Friday, September 30, 2011

SCSM - IT Operations Perspective

Microsoft's System Center Service Manager is here. Fancy names aside, it is a ticketing system which keeps a track of all the work done in IT operations. We have just launched SCSM in our production environment and right now is a good time to tell you guys as to how I, being part of IT Operations, see SCSM. 
I am not a big fan of fancy list of feature sets in marketing/sales terminology. I want to see a product in action to decide whether it  is going to increase or decrease the time, the most precious commodity in IT operations, to do a certain task. 

Feature Set
SCSM's first release has a huge feature set, but once you go inside you find that each feature is at a pretty basic level and if your IT operations is at an advance level, you can forget about an out of the box implementation of SCSM. 

Having said that, Microsoft seems to be pretty serious about SCSM and they have already opened a lot of communication channels (via forums, Partners, MS Connect etc) to ensure that SCSM can be customized easily to tailor fit any environment. 

ITIL V3 Compliant? 
Contrary to what I was told during our initial meetings with MS, I didn't find SCSM to be  "100% ITIL V3 compatible". Two important areas of IT operations as defined by ITIL V3 namely Events Management and Requests Fulfillment were missing. And no matter what anyone say, I need a visible distinction between Events and Incidents. 

Integration With SCOM
The integration with System Center Operations Manager (or MS's monitoring tool), is seamless and brilliant. SCOM is responsible for reporting alerts in case of any issue in your IT infrastructure (e.g. a CI has crossed an acceptable level of operations e.g. C Drive is 80% full), and once that alert is reported, you have a choice to automatically create a ticket and assign to the relevant team or you can send the alert from SCOM to SCSM. 

Exchange Connector
Although not officially released by MS, but the SCSM community has created an exchange connector which is quite brilliant. With the help of this connector you can create, update and even close a ticket by just sending an email to a designated mailbox which SCSM reads after a defined frequency. 

Reports are very very basic in nature. But if you know anything about database design and SQL query language, have no fear. With the help of Sql Reporting Services, you can create your own reports, which is much better actually, since every organization has its own set of unique reporting requirements. However as a future add on, if a reporting tool is built into SCSM for non SQL literate folks, then it will facilitate the SCSM users even further. 

User Friendly
Obviously its a Microsoft product, so the added benefit of being user friendly is definitely there. But I have found it to be a bit slow. Considering its basic requirement is a top notch h/w with Windows 2008 and SQL Server 2008, it doesn't reflect well into the architecture of SCSM. So if you are seriously considering SCSM, make sure that you go through the design considerations carefully. 

Web Portal
Web portal has nothing to write home about. Although I expected that Web Portals are the future of all MS applications, but MS chose to go with fat client consoles. I am not sure why. Maybe, for now, they just included a basic web portal with plans to expand it in future releases. 

Final Verdict
If you are not in a hurry and can wait for the next release of SCSM, then do so. Since I believe that the next two releases/versions of SCSM will be much mature than this one. 

Stay tuned for more on SCSM. 

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