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IBM SmartCloud Control Desk has been updated to create more value from private/hybrid clouds than ever

No IT subject of the last half-decade has gotten as much attention as cloud computing—and no IT solution provider is as well positioned as IBM to help organizations get the best outcome from private/hybrid clouds.

That leadership role was demonstrated last year with the launch of IBM SmartCloud Control Desk, a unified platform for centralizing service management in a cloud. Among the key features this offering delivered were a service desk to report technical issues or request specific services, a unified repository of asset management and configuration data, software license-tracking capabilities, and accelerated ITIL process implementation. Service providers, too, got special features well suited to their business goals—among them, support for multiple customers (each of which could be managed using all the features listed above), all from a single instance of the solution.

Now, as of February 2013, IBM has extended its leadership in cloud-based service management even further by building on the success of SmartCloud Control Desk.

The latest version—IBM SmartCloud Control Desk 7.5.1—includes compelling new capabilities that leverage and add value to the earlier feature set—better fulfilling the requirements of organizations today, and helping them enhance overall service management, more easily and more cost-effectively, every year going forward.

New integration with IBM Endpoint Manager facilitates on-demand software provisioning—and keeps licensing costs and complexities to a minimum

What is meant by "leveraging and adding value to the earlier feature set?" One good example lies in the way endpoint management capabilities are now seamlessly integrated with the offering.

"The new integration makes it simpler and faster than ever for users to request the specific software they need to be added to their endpoints, while also keeping the organization continually apprised of all the ramifications of that addition."

Recall that the first version of SmartCloud Control Desk included a service catalog as a convenient way for end users to request specific services or resources, if they knew exactly what they needed.

In the latest version of SmartCloud Control Desk, this feature is now integrated with another leading IBM Tivoli offering: IBM Endpoint Manager. The new integration makes it simpler and faster than ever for users to request the specific software they need to be added to their endpoints, while also keeping the organization continually apprised of all the ramifications of that addition.

The way this works, in essence, is that the request is routed through SmartCloud Control Desk, which in turn links to the software maintained by IBM Endpoint Manager. Once the request is approved by an administrator, the requested software can be provisioned from this “enterprise app store” directly over the network to the user's endpoint. This is a very simple and convenient process for the user, who can submit the request via an intuitive portal and never needs to physically move the endpoint or wait for an IT employee to install software on it manually, in person.

However, for the organization, too, the new integration delivers many new benefits. For instance, each time software is deployed in this way to an endpoint, that event is reported to the software license-tracking capabilities of SmartCloud Control Desk (which can also import such data from IBM Endpoint Manager).

As a result, software is only deployed if there exists an available, owned copy. The organization should never exceed the total number of software licenses it actually owns, and never fall in violation of a software audit. Furthermore, the total costs of all software licenses will typically decline due to the fact that the exact number of copies in use throughout the organization is always precisely known—information that is directly applicable to purchasing and budgeting for the coming year.

Technical troubleshooting is also enhanced. This is because whenever new software is provisioned to an endpoint, information about that software is immediately incorporated into SmartCloud Control Desk's change and configuration data repository.

And because the exact software on each endpoint is continually known, technical staff are always apprised of just which versions of which applications, drivers, operating systems, and other elements of the software stack are installed.

So in the event that technical issues involving that particular endpoint are reported to the IT team in future, the team already has much of the specific data it needs to more quickly, easily, accurately, and cost-effectively troubleshoot the problem. This helps to increase the total business value of the endpoints as well as the productivity of the IT team and the end users—a triple win.

Map integration and analysis intuitively reflects business and IT service performance at multiple locations via real-time resource tracking

And endpoint management integration is just the beginning of the new capabilities in IBM SmartCloud Control Desk. Just as compelling: the new integrated map feature, particularly helpful to larger organizations that have multiple buildings or campuses and would like a centralized way to analyze incidents, predict future performance or resource shortfalls, and enhance services across all their geographic locations.

Thanks to the new map integration in SmartCloud Control Desk, that's exactly what they'll get. This feature intuitively overlays incident and technical data on a map, giving IT clear insight into resources not only inside, but also outside data centers, as well as the holistic level of service being provided at all locations.

That happens via two different topologies. The geographic topology is just what it sounds like—an overhead map of a geographic area, similar to that provided by search tools, that depicts business service performance at different buildings that fall within the selected area. This topology is based on information provided by monitoring and event management tools at each site; these integrate with SmartCloud Control Desk, where their information is aggregated and analyzed so the map can continually be updated.

If, on the other hand, geographic information isn't as important for solving a given problem as technical information, IT can choose the logical topology. This view makes it easy to see exactly how conditions are changing at different locations from a more technical standpoint that reflects systems, resources, and color-coded service uptime and performance data. Thanks to advanced search and filter capabilities, zeroing in on exactly the information needed to achieve a goal—for instance, eliminating a bottleneck or restarting a stalled system—is a relatively quick and simple process.

Furthermore, the new integrated map capability also helps organizations plan better—avoiding service management problems that might otherwise occur by anticipating them and precluding them before they can create a business impact.

This is possible via the new "what-if" analysis that SmartCloud Control Desk supports. Using it, organizations can arbitrarily change one or more logical variable—for instance, the total storage available at a given data center—and then assess the likely ramifications in the future of that change to business services.

By trying different combinations of these variables and running many such analyses, it's possible to arrive at an optimal strategy for keeping services up and running at target performance goals even under the most demanding conditions—yet do so without generating unacceptable costs or overallocating critical resources.

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