A new VMware process pack for Service-Now extends IT managers' reach into the virtual data center without adding significant installation and configuration burdens for IT staff.
The fall 2010 release of the SAAS (software-as-a-service) IT management platform also includes refinements such as IT cost management tools for show back and charge back, software development lifecycle management and a basic sales force automation tool.
Service-Now, with its fall 2010 release, continues to beef up the company's hosted enterprise IT service management tool set. For several years, Service-Now has been taking on incumbent on-premise management products from HP, CA, BMC and IBM. The premise has been compelling-offload the care and configuration of management tools that are often a contributor to IT headaches and let Service-Now worry about the infrastructure. Service-Now also has touted its frequently updated ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) street cred and service desk tools, rightly showing that it can be significantly easier to let dedicated experts keep track of changes in the best practices world. And with the fall 2010 release, the product is catching up to the promise.
To get my initial Service-Now fall 2010 instance up and running, I got an account from the company and downloaded a small (55MB) Java application and made a few changes to a configuration file to tell the Service-Now server which instance and user credentials to invoke. As is typical with an IT management tool, I configured a discovery process-supplying various credentials for IT assets including the Windows- and Linux-based systems in my environment along with the SNMP-enabled network infrastructure. Service-Now uses an agentless discovery process to enumerate systems.
For IT shops that already have a Service-Now subscription, which is $100 per user, per month for each process user, adopting the new VMware process pack, sales force automation and software development lifecycle features will require very little additional training. The features are plug-ins, which must be activated in a simple procedure by your Service-Now administrator. To be clear, users who only view data in reports, for example, are not charged for using Service-Now.
The VMware process pack does take a bit of configuration know-how and will require a VMware administrator to assist with the process. In my tests, the process pack worked as expected once I had all the credentials set up correctly. Using a work flow process that was provided as a template in Service-Now, I was able to create virtual machines in my VMware ESX environment. The work flow can do simple things such as power on or off a virtual machine, clone or configure a Windows or Linux system using templates in vCenter. In my tests, it became clear that while Service-Now can perform these simple configuration tasks, the heavy-duty management of virtual machines still lies in the realm of vCenter. For example, vMotion and the myriad of business continuity and load balancing capabilities of virtual data center tools are beyond the scope of Service-Now.
The new salesforce automation and software lifecycle management plug-ins are in reality neat add-ons, not full-fledged replacements for established products in these categories. This is also true of the new cost management plug-in. The sales automation tools were developed at Service-Now for its internal organization and released as a feature in this release with the ability to generate basic leader board, prospects and contract-tracking reports. The software lifecycle tool can be used to satisfy ITIL process requirements that also monitor application release management. I was given basic show-back cost information from the cost management tool. This type of cost information is one of the keys to reducing virtual machine sprawl and is a promising development for the year to come.