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ServiceNow Makes Help Desk Social, which delivers service desk functionality in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, is launching the second of its triannual releases. New features include a runbook automation process pack for Amazons Elastic Compute Cloud, more updates to its ServiceNow IT service management (ITSM) platform services, and two new applications--one for data certification and one for giving users better access to managed documents. The company's ServiceNow Live feature has also been improved to add more social media capability, to create essentially a Facebook wall of information about a companys IT organization. Several other features have also been enhanced.

Rowan Companies--a Houston-based oil and gas contracting company that owns and operates rigs drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico as well as international locations such as Saudi Arabia and the North Sea--has been using ServiceNow for about three years, says application support analyst Michael Bartkowiak. Although help desk competitor BMC Software is "right down the street," the company chose ServiceNow because of its flexibility and what it was doing to support the Web, he says, crediting it with Rowan's ability to support 6,000 people and 500 servers with an IT department of 50 people and a help desk of eight. While his company has not yet decided whether to implement the new version, he is particularly interested in the social feed and Facebook wall because it offers social media features while still keeping the professionalism that conservative industries like his are still looking for, he says.

Other new features include improvements to the product's ITSM core, where ServiceNow's clients had asked the company to add functionality as opposed to creating new applications, says Craig McDonough, director of product marketing for the San Diego company. For example, when a change is being made, a survey helps determine its risks, he says.

ServiceNow took a startup-type risk some years ago by launching its service desk as SaaS, and it has been paying off, says Michael Cot, an analyst with Redmonk in Austin, Texas. While most people in IT management are skittish about putting their tool-chain in the cloud, service desk seems to be working out, he says. He points out that, while they may not admit it, you can see other vendors pressured by ServiceNow--each has launched a SaaS service desk in the past year or so.

He also believes ServiceNow is widening its portfolio beyond ticket tracking in IT. The company is moving into more speculative lines of business such as platform as a service (PaaS): opening up its platform to build request-driven workflows (chains of work that involved several people, a defined process and approvals along the way). Like Remedy before it, ServiceNow's core system is a big workflow engine--both outfits have productized around managing tickets and requests, he says.

The service is available now at prices starting at $100 per user per month, which goes down from there based on factors such as the volume of users and duration of contract.

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