Marketing Associates Streamlines Diverse Applications with JAMS

Company Background

Based in Detroit, Marketing Associates provides integrated marketing platforms that are readily accessible by partners and customers. These platforms must respond in real-time to market and competitive needs and be able to interact with external technologies.

The company produces a wide variety of marketing campaigns for auto manufacturers, technology companies and major consumer brands.

 

The Challenges

As Marketing Associates’ services evolved from traditional print advertising and branding to robust real-time interactive campaigns, their clients’ demand for custom applications and reporting grew. Serving multiple clients, Marketing Associates needed to manage diverse groups of developers, project managers and data sets, each with its own set of rules for permissions and access to application servers. The company originally managed batch processing with CRON for UNIX processing and Task Scheduler for Windows jobs. To link disparate batch processes across different systems, they used a combination of UNIX and Linux Shell, Perl, Python, Java and PowerShell scripts. On top of it all, Marketing Associates subscribed to an outsourcer to provide monitoring services to ensure all of these processes ran on time or when needed on an ad hoc basis. However, as projects grew in scope and magnitude, this hodgepodge of tools and services became difficult to manage.

The Solution

Marketing Associates selected JAMS to administer its growing pool of applications and servers. “We view JAMS as more than a job scheduler. We think of it as a process automation tool,” says Senior UNIX Administrator, Doug Botimer. “It allows us to build user groups based on Active Directory’s security functions. We can then permit different people to initiate jobs based on their roles.” Botimer cites an example where an in-house developer can process code updates to his or her own codebase without interfering with other processes running in their environment.

One of the first objectives was to automate the restarting of applications. One of Marketing Associates’ client’s applications had two instances on each of two machines – a total of four separate instances. Restarting these web applications presented a number of challenges. It meant logging in to each of the 4 instances with separate credentials and manually restarting them. And not every systems administrator was familiar with the inner workings of each application. Building upon the samples included within the JAMS Job Library, the company created jobs that its administrators could easily monitor and restart from a centralized control panel.

Leveraging JAMS’ robust security controls, the company distributed privileges to three groups. SysAdmins have full privileges. The development group has access to projects it’s working on; and within that group, individuals are limited to discrete jobs, servers and times when jobs may be run. Hosting managers also have access to JAMS, with practical security assignments that filter out tools they don’t need. They focus exclusively on monitoring and setups.

The Benefits

Marketing Associates has experienced significant costs savings with JAMS centrally managing all processes. Many jobs depend on files received from clients. In the past, if jobs dependent on those client files didn’t run, it was a manual process to fix the problem. With JAMS, the jobs can be held and released. “That would have been impossible with CRON or Task Scheduler. The cost savings are significant,” says Botimer.

JAMS also excels in the automation of the deployment process. Developers have the ability to submit jobs with their accompanying parameters to a hold status. Then, once that job is approved by a project manager, it can be released to execute.

Tight integration between JAMS and PowerShell has minimized Marketing Associates’ dependence on multiple scripting languages. The feedback that JAMS provides through PowerShell on completion status and notification status helps streamline many of the company’s batch processes.

“One of the automation features we really like is running UNIX processes through JAMS,” says Botimer. “It lets us know whether they are complete or not. And they always complete with a valid exit code. At the end of our UNIX jobs, JAMS provides the status and the number of records processed.” Because of the way in which JAMS stores the log data, the company can easily access the data tables with PowerShell. “Without SQLPL,” notes Botimer. “It works beautifully with monthly and daily notifications. When we receive emails, we see exactly what’s run.”

Another valuable advantage afforded by JAMS is its robust reporting. Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 70 is one auditing standard that Marketing Associates has adopted. This standard, developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) “represents that a service organization has been through an in-depth audit of their control objectives and control activities, which often include controls over information technology and related processes.” JAMS logging and reporting capabilities enable Marketing Associates to precisely report job completion, failure and non-compliance issues, helping the company meet the necessary requirements of SAS 70 as well as SSAE 16, the new standard that is currently in process.

And on top of it all, the monitoring services provided by the outsourcer have been completely eliminated. Botimer states “The support provided by MVP Systems Software has been fantastic. We could not be happier with JAMS.”