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HP's New SaaS Application Delivers IT Service Management

HP is giving customers the option of deploying an IT service management tool through a SaaS model with the introduction of HP Service Anywhere, a new component of the company's IT Performance Suite.

Service Anywhere is a service desk application for help desk support and change management. It's aimed at both small enterprises and large ones with discrete IT departments that require their own ITSM tool. The company said the new SaaS tool can be used by itself or complement its existing on-premise Service Manager. According to a 2011 InformationWeek survey, respondents rated service desks as the most useful tool for managing IT services, ahead of other tools such as a CMDB and service catalog.

HP Service Anywhere is designed to work out of the box to support common IT service desk requests, the company says. Configuration and customization is accomplished through a GUI-based designer rather than code.

Eveline Oehrlich, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, says HP is recognizing customer interest in more SaaS-based delivery models of IT services and products, something Forrester has seen across enterprises of different sizes. "Interest doesn't necessarily mean they are going to go that way," she says, "but we do see that 30% to 40% who are interested ultimately deciding on SaaS."

Jeff Brooks, research director at Gartner, says HP is competing in a crowded market. "The vast majority of vendors who offer tools in the service desk space offer both on-premise and SaaS-based tools," he says. "They're not the first vendor to do this, and they're certainly not the last, but they're doing what they need to do to stay competitive and relevant in this SaaS-based service desk space."

Aside from BMC and ServiceNow, other vendors with SaaS-based service desk offerings include EasyVista, Cherwell Software, IBM, ManageEngine and CA.

While SaaS applications offer lower upfront costs and easier deployment, that's not the whole story. Brooks says enterprises need to understand the total cost of ownership of a SaaS-based ITSM offering versus on-premises. If they decide to go the SaaS route, they need to look at availability, performance, upgrade cycles and SLAs: "Service and support are extremely important because you're wholly dependent on the vendor from the infrastructure and tech support side."

Brooks says one of the pitfalls of SaaS is it can cost more in the long-term and can be difficult to integrate with other on-premise systems. Overly customizing SaaS-based service desk tools can create challenges, as well. "We don't recommend they do it with their on-premise solution," he says. "We certainly don't recommend they do it with their SaaS solution."

He also notes the importance of data integrity, privacy and compliance.

Data privacy may be a significant concern for companies looking at SaaS-based IT management tools. These applications store very sensitive data about key business systems outside the company's own premises. For Service Anywhere, customer data stored by HP will include configuration items, which can include data about hardware, software and services. HP says Service Anywhere customers are responsible for managing user and group account administration for the service, including permissions and privileges for users and groups, account naming schemes, password policies and authentication.

Although HP Service Anywhere can be a self-contained ITSM tool, customers can integrate it with HP's Universal Configuration Management Database (UCDMB) software for managing applications, services and hardware relationships within an IT infrastructure. It can also be integrated into its HP Universal Discovery software, which provides automatic discovery and dependency mapping of IT elements. Communication of service incidents can be shared with all who are affected through HP Enterprise Collaboration or messaging platforms such as Microsoft Lync and email.

Service Anywhere pricing has two main variations: "named," which is typically a dedicated service desk user, and "floating," where the license entitlement is shared among users. The list price starts at $89 per named user/per month and $178 per floating user/per month.