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Microsoft enhances IT process automation in Service Manager beta

The long-awaited System Center Service Manager appears to be back on track as Microsoft releases a second beta with a handful of key service desk features.

Microsoft's reinvented and long-delayed IT process automation software, System Center Service Manager, is one step closer to reality.

The company today said System Center Service Manager beta 2, due this fall, will offer a self-service portal along with incident, problem and change management capabilities. It also includes connectors to other products in the Microsoft management suite -- Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, and Active Directory -- that will let IT administrators create CMDBs.

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With the Service Manager portal, users can create and view the status of service requests, reset passwords, provision software and more. Microsoft developers built the portal as an ASP.NET page, which will allow for third-party customization.

These new features will improve IT process automation for existing System Center customers, said Andi Mann, vice president of research for Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo. "This is somewhere [Microsoft] can capitalize," he said.

Medium-sized enterprises want the benefits of an enterprise service desk and CMDBs, which are included in Service Manager, but only if they are easy to use, Mann said. For those already using System Center, "that's going to be attractive," he added.

Microsoft started talking about System Center Service Manager -- then code-named Service Desk -- in 2006. The company released an initial Service Manager beta in June 2007 but scrapped that project in February 2008 and started over. A new Service Manager beta 1 came out late last year.

Microsoft did not say when it will release Service Manager to manufacturing, but previous comments by executives point to the first half of 2010. The company said it will offer three licensing options: standalone, bundled into the new System Center Client Management Suite and through the Enterprise Client Access License. Pricing details will come closer to the release date.

The System Center Service Manager beta 2 disclosure was one of several Microsoft made at Microsoft Management Summit 2009 in Las Vegas this week. The company said a beta for System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Service Pack 2 will be available within 60 days, and the next version of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack will come out within 90 days of the Windows 7 release.

In addition, Microsoft unveiled its plans for System Center Online Desktop manager, a hosted desktop management service. That offering will be available to private testers within 60 days and to public beta testers by the end of the year, the company said.

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