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Data Platforms Operations Lead Managed Hosting at a marketing services firm with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
Top 10
Dashboards enable tier-one people to monitor multiple jobs and alert when things fail, helping our reliability and in managing SLAs
Pros and Cons
  • "Tidal helps administrators and users to see the information that is relevant to them in that single pane of glass. They can see jobs running, they can see job history, and they can see job progression. If you look at alternatives like Airflow and clouds, you'd have to design your own UI to monitor the progress of the different jobs that you've created in Airflow. So Tidal is huge for us."
  • "One area for improvement is the command-line interface and the API to bulk-load jobs. It's a little bit kludgy, but we still manage without it. They're working on it and it's getting better all the time. In addition, the documentation for their API for creating jobs needs to be updated. It's a bit of a learning curve."

What is our primary use case?

Our use of Tidal is mostly file-event driven. We use it to manage our ingestion, processing, and loading of data. Tidal has a hook and it runs ETL for us. It runs jobs and SQL and some of our database appliances like IIAS, the new version of Netezza Teradata.

We have a file gateway that receives a file and drops it in a location. That file event picks it up and drops it over to the ETL tool. The ETL tool will run and aggregate a number of source files and turn it into a properly formatted input file. That file then goes through data hygiene and data analysis. Then it goes through a matching process. It is then put back out and runs an ETL process to stick it into a SQL database. And then there are a number of jobs that are run in the SQL database to manipulate that file.

We don't have a lot of calendared events or scheduled windows.

We have a central location for Tidal in our data center, and then we have client-hosted solutions where we run smaller instances of Tidal, and those are in the cloud. We use AWS, Azure, and GCP.

How has it helped my organization?

It reduces our administrative costs. As much as people are in a DevOps model, we can create dashboards for tier-one people to monitor multiple jobs and then alert or call when things fail. It helps us with reliability and managing SLAs.

It has also helped to reduce weekend and overtime hours due to the fact that you can have a single person manage multiple jobs. If we didn't have the single pane of glass and that visibility, people would have to manually look at logs to determine the progress of a job. So it reduces headcount. But when you run 24 by seven and 365 you still have people working weekends.

We run 70,000 Tidal jobs a day. it would take a mountain of people months to run that many jobs manually.

What is most valuable?

What we find most useful from the operations side is that it provides a single pane of glass for managing that workstream. It also alerts us on failed jobs, so it's our monitoring and management tool for those workstreams. 

Tidal helps administrators and users to see the information that is relevant to them in that single pane of glass. They can see jobs running, they can see job history, and they can see job progression. If you look at alternatives like Airflow and clouds, you'd have to design your own UI to monitor the progress of the different jobs that you've created in Airflow. So Tidal is huge for us.

Most of our stuff is private clouds. We haven't had an issue with its support for private cloud or its migration to the cloud. In our scenarios, we run the masters here and we reach out to agents that are running in the cloud. We also use it to kick off command-line utilities for loading data into BLOB storage and S3 buckets. We use the SFTP utility to move files around.

What needs improvement?

One area for improvement is the command-line interface and the API to bulk-load jobs. It's a little bit kludgy, but we still manage without it. They're working on it and it's getting better all the time. In addition, the documentation for their API for creating jobs needs to be updated. It has a bit of a learning curve.

We also wish there was a search functionality for assigning actions to events, and users to workgroups. 

Finally, the S3 data mover jobs are still a little buggy.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using Tidal Workload Automation for about 14 to 15 years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

After the 6.2 release, the stability became awesome. With 6.6.1 it was a little bit difficult, but everything after that has been solid.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scaling is easy. You could run these in VMS. We happen to have physical boxes. 

We haven't scaled it out, such as creating a remote master. In instances where we thought we may have to kick off jobs from our Maryland data center or jobs in our Denver data center, over MPLS, we thought we would have issues but we didn't have any issues. We were fine. We've been able to run things centrally.

The databases scale the way SQL scales, either by giving it more memory or more CPU.

As we have brought on clients we've grown over the years. We have a tendency to overbuy for the Client Managers. Our Client Managers are coming up on four years now. In 2021 we'll likely do a tech refresh. We'll stand it up with another version of Tidal and we'll do the migration onto the new platform. At that time we'll look at scaling up the boxes a little bit. You can put a lot more workload, a lot more Tidal jobs, on these without having to increase CPU or memory.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their tech support is awesome. We've had Tidal for a long time. We had Tidal when it was Tidal, and then when it was purchased by Cisco. During the time that it was purchased by Cisco, support was lacking. But now that it's part of the STA, it's back to being awesome.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were using a home-grown solution. It was a cron job manager. It didn't do file events very well; it had monitor CIS logs. It was tough to schedule tasks. It was purpose-built so it didn't have a SQL adapter. It didn't have the ability to run on Netezza and things like that.

We switched because to programmatically create the enhancements for the things that came out-of-the-box with Tidal was just too costly. It would have taken too much time.

How was the initial setup?

We've retooled our environment three times since we first installed it. Our last one was easy, a piece of cake. The ones prior to that were not so good. 

When Tidal sold it to Cisco, and they had introduced the concept of a Client Manager, a type of web interface, there was a time when going from one version to another version was not good. Now that Tidal is back to the STA Group, our upgrades are much easier.

With our last upgrade, we stood up a whole other set of servers — our servers were old — as well as a database. From the time we got the servers installed, loaded Tidal, and did our initial database export, so we could do testing, it took two to three weeks. It was a piece of cake. And then we did extensive testing.

In terms of the solution's learning curve, from an operations standpoint, teaching people how to search and manage jobs, and start and stop them, put jobs on hold and kill them, we can get someone up to speed in less than a week. For developers, it's a little bit more lengthy. There have been several instances where we have a Tidal developer, a subject matter expert — we've only had one or two of them — who has been able to train multiple people and make them serviceable. We've been doing it for 14 years, so we don't use Tidal training. We've created our own training documentation to get them up to speed for how we use Tidal. We can get them up to speed very quickly. I know people who have joined the company and who are writing and creating Tidal jobs two weeks or three weeks later.

What was our ROI?

For ROI we'd have to figure out how many man-hours am we're saving with Tidal versus not having it or having one of the other automation tools. We've grown up with it. I can't imagine being without it. Back in 2016, when we looked at possibly switching over to another solution, it wasn't a clear path to migrate to any of the other tools. We literally run our whole enterprise on this, so if Tidal goes down, the world stops.

We feel we're getting a pretty good deal with Tidal. It's supporting $600 to $700 million in revenue.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The licensing model's flexibility is awesome. The way it's licensed for us is per master and then per agent. We have an enterprise agreement, so we have unlimited agents, and we have it on 500 devices.

I don't know how it could be easier to budget for Tidal, given that there are no costs for upgrades and other enhancements. There are increases over time, but unless you add functionality, such as buying other adapters, it's very easy to manage costs for maintenance and the like.

In terms of the hardware that we purchased — VMs and storage and networking, and the VMs' SQL licensing — it was a little bit below $200,000. That doesn't include licensing.

The hardware list is includes

  • a SQL cluster
  • a utility server that we use to migrate jobs from dev to prod
  • two masters in dev
  • a fault manager in both dev and prod
  • three Client Managers in dev and two Client Managers in prod
  • for each of those Client Managers we have a database
  • 11 VMs
  • 12 physical boxes.

So we've got a pretty big environment.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

There have been a couple of times that we have looked at competitors, especially when we saw that Cisco wasn't really investing time or money into it. It wasn't clear to us if Cisco was going to continue to invest in Tidal. So we went out and looked at the market and did evaluations. 

We looked at Automic or UC4. We looked at BMC Control-M. Stonebranch was actually interesting, back in 2016.

What it came down to was that Automic was tough because it was changing hands on a regular basis. Stonebranch was more in our price range, but Tidal's price for the way that we use it was cheaper. When we started looking at what it would take to migrate from one to the other, there was no ROI.

The way we evaluated things was we looked at our use cases and ranked them from one to ten, and then costs. All of Automic, Stonebranch, and BMC would do what we wanted them to do. I'm sure, if we had dug a little dig deeper, we'd have found the little idiosyncrasies between them. But the cost for those and the cost of migration was just too much.

We started seeing how Cisco was propping it up a little bit more, right before they sold it to STA. And when STA bought it, they assured us that they would start making improvements. We stopped our analysis of other solutions there.

What other advice do I have?

Tidal's drill-down functionality is one of those things where you get out of it what you put into it. If you program it to fire-and-forget then it doesn't have a lot of drill-down mode to it. If you put in result codes and things like that, instead of using the agent to kick off the SSRS package in SQL, or if you use the adapter, then you can drill down.

We have about 100 users using Tidal in our organization. They are anywhere from developers to operations people to administrators. There are only a couple of administrators. There's a bunch of operators because we use this to run 24/7, 365 for 20 or 30 customers. For each of them there may be a couple of operations people and a couple of developers. As for maintenance, we patch our boxes, our masters, our Client Managers, and our databases every month, and it takes one person.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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