ServiceNow held a launch event on Tuesday 12th September for their London release, skilfully avoiding a scheduling conflict with a slightly bigger event just down the road in Cupertino.
The key components discussed at the launch include:
- License Change Projection
- Application Lifecycle Management
- Publisher Packs
- Reporting and Operations enhancements
License Change Projection
For me the highlight of the SAM release was License Change Projection. This provides direct integration between Change Management and ITAM. It is driven right from the Change Request, provides the requester with a projection of license costs associated with the change, and even enables them to request approval of those costs. This is a key differentiator of ServiceNow’s SAM offering and a clear competitive advantage. No other tool vendor has full control over the data structures for CMDB, Change, and ITAM. This control enables a streamlined and auditable workflow for environment changes and software approvals. For example, if an IT Operations engineer raises a change to increase the number of cores in your SQL Server cluster she’ll be presented with a cost estimate that will need to be signed off before the change is approved. At this stage there is no further integration – I would like to see more granularity around the estimate, particularly for large projects initiating multiple changes. This would enable license purchases to be scheduled to maximise support contract value. With some changes planned weeks in advance and subject to modification before deployment it is important that licenses are only procured at the point of deployment, not at point of approval.
Application Lifecycle Management
As we move towards integration with IT Security & Compliance a further welcome introduction is application lifecycle management. Whilst many tools now provide end of support/end of life dates for individual software packages, ServiceNow’s direct integration with CMDB enables this for applications. For example, your CRM system may be Microsoft Dynamics, using SQL Server 2008, running on Windows Server 2012, in a VMWare vCenter 5.5 environment. Application Lifecycle Management surfaces end of life dates for all those components, enabling upgrade & patch decisions to be made at the application level.
Like many vendors, ServiceNow offers license management for vendors with complex metrics as a separate add-on. In London there are Publisher Packs released and enhanced for the following:
- Adobe Cloud
These bring ServiceNow closer in functionality to established vendors who have been offering similar integrations for a number of years.
Reporting & SAM Operations
ServiceNow are also closing the gap by delivering enhancements that most SAM Managers would see as essential operational tools. They still have some way to go with some of these.
The first enhancement is a License Position Report – an at-a-glance compliance report showing entitlement versus consumption on a per package basis. On the surface this seems such a basic requirement that it’s surprising to see it receiving headline coverage in a launch event.
Continuing with entitlement they also debuted Automated Entitlement Upload. I’d expected this to leverage the Accounts & Expenses approach to entitlement discovery taken by recent acquisition VendorHawk but for now this is just an import using an Excel template. Hardly cutting edge, but all the same an essential tool, particularly for a large environment. At least it is possible to set data quality requirements for the import and address any discrepancies directly in the tool rather than having to do them in Excel.
Overall this is an incremental release where we see further benefits of tight integration with the Now Platform. License Change Projection will close a loophole that ITAM managers often struggle with – it may mean we no longer have to attend Change Advisory Boards!
As the SAM product matures we should expect to see further integrations, particularly with ITSM and IT Business Management. For example, the platform offers an AI-enabled service automation technology – this was the lead item in the keynote. If integrated with the SAM product it should be possible to automate user requests such as “Can I have Project installed?” The sheer volume of data ServiceNow holds about your IT environment puts them in a strong position to deliver on these routine SAM Operations tasks. In some ways the their approach mirrors that of their neighbours Apple – control the ecosystem precisely and iterate services on top of that platform. When the iPhone launched in 2007 it didn’t have an App Store and that’s now a $40bn business. The platform approach adopted by Apple, ServiceNow, and new entrants such as Qualys should enable new products and enhancements to be delivered quickly.
However, the continued delivery of basic functionality makes me wonder how operationally-ready the toolset is. If you’re a ServiceNow SAM customer, please consider leaving a review on Marketplace. I’d also welcome the opportunity for a more in-depth chat about your experience with the tool.