Oct 30, 2009 (08:10 PM EDT)
Rolling Review: Service Catalogs Tested

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Six months ago, we set off on an ambitious review of IT service catalogs. Ambitious not because of technical complexity, but because service catalogs are an emerging market with a number of diverse software tools. We were excited about the prospect of classifying these products into neat containers and seeing how they stacked up against our testing scenario. Instead, we found a fractured market with a lot of confusion over even the most basic tenets of what comprises a service catalog.

Some vendors bundled capabilities well beyond the service catalog, while others didn't want us looking at their products or ignored us completely. In the end, we examined offerings from CA, Service-now.com, PMG, and NewScale--a cross section of delivery platforms and capabilities.

Service catalog products started to emerge after they were mentioned in the ITIL v2 process framework. But ITIL v2 provided little guidance, so most vendors made their own decisions as to what functionality to include.

ITIL v3 proposes that all IT offerings be thought of as services. An organization can collect the services it uses into a portfolio, along with supporting business information about the services, including requirements and financial information. The portfolio includes a business service catalog that lets internal and external users order services and track order status. The portfolio also has a technical service catalog that includes technical components of services and underlying information about them. The technical catalog lets IT manage all aspects of services and report on demand, profitability, and performance.

The portfolio contains complete life-cycle info on all services, including those being developed and retired, as well as ones available for use. While the service catalog could be paper-bound or a static intranet page, an interactive Web-based catalog provides more capabilities to users trying to get a handle on the ordering, demand, provisioning, and costs of their services.

Environmental Matters

The biggest difference among the four service catalogs we tested was their installation platforms. CA works only on Windows and was accessed via a Web browser. Service-now was delivered as a software service. PMG offered hosted or customer-premises versions. And NewScale is built on a traditional three-tiered architecture with broad underlying application support. Given this diversity, specific requirements you have for how the product is delivered may end your search. We didn't find any performance differences among the various delivery methods.

DIG DEEPER
Detailed Look At Our Service Catalog Tests
NewScale came out on top for our test environment, but your organization may have other priorities. Get the in-depth reviews of the four service catalog products we tested from CA, PMG, NewScale, and Service-now.

PMG stood out in terms of look and feel. The dynamic menus and user-driven interface made it intuitive and easy to navigate. Users can authorize the provisioning of a service from a smartphone, a distinctive feature, although other vendors could replicate it with a little effort. PMG's content management system was powerful, letting IT control the interface without custom coding. The graphical, Visio-like interface made for a pleasant design experience in terms of workflow. While complex workflow may be difficult to follow, simple ones were quite user friendly.

We were also impressed with NewScale's service designs and workflow. Its templates were practical and provided a fantastic way to jump-start IT and business processes. The ease of workflow development and breadth of provided templates made up for the visual mediocrity of the user interface. CA also provided solid service templates, but their breadth and depth were dwarfed by NewScale's offering.

NewScale also lets IT easily manage objectives. You can use a third-party app or the interface itself to set and manage SLAs, operating-level agreements, and other business objectives tied to services.

Real World Assessment Chart: Service Catalogs
(click image for larger view)