Microsoft delays service desk tool again

With 2010 now the ship date, problem resolution tool three years behind schedule

Microsoft Monday said it was again pushing out the release date of the problem resolution software it plans to add to its System Center lineup of management tools.

System Center Service Manager, formerly called Service Desk,will now ship in the first half of 2010. Microsoft officials said the delay was based on issues discovered during beta testing that center on performance and integration with other System Center tools such as Operations Manager.

The software when first introduced in May 2006 was slated to ship in the second half of 2007. That date was eventually pushed back to the first half of 2008, before the latest change Monday.

"If Microsoft has a good product in 2010 that is more important than having a [bad] product out earlier," says Fred Broussard, research manager for systems infrastructure at IDC. "This is another piece of Microsoft’s management puzzle, which I think is a critical piece."

Companies such as BMC, CA, HP and IBM are the major vendors that develop problem resolution software for large companies.

Service Manager helps administrators work through trouble tickets but also anchors automated, pro-active service requests initiated via other system management tools, and can aid in compliance auditing.

Service Manager, which was released in beta last year, includes a workflow engine based on the Windows Workflow Foundation and incorporates IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of best practices for IT services management, and the Microsoft Operations Framework.

But it is Service Manager’s configuration management database (CMDB), which will host data from System Center Configuration Manager and from Operations Manager, where Microsoft is making changes.

Beta testing revealed performance and scalability issues with the CMDB and Microsoft plans to rebuild its architecture using components already used in Operations Manager. Not only will that help with performance, according to Microsoft, but it also more closely integrates Server Manager with the other System Center management tools.

"The core model-based data store in Operations Manager has the basic pieces that we need," says Robert Reynolds, a group product planner for System Center.

Once the CMDB is rebuilt, integration of System Center components will become easier to integrate, according to Reynolds.

Microsoft plans to refresh last year’s public beta of Service Manager by year-end. In 2009, a feature complete beta will be polished and prepped for the 2010 launch.

Reynolds says that timeframe should also include upgrades to other System Center software.

He says users will still be able to run Service Manager as a stand-alone tool. It will not require users to run Operations Manager.

"It seemed like there had been some duplication of effort [on the CMDB technology], and the basic CMDB was not adequate," says Don Retallack, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft. "Plus, they want to have a suite of integrated products rather than just a help desk solution."

The System Center line of management tools are a foundation element of Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative, a plan to create a management platform for Windows.

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