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Microsoft still playing catch up with Service Manager

Microsoft is closer to delivering System Center Service Manager, but after long delays, the company may have missed the boat.

When Microsoft finally releases System Center Service Manager next year, it could be a compelling product. But after so many delays, IT pros with entrenched service management products from IBM and other major players might not give it a chance.

The company released Service Manager Beta 2- update last week. It supports the Compliance and Risk Process Management Pack and fixes a number of other issues from the previous beta release. It is available for download on the Service Manager site on Connect.

More on Service Manager:
Revised Service Manager beta expected within weeks
Microsoft service desk delayed until 2010
Microsoft service desk plans caught on rocks

Microsoft's late entry into the service management space will certainly impact the company as it tries to sell Service Manager to IT pros who have already adopted products from companies such as IBM (Integrated Service Management) and BMC (Remedy IT Service Management Suite).

In fact, Richard L. Ptak, systems management analyst and principal of Amherst, N.H.-based Ptak, Noel & Associates LLC, said Microsoft is so far behind in the service management space that he hasn't been paying them much attention.

"What Microsoft is doing is important, but there is a lot of high-level activity from other players that has been out there for many years," Ptak said. "Companies are out there adding new capabilities and integrating new technologies solving real business problems while Microsoft is still playing catch up. You have companies like IBM with a product that already integrates everything, and Microsoft is coming in behind where a lot of other people have already been before."

Doug Spindler, president of the Orinda, Calif.-based IT association, Pacific IT Professionals, said he thinks his user group members "could care less" about Service Manager, in part because "Microsoft has done an extremely poor job of marketing [it] to IT pros."

Service Manager is essentially a mega-database that gives IT pros a view of all components in a data center by pulling information from System Center and third-party products. Service Manager Beta-2 update brings the company closer to a final product release.

The initial beta for the ambitious Microsoft Service Manager project, code-named Service Desk, came out in June 2007. Since then, the final release date has been pushed back again and again.

Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft analyst Don Retallack said, "People are waiting to see what Microsoft delivers, but they will be reluctant at first because this is their first time with a help desk product, and it is very ambitious."

That said, if Microsoft delivers on its big plans, the Service Manager product will be compelling to System Center users. It will be based on ITIL best practices, will be customizable and will integrate across System Center products including System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Configuration Manager.

Plus, "if Microsoft makes it manage both on-premise and off-premise installations, that would be very interesting," Retallack said. "It looks like they are moving that way, with things like Online Desktop Manager, which could help IT if it lets users do self help, like password resets, which is a big source of IT calls."

Still, Microsoft will have to break in and displace existing systems, which could take years.

"I don't think they will have a high success rate immediately, because they are coming in late," Retallack said. "But, that is what Microsoft does."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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