SCSM Review

Good flexibility and integration abilities but the interface needs improvement


What is our primary use case?

We use this for ticketing. Initially, it is just like ticketing but we wanted to have some change management configuration as well. The possibility for change management and the ticketing system are the two main use cases for this product for us. 

What is most valuable?

The integration part of the product is the most valuable for my uses. Because at the base and out of the box, all the products that you use are already talking to each other. Microsoft has a very good solution. At the back, I have an active directory, I have an Operations Manager, I have the Configuration Manager, I have the Orchestrator, I have a data protection manager, and a solution for the virtualizing management as well — VMM (Virtual Machine Manager). With all of these products integrated together, when I have got a ticket it should be visible in many places. I can do automated orchestration based on the scenario. This is awesome. I can shut down as many things as I like. If I have got something wrong — if I got a critical high alert — I can even shut down my whole infrastructure within a very short period of time. 

So the integration of the whole Microsoft suites is awesome. At one end, I'm using the Virtual Machine Manager that is the core of the infrastructure. Then I have to config the manager to have the complete listing of all the items of IP in my whole environment. Then I configure the Operations Manager as well. So the ticketing system is all I need to use for any of the component products. If I get an alarm and I need to call the Operation Manager, it is just one right-click to open the menu and I can automatically open ticket orders right on that alarm. When you click it, it will open the CSM (Customer Service Management) interface. I can do it seamlessly. The whole thing works with SSO (Single Sign-on) from the backend and it is very nice and completely integrated. A very convenient package like an all-in-one tool but it is actually five or six products acting well together. 

The ticketing can be automated and I can also manually create the ticket on a particular severity level. For the other IT products — even something like BMC Remedy — SCSM will integrate with these other products and you can generate alarms from those as well. There are many things it can do. But in the BMC example, the monitoring is not done by the BMC Remedy product itself. It is a pure IT solution with SCSM and CMDB (Configuration Management Database) controlling the process. Microsoft manages it so all things are working together once they are integrated.

What needs improvement?

In SCSM (System Center Service Manager) there is a need to be cognizant of the management of the CMDB (Configuration Management Database). It needs to be improved. My initial base experience for alarms was BMC Remedy, and that works really well. From that example, I could see the concept of what the CMDB does but also what it was not doing. So in the SCSM, you can improve the CMDB by using customization on the interface. Because you are able to add configuration items a little easier, SCSM can be much better at doing the job that you need it to do. If I need a separate tool for customization or to add a class, this is the hard way and it makes the tool harder to use. For example, if I need to add a level of severity or if I need to add something else which is not related to IT in some other product, that ends up being harder to customize in BMC than SCSM — even if I know about CMDB. 

Products that are more difficult will, of course, make it a little tricky for people with less experience to work with. In SCSM, there are some features they provide for you to customize. It is a very easy graphic interface where you can add your stuff in a very easy way. It is different than doing it with the CSM (Content Management System). I know how to do it with CSM because I have already done it. But for the other people with less experience, it is much harder in BMC if you look at the level of difficulty by comparison. 

I would like to also see improvements in the CMDB. One of the recommendations I will make is that searches for ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) level V3 or V4 compliant software at SCSM have more complete disclosure. There is no real database, resource or content that exists to help support users find this information. It puzzles me as to why because it can only enhance the utility of the software.

If you search the internet, you will not even see if Microsoft SCSM is compliant with some particular software. It is compliant, and I know it is compliant, but I do not know if it is fully or partially or only marginally compliant. This type of information should be made readily available and should be there to access as the manufacturer knows the answers and compliances.

For how long have I used the solution?

I used the product for at least five years, from before the time that it was a mature product.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

For many years with Microsoft, if there was some problem, the common solution was that you just restart the machine. This is what users had been doing for ten or fifteen years. Previously, I had a very bad experience with the stability of Windows 2008, Windows 2008R2 and the configuration manager as well. It would need to be restarted often. But now my experience improved a lot. The release in 2012 was a really amazing improvement. Then in 2016 it improved more — and even more in 2019. The stability of the products might have been something of a problem and even a joke before, but now it is really much, much better. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Of course, the product is scalable. I think that you can add 100,000 configuration items or even more than that. I do not remember exactly, but it is much more than before with earlier versions and probably more than most people will ever need.

How are customer service and technical support?

Normally Microsoft support will become directly involved with you only if you are a big enterprise. They give you a big tour, they may even give you a resident engineer. But normally you get support from the vendors or from the partners. If the vendors or the partners can resolve your issues then that is okay. Otherwise, the partner will open up a ticket with Microsoft directly. 

I think, overall, it is a good service and solution. Sometimes it takes a little time to get a resolution, but it depends upon the severity level of the issue. If you have an SLA (Service Level Agreement) the partners work hand-in-hand with Microsoft. The support is very nice and it works well, but you need to pay more to get the service and this is the only thing about working with technical support that some people will not want to do.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I was using the product in 2012 and after that, I left it for a while because I had to use a different solution for a different purpose and a different job. I had just been switching between jobs and doing this or that. For a time, I was using BMC Remedy and I was managing to work with it pretty well. It was deployed by the client. At that time, I was working with Huawei.

BMC Remedy, too, is a good solution. Then I changed jobs again and, for a while, I used an open-source solution called iTop. It is an exact copy of BMC Remedy with only a few things missing. So between times where I was working with System Center, it was a quite long time — more than five years. Now I am working with it again as a service manager myself.

At my current job, I'm a consultant. So when the vendor told me they were going to use System Center in 2016, I had to learn how everything worked again. I knew the product before and it was good. After we did a small deployment and went to see the demos, we decided to go with SCSM. We told our clients that it would work perfectly. We started working on a big government project that I needed to add sites, or apps, and some other items which are not actually IT. I hadn't done these things before so it was not very easy at first, but it was possible. You just needed to add and define a new clause and you could do many things. After that, we realized it was pretty easy and that we could add anything that we wanted. That type of flexibility was really an attractive point.

How was the initial setup?

From the infrastructure perspective, the setup is not a big deal. It is really simple. But from the operation perspective, you need to define the SLA (Service Level Agreement) and you need to define how you use the chain management copy process. You need to define your own clauses and many things that can take six months or one year. It depends on your situation. If you need to customize it, the customizing takes time. 

Many of the things are out of the box and they do not need a lot of customization. On the other hand, too much customization is not the way it should go. It may cause problems later. It should be as straightforward as possible for deployment and not add complexity just for complexity's sake. A little development for a few things, especially for the integration, should be what you want to shoot for.

What about the implementation team?

I was an assistant administer before for 10 years. So all these products have gone through my hands. I know them all. I have clients and consult with them on their deployments. Some have already deployed SCSM or I may have clients who are looking to implement SCSM in their organization. I have to evaluate what each type of client needs and make appropriate suggestions. I deploy myself because I have the hands-on experience.

What was our ROI?

If you use the complete product and you can fully support the Microsoft System Center, the ROI is very high with this product. What we do normally — and as I see customers do — we are only using a small number of features available in all the individual products we license. Just like when I use SCSM, I only use it for ticketing or some other specific task. It is not utilizing what the product can do.

For Configuration Manager, only using it for the automatic deployment to push updates and nothing else is not utilizing the product, because it can do much more. For the Operations Manager, we normally only just use it for monitoring the alarms, and again it can do much more. If I go to the dashboard and I learn to use the product for capacity planning and the other features that can help me with my productivity, its ROI is higher. It is just a matter of learning about the product and taking advantage of it in ways that help you make the most of what you do and how it can help you do it.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The licensing costs are very tricky. As far as I know, it is very tricky for all people involved in using or reselling systems center — and sometimes it confused me. It is easy to recognize that in the earlier stages, the licensing scheme was different. Now you pay for the infrastructure level. You have to pay based on the processor and core. The requirements changed to eight cores for the infrastructure. Then if you need the tech support it is extra as part of the license. In my situation, I do not want to have the support contract from Microsoft because the partner will do support for me. So even to this point, the licensing is sometimes a little complex rather than straightforward. 

The conditions of the license depend upon the number of items in the infrastructure, but that is only one part of the agreement. That would be how many servers or how many instances are need to deploy based on the actual scenario and configuration. They increase the license cost according to individual situations based on how many devices need to be monitored. The products themselves come in a bundle, which is easy. You need to just purchase the desired package for the products. But licensing is actually not as simple as just picking the package of products. If I get the products in one of the bundled licensing schemes, I will get those products. But for the products, I need to buy additional licenses. So there are a lot of factors that drive the final license cost.

By comparison, VMware — and with many other products — licensing can be very straightforward. But this is not the case for Microsoft SCSM.

What other advice do I have?

Before I was a consultant at SRB, and right now I'm working as a consultant and exploring additional products. Since the time before when the product was not that mature, I was not using SCSM for those few years. Now the product has been really changed. Especially the integration and configuration. And then also with the inclusion of Operation Manager and the Orchestrator. It is quite good now in comparison to the BMC Remedy and iTop.

My advice to anyone considering the SCSM solution would be to figure out if it is the product for you by evaluating what you already have as a base and what you want to accomplish. If it is already a Microsoft shop and it is using virtual machines and using Active Directory and if all the machines are Windows-based, this is one thing. It is an easy decision. It is clear that if I'm using the virtual infrastructure from Hyper-V, we virtualize stuff and all the products and infrastructure make us a Microsoft shop, definitely go for the System Center.

But, for example, if I'm working with VMware already, just go for that solution. VMware also has a lot of products. All this functionality is available using them. Or almost all. I don't think they have a ticketing system. It may have changed now. But for the configuration, they have a lot of products and opportunities. But with VMware, if you want to have it so you have Microsoft as a VM inside, it is much better to go with Microsoft instead of using something else on top of it.

On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I rate this product as a seven. Maybe even between six and seven. This is because there are a few things they need to improve, especially in the interface. If you are only talking about rating the SCSM as a product, it is a different story. I'm talking about the whole System Center portfolio. SCSM cannot work alone. It needs System Center Configuration Manager at the back. If the configuration management is not there, it is very hard to manage the SCSM by itself. SCSM does not have its own CMDB. The CMDB is coming from the Configuration Manager. So it is not really a single product. If it were a complete product, and I could run it purely in one integrated solution, the rating would be higher.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.

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