Microsoft service desk delayed until 2010

Microsoft will reengineer System Center Service Manager after receiving complaints about its performance from participants in the initial beta trial.

The release date for Microsoft's ambitious service desk will be delayed until 2010 as the company overhauls key elements in the product's underlying technology.

The initial beta for System Center Service Manager, formerly code-named Service Desk, has been out since June. A version dubbed Beta Refresh 1 will come in the second half of 2008 and will replace the original beta, according to Microsoft. A second beta will come in the first half of 2009. The product was originally slated for the end of 2007.

"We were getting feedback [from testers] that certain queries weren't fast enough [and] that workflow pieces were taking too long,"

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said Robert Reynolds, Microsoft Service Manager group product manager. "After an engineering analysis we figured out that the core component [of the product] was causing bottlenecks."

The GUI and the workflow engines will stay the same. However, the core storage technology, which is what Service Manager's configuration management database (CMDB) is built on, will be replaced with the core component technology developed for System Center Operations Manager, Reynolds said.

Service Manager is a new and complex animal for Microsoft. The company discussed its intentions to build a service desk during the Microsoft Management Summit in 2006.

"We knew this was going to be a new area and we were going to have to learn a few things," Reynolds said. "We learned that sometimes it is better to use the same core technology already found in a proven product like Operations Manager for interoperability, efficiency and quality."

At least one expert had expressed surprise that Microsoft chose to build a service desk rather than buy one, and that Microsoft might have been unprepared for all the challenges of building a product of this complexity.

"Microsoft made the decision to go ahead and develop its own [product] from scratch and they are now seeing that it wasn't the best decision to make," said Richard Ptak, a principal at Ptak, Noel & Associates, a Nashua, N.H., consulting firm.

For one thing, hard core systems management vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. have spent years developing a CMDB to automate tasks and centralize software configurations. Microsoft is developing its own CMDB and, at the same time, it's working out integration between its service desk and its entire System Center product line.

Also, the way the winds are blowing in the service desk market, Microsoft should have service-oriented architecture in mind in which service centers, not service desks, are based on service modeling engines that are dynamic and self aware, Ptak said. If Microsoft hopes to be successful, he said, it needs to think along the same lines as other vendors developing service modeling engines.

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