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May 15, 2007

Microsoft System Center Service Manager

OK, I wanted to cover some more basic stuff before I move to tools description. And I will definitely, later. But here I have a chance to lay out fresh info on a new player on the market, significant new product that will probably change the odds at the market. Pompous announcement, all right, but that's how I see it at the moment.
Later this month, Microsoft will go public with beta1 of System Center Service Manager. You've heard about Microsoft System Center probably, a new set of system management tools revolving mainly around Operations Manager (now Ops Manager 2007) and SMS (now Configuration Manager in Beta). Well, last year MS started the development of the product with a coded name Service Desk. The decision was logical, maturity of MOM and SMS as main system management tools just craved for a service management main tool. The idea was to give as much ITIL/MOF compliant functionality in the first version as possible, with the help of mature MS technologies like SQL server and SharePoint. Codename of the product was changed from Service Desk to Service Manager, probably because it encompasses more functions then standard ITIL Service Desk. The product will have a System Center look & feel, meaning that the operator console will be similar to Operations Manager 2007. On the left is a standard "Wunderbar" navigation panel with main modules and user adapted views on them. On a right side is a detailed functionality.

Picture: Operator Console Prototype

Basics of the product are on Service Modeling Language (SML), an xml-based language developed in cooperation of MS, HP, Cisco, IBM, Sun, Dell and a few other big names. On my opinion, a great effort and a great advantage since it serves to define heterogeneous IT infrastructure and services based on it. A great effort from MS, and congratulations to them. I am otherwise not a great fan of MS products, but here I really got excited.
Final functionality will cover the following features and their respectful consequences:

  • Incident Management: out-of-the-box implementation of core ITIL functionality, reduced call handle time with instant access to related asset and system health information, user defined queues, SLA metrics, escalation policies, built-in performance dashboards and trending reports, single unified search engine, automatic incident creation and escalation from services monitored by Ops Manager 2007
  • Self Service: a centralized interface for end users to get information (health of their services, relevant announcements from IT, status of their requests), reduced number of calls to the helpdesk by enabling end users to solve their own problems (search knowledge base, list of common issues, create service requests), reduce service requests by enabling end users to request software and OS deployments to their own assets (built on 'Change Management' and supports review, license count check, approval and scheduling workflows, users only see software they are allowed to request...)

  • Asset Management: SML models of assets and their relationships, built in Connectors (SMS 2003, SCCM 2007, OpsMgr 2007, Active Directory), extendable by partners and customers, customizable level of CI tracking , manage the lifecycle of assets, actual up-to-dataset configuration
  • Change Management: Out-of-the-box implementation of core ITIL functionality, standard RFC fields (links to affected CIs, reason, priority, impact, etc.), support all roles (initiators, reviewers, approvers, implementers), workflows for Minor, Standard, and Urgent RFCs, creation of RFCs by initiating directly from incidents or assets, filling of RFC information quickly using a template system for pre-defining common RFC data, automatically update the CMDB when RFCs are completed, measure performance and effectiveness through dashboards and reports

Service Manager's functionalities are based on Solution Packs, similar to Management Packs in OpsManager. OOB installation doesn't have operational modules in it - all you get is an empty console. You have to import Incident Management solution pack to get IM functionality, Change Management solution pack to get CM functionality, and so on. Meaning that everything is in a solution pack: forms, workflows, reports, portal features, views...You (and 3rd party vendors) can create your own solution packs that will contain all system customizations and special features. This is way too cool for me, as I've implemented and redeployed some ServiceDesk products that didn't have these options. Took a lot of time and nerves.

Connectors to Configuration Manager and Operations Manager will enable a user to know what he has, where it is (CMDB) and how it works (incidents, problems).

Picture: Basic Architecture

MS System Center Service Manager "sits" on mature MS technologies: SQL Server and Reporting Services, SharePoint 2007, .Net, Office and SML. These products by them self are among the better bunch in MS portfolio (I am not a fan, remember?). And from what I've seen in new Operations Manager, we have every right to expect a robust, well thought and sexy ServiceDesk product. And that will surely give other big players something to think of. Which is always good for us, the people.


  • Beta 1 will be available later in May 2007, and it will have Incident and Change Management solution packs. Also the IT portal for self-service provisioning. Connectors for AD and SMS2005 will be available.
  • Beta 2 is planned for 3Q 2007. It will add Asset Management solution pack and connectors for OpsManager 2007 and SCCM. Reporting is also be included.
  • Release Candidate version is expected by the end of 2007.
  • RTM version is planned for the beginning of 2008.

Key Points:

  • Companies with majority of Microsoft IT infrastructure. If you already have SMS or OpsManager, this is a product to consider. Will have a competitive price and good integration with existing management tools.
  • SM has OOB implementation of best practice knowledge and workflows.
  • Extendable, customizable platform, different topologies to adapt to company growth.
  • SML: Microsoft is putting a lot of resources and effort into this.
  • Built on reliable, mature MS technologies. No reinventing the wheel.
  • INTEGRATION: many of existing products have problems here, and you get aware of them when you get to the point that you need integration: with your CMDB, inventory discovery, ERP...
  • Functionality of Solution Packs is so cool

So, let's wait and see what happens. From my experience with MS OpsManager, RTM will probably be the first usable version. Since I am so curious, I will start with the Beta 1 and keep you informed.


Guy said...

Well doctor, any news on this? I just had a look on the MS website but couldn’t find any trial version or other.

Any idea on what's happening?

doctor said...

I can't tell you more then the official blog says: Blogs.Technet/systemcenter/system-center-service-manager-update

So, after a short technology redefinition, beta program continues and commited release date is H2 2010. This will probably be too long for some of the waiting customers, but I will address this soon in a technology overview post.

Have a nice thursday, Guy!