especially when automating data warehousing processes or other projects across different platforms and technologies, can benefit from employing an architectural strategy to IT automation. He suggests looking for a solution that centralizes disparate technologies, databases, and applications, and then dynamically manages the workflows and dependencies between those disparate pieces. Organizations like Subway who use Teradata or other database appliances would also benefit from finding a solution that integrates with Teradata and provides templates with proven logic to enable better end-to-end automation of workflows.

"All organizations have scripts," says Manias, "So protect your investment, use what you already have, while simultaneously enhancing it with tools such as lifecycle management and script vaulting. Additionally, use reference templates so teams can create a master object for reuse without copying and pasting; thus, only requiring changes once at the template level, which are automatically passed down to each reference. This creates a better, more manageable environment with fewer objects to maintain; thereby, making it easier to develop workflows that reduces Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and increases agility."

This story, "How IT automation put Subway on fast track to success" was originally published by CIO.

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