Revised Service Manager beta expected within weeks

Microsoft System Center Service Manager is roaring back after a false start. The service desk has been rebuilt from scratch and is on track for completion in 2010.

BARCELONA -- Microsoft is set to release an initial beta for its System Center Service Manager, a product that was scrapped last year and reengineered from scratch by an entirely new technical team.

At a TechEd 2008 Europe session here this week, Michael Nappi, product unit manager at Microsoft's management and services division, said System Center Service Manager beta 1 will arrive in either late November or early December. There will be a second beta in mid-summer 2009, which will be feature complete.

More on Microsoft System Center Service Manager
Service Manager delayed until 2010
"Confidence is high in Redmond," Nappi said. The Service Manager release-to-manufacturing is on track for the first half of 2010, he said.

Microsoft considers Service Manager to be a highly strategic product. Its goal is to automate and streamline IT operations. Version 1.0 of the product will have some core objectives, including the ability to deliver business rules and compliance information to one place within System Center.

There will be a set of automated processes based on Microsoft Operations Framework and ITIL that can get set up out of the box, Nappi said. The initial version will also ship with a self-service portal so that end users can initiate actions into the IT environment.

The product will be fully integrated with other System Center platforms, such as Operations Manager (SCOM) and Configuration Manager (SCCM).

A Configuration Management Database (CMDB) based on SQL Server 2008 will offer a modeled report of the IT environment. Information that feeds into the CMDB is customizable through templates. The platform will also be extensible in that ISVs can build on Service Manager using a software development kit (SDK) that Microsoft will make available.

Process packs to be included

The CMDB itself will represent IT assets as configuration items and incident change requests as work items. There are connections that map data sources within the CMDB, and the SDK will enable IT shops or ISVs to build connectors to other data sources. The connectors will be ready in the first beta, said Charles Chase, group product manager at Microsoft.

When Service Manager ultimately ships, it will include a number of process packs, such as incident management, problem management, change management, service management, configuration management, user self service, and service desk reporting and administration.

Chase said Microsoft has tried to make the first beta as feature complete as possible. IT administrators will be able to run incident and change management functions, create templates to classify, route and isolate incidents. There will also be workflows to track changes.

"You can add stages for review, track movements," Chase said. "Information is filled in using templates."

Other Service Manager features

Other items in Service Manager are queues, which are groups that accept types of incidents, and notifications that facilitate communication between IT and end users.

In the initial beta version, the SCCM inventory will be accessible by the CMDB. In the final product there will be similar integration with SCOM, where alerts from SCOM can be passed to the CMDB for remediation.

The second beta will add the self-service portal. This is an ASP.net application with a set of Web functions. It will support global announcements and knowledge base articles. Further, it will integrate with Microsoft's Identity Lifecycle Manager for things such as password reset, and SCCM for user software provisioning.

Nappi said Microsoft is working on connectors to other vendors' management systems, such as CA's Unicenter or HP's Openview. Microsoft has yet to decide which ones it will integrate with first and on what time schedule.

Some IT managers who have followed the rise and fall and resurrection of Microsoft's System Center Service Manager are impressed with the progress. "It looks promising, straightforward and simple," said Aran De Boer, an applications manager at De Friesland Zorgverzekeraar, a Leeuwarden, Netherlands-based health insurance company. "It's certainly better than what we have now."

For IT shops that are already using big management systems, a changeover would require a lot of thought and planning. Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, for example, has HP's Openview installed. "It's a big deal to change systems," said Christian Haugan, an IT manager at the Kongsberg, Norway-based company. "But I like the user interface, the self-service feature for end users and the integration with System Center."

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