Microsoft Delays Release of Service Manager

The software company's first help desk offering is now not due until 2010, giving HP and BMC time to solidify their products.

Microsoft's forthcoming Service Manager help desk offering will not see the light of day for another two years, as the company reworks a core component to provide the necessary performance.

While Microsoft initially said its System Center Service Manager offering-code-named Service Desk-was slated for release in the first half of 2008, Microsoft chose to push the final release back to the first half of 2010.

The decision was based on feedback from Beta One customers, who said performance of the help desk software was not where they needed it to be, according to Robert Reynolds, group product manager for System Center.

At the heart of the performance bottleneck was the "store technology" used in the help desk software's CMDB (configuration management database), which prompted Microsoft to use common technology found in Microsoft's Operations Manager software, Reynolds said.

"We are leveraging some of the technology that started in Operations Manager and enhancing that. There were enhancements required for that so it could be a full CMDB," Reynolds said. "We have to rebind the [user interface] and the workflow engine [in Service Manager] to that new core component. We have to fix that performance problem."

Any enhancements made using the Operations Manager component will benefit any other System Center product that exploits the CMDB, Reynolds said.

However, the delay gives dominant players in the service desk market such as BMC Software, Hewlett-Packard and CA even more opportunity to solidify their leads.

"It's only been in the past few years that competitors like HP and BMC have gotten even strong stories together on their IT service management," said IDC analyst Fred Broussard. "BMC is strong in business service management and have adopted a lot of [IT Infrastructure Library] processes. The same goes for HP with the acquisition of Peregrine and the consolidation of the former HP Service Desk into HP Service Manager. They've only gotten stronger in the past two years. And even CA has gotten a better story than they had in the past."

Still, Microsoft has a chance to get a leg up in the market if its Service Manager is on a competitive par and can offer greater ease of use than the existing dominant products, Broussard said.

"In the market overall, there is still a healthy percentage of shops still dealing with homegrown solutions. [BMC's] Remedy and [HP's] Peregrine are still pretty heavy solutions [to implement]. And with enterprises that have less than 5,000 employees, Microsoft has as good a chance as anybody to get into that range and get a service desk solution running," Broussard said. "Ultimately, at this stage of the game, Microsoft may as well take their time and do it right."

Microsoft's Reynolds acknowledged that the delay could hamper Microsoft's attempt to enter the market, but said there is an opportunity.

"The later release will delay our chances, but we don't feel it will hurt our ability to solve customer problems. [Private beta] customers are urging us on. They want us to get into this space and bring our ease of use to it. Customers are still buying things that, given an easier-to-use option, they would be willing to take a look at that and migrate what they have to that," he said.

Microsoft will refresh the beta testing for Service Manager toward the end of 2008.