Taskmatics Scheduler 1.1 Released

We’ve released version today which contains many performance improvements as well as some new features that were requested by the community. This means that if you download the installer today you’ll be getting the new version, and we’ve updated the Taskmatics Scheduler package on the Nuget repository with a new version. The primary focus of the build was to improve system-wide performance. In cases where there are a significant number of tasks that run at high frequencies we’ve seen some slowness. With our changes we’ve come to see improvements of between 80% to 90% in terms of time. This isn’t limited to the administration UI screens, but also applies to the reports as well.

How to get it

To get the installer, go here!

What’s Inside

The full list of changes in this release are as follows:

  • Added ability to set exclusion dates in the calendar trigger on which the scheduled task will not run.
  • Fixed an intermittent trigger loading error when adding a trigger to an existing scheduled task.
  • Added performance improvements to all reports.
  • Added performance improvements to dashboard loading.
  • Added performance improvements to task dispatching.
  • Added performance improvements to task history search.
  • Database schema changes to help improve overall system performance.
  • Fix for intermittent out of memory exception when querying resource usage.
  • Added filter to the Dashboard screen to allow users to find scheduled tasks that contain the entered term (similar to filter on other listing screens).
  • Added additional error handling and update messaging to the installer process.

Breaking Changes

While it’s always a goal to be fully backwards compatible, this release does contain one breaking change that may require a rebuild of one or more tasks. In the past, each Task instance was identified with a Globally Unique Identifier, or GUID. These identifiers are great at ensuring that you can have billions of tasks that don’t collide with each other but the downside to their guarantee of uniqueness is that they also are not as performant as using sequential integers. As part of the new release, we’ve re-mapped all task instances to use straight 64 bit integers, which gives us the same uniqueness guarantee, but also performs much better under search.

You should update all of your task libraries to reference the Taskmatics.Scheduler.Core Nuget package. If any of your tasks reference TaskBase.Context.TaskInstanceId, you will need to rebuild and re-deploy those tasks as the TaskBase.Context.TaskInstanceId property is now represented as Int64 instead of Guid.

Upgrade Instructions

As of now, we don’t have an upgradeable installer, which means that to upgrade a installation of Taskmatics Scheduler, you should first uninstall the previous version and then simply run the new installer and point to the existing database where Taskmatics was originally set up to use. Note: Uninstalling Taskmatics Scheduler will NEVER remove the data in your database. We suggest following these steps to install the new version on your system:

  1. Stop all coordinator and agent Windows services (done from the Services snap-in).
  2. Backup your existing database. This is precautionary in case anything unexpected happens during the upgrade.
  3. Take note of the following information from your current installation:
    • Your serial number, which is in your email you got when you purchased Taskmatics Scheduler. You can also find it in the license.xml file in the ProgramData\Taskmatics\Scheduler directory.
    • Your current database server, database name and the runtime credentials. These can be found in the ProgramData\Taskmatics\Scheduler\Taskmatics.Scheduler.Coordination.ServiceHost.exe.config file.
    • The runtime users for both the coordinator and agent Windows services, which you can see from the services snap-in.
    • The root filesets path and the root working folders path, which are found in the .config files located in the ProgramData\Taskmatics\Scheduler directory.
  4. Uninstall the existing Taskmatics Scheduler components (done from the Programs and Features screen in Windows)
  5. Run the new Taskmatics.Scheduler installer. You will need to re-enter the information you collected in step 3 to make sure that all the original permissions and mappings are re-used.

Due to the nature of the performance improvements and the significant amount of database changes that are in this update, it is possible, depending on the size of your database, that installation of the new version could take upwards of 30 minutes (if you have millions of task instances in your DB). Making the upgrade path smoother for our users is on the top of our roadmap so we don’t expect this to be the norm going forward.

More to Come

This is just the beginning of the changes that we have in store. Thanks again for using Taskmatics Scheduler, and we hope you enjoy working with the new version even more. Let us know what features you’d like to see in subsequent versions of Taskmatics Scheduler as we’re always looking for ideas from the community.

Where was that download link again?

In case you missed it at the top, to get the installer, go here!

Taskmatics Scheduler and Windows Azure Scheduler: Redux

There has been a lot of coverage lately about the Windows Azure Scheduler offering currently in preview. After getting familiar with the product, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about what it brings to the table and how it differs from Taskmatics Scheduler, which is currently in beta. We’ll also talk a little bit about how you can use the two platforms together to get robust automation for your environment.

What is Windows Azure Scheduler?

Windows Azure Scheduler is a service that exposes a REST API that allows you to schedule jobs that will be run either in a web or worker role hosted within Azure or on a remote server outside the cloud. These jobs could be run once or recurring in nature, and the API provides you with ways to group these jobs into a job collection, which is a logical grouping of jobs that share settings such as the region from which the job should be triggered. Currently, Windows Azure Scheduler offers two distinct ways of executing jobs scheduled:

  • The simplest way to execute jobs is by providing an HTTP or HTTPS endpoint address which the service will call at the scheduled time(s). This could be any HTTP endpoint that will execute the job when it receives a request from the scheduler. While simple, this method is more suited to small jobs with a duration of 30 seconds or less. The scheduler currently records the responses of the HTTP/HTTPS calls as whether or not the job succeeds, and the default timeout for the call is 30 seconds, which means that longer jobs will record a failure if this method is used.
  • The second method for job execution is for the scheduled job to post a message to an Azure Storage Queue. This will require you to set up and configure Azure Storage Queues on your account but it provides a way to trigger job execution by watching a queue from your own process. How the message is processed is determined completely by whatever application is listening to the queue, and the success or failure of the scheduled job is simply whether the queue receives the posted message successfully.

The Windows Azure Scheduler API also has methods to track and recall job status for all jobs and get success/failure history for one or more jobs as well, though again note that the success or failure not of the job execution itself, but simply the posting of the message to the endpoint or queue. Being that the service is currently in preview, I’m sure that even more functionality will be added over time. There are a few shortcomings of the new scheduler offering:

  • While jobs scheduled are run in the cloud and are therefore reliable, the endpoints or queue subscribers are not necessarily cloud based and the reliability and scale of these applications which will actually perform the work is still a burden placed on the developer. Running web/worker roles to host endpoints that can process messages can get costly since they’ll need to be listening (and thus active) 24/7.
  • Reporting and statistics for the jobs is currently very basic and doesn’t provide a way to extend the collected information such that it can be reported on.
  • Job execution cannot be controlled once the job has started running. Jobs cannot be paused/terminated.

What is Taskmatics Scheduler?

Taskmatics Scheduler is a task scheduling platform that combines a fully extensible .NET API for creating and executing jobs with an administration site that can manage and provide reporting on the jobs created with the API. Where Windows Azure Scheduler focuses on ways to trigger job execution, Taskmatics Scheduler covers the triggering of jobs, but also manages the distribution and execution of those jobs and provides health monitoring and detailed reporting during execution and beyond. Taskmatics Scheduler has the edge on Azure Scheduler when your automation needs extend beyond just a few small nightly tasks because it can handle distribution of the job load internally, without relying on the developer to ensure load balancing and availability of resources to run the desired job. The true power of Taskmatics Scheduler, however, is the extensibility it provides for developers. There are basically three main components to the job scheduling API:

  • Triggers define how job execution will be started. Like Windows Azure Scheduler, a calendar based trigger is provided out of the box, but you can create custom triggers that can fire based on domain specific criteria.
  • Tasks are the central unit of work in the system. They represent the work to be automated, and are executed by one or more triggers. Tasks can be paired with custom configuration to allow reusability and contain built in controls that allows users to pause or terminate running tasks.
  • Event Listeners define code that will execute when one or more target events are raised by a task during execution. Custom event listeners can be created that can be used for real time error notifications or integration with line of business applications such as Enterprise ERP and CRM systems.

Taskmatics Scheduler also provides a web based administration console where customized tasks can be loaded, scheduled and managed. The console also provides detailed reports and execution history for all tasks. If your job automation landscape is fairly complex or involves many long running tasks, Taskmatics Scheduler might be a better fit than using the Windows Azure Scheduler service.

The Best of Both Worlds

On one hand you have a cloud based scheduler that can reliably fire off messages, and on the other you have a fully customizable system that is designed to distribute and execute jobs. Can they be used together? The short answer is yes. If you want to benefit from scheduling jobs in the cloud environment, you can create a custom trigger for Taskmatics Scheduler that will listen on a given HTTP address and port as a receiver for the cloud based scheduler. Another option is a custom trigger that subscribes to the Azure Storage Queue that gets messages posted to it that can fire off one or more tasks within Taskmatics Scheduler. If you are drawn to the potential of Windows Azure Scheduler as a reliable, cloud based scheduling tool, I encourage you to put Taskmatics Scheduler to the test for that same reliability and much more.