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Enterprise Applications

Fast-Rising ServiceNow Revamps Service Desks and IT Ops

IT service management and managing datacentre operations don’t often go hand in hand with popular perceptions of what constitutes innovative software, as ServiceNow CTO Arne Josefsberg laughingly acknowledges when we speak by phone to discuss his company’s remarkable progress. The space may never have been trendy but experts in Silicon Valley laud this San Diego-based company as one of the most significant and transformative new names in enterprise software today.

Josefsberg spent over 25 years at Microsoft, most recently managing the infrastructure build-out for the Windows Azure cloud platform, and, having joined in late 2012, he has been wowed by ServiceNow’s rapid rise.

“We’ve been on an incredible growth path. We went from being a start-up to a company in the news and needed to bring in people with large-scale Cloud experience — and needed to mature — very, very quickly,” says Josefsberg.

In fact, ServiceNow has become a bellwether for the tech market after its IPO last summer saw the company’s value soar and help to reinstate confidence in business-to-business technology floats. Today, the company founded just nine years ago has a market cap of about $5bn and revenue continues to spiral.

Brad Peters, CEO of business intelligence firm Birst, is a huge admirer.

“ServiceNow represents a new generation of enterprise software companies whose use of Cloud delivery is giving them a huge leg up on the old on-premise software vendors,” Peters says. “They set out to disrupt a market, one dominated by long established traditional heavyweights and in need of change.  Cloud delivery was the cornerstone of ServiceNow's strategy enabling it to deliver its innovations quicker and more efficiently than its competition.  Like Salesforce.com before it in CRM, ServiceNow is now a peer to its market heavyweights and a reminder that the next generation of enterprise software is moving to the Cloud."

Mike Sell, Director of Strategic Alliances at ServiceNow partner, remote support solutions firm Bomgar is also a booster:

"ServiceNow offers a refreshed approach to managing IT by leveraging a common set of processes to provide an 'ERP for IT' that lives entirely in the cloud. This flexibility is appealing to IT organizations, as some of the legacy IT service management platforms require more and more care and feeding from IT staff, especially if they've been customised over the years to fit evolving processes."  

As with many companies in the technology space, ServiceNow’s journey has not all been as mapped out. The company was founded in 2004 by Fred Luddy, formerly CTO at Peregrine Systems, an on-premise service-desk company that was eventually acquired by Hewlett-Packard. However, the original plan with ServiceNow was to build a rapid application development (RAD) environment and the service-desk apps were only built to demonstrate that environment. Today the company is a hybrid of Itil-based [http://www.itil-officialsite.com/] applications delivered as a service and an application development platform for IT and business.

“The vision was to develop a RAD platform and allow the non-programmer to very quickly build a meaningful application,” says Josefsberg. “The notion of buying a platform wasn’t really established. We didn’t have Amazon Web Services or Windows Azure so Fred needed some apps on the platform to showcase its power. Given his background he decided to build a suite of Itil apps.”

Josefsberg was winkled away from his long stint at Microsoft by ServiceNow’s promise of a different sort of IT environment.

“The thing that excited me was not only how to make IT substantially more efficient but truly transforming IT. Today, IT is a very tough environment and the tools are very fragmented: the network guys have their own tools, the system guys have their own tools, the helpdesk guys have their own tools, and that makes it incredibly hard to get a single pane of glass onto IT. That’s where ServiceNow has a tremendous opportunity to provide a single view and develop applications that add value. It’s a single system of record for IT.”

That single pane of glass means that IT can better manage a broad array of challenges from project management to spending, protecting against virtual server sprawl, ensuring compliance, automating provisioning, simplifying configuration and more, all in the cloud. Its abilities in these fields are helping ServiceNow kick out aging, on-premise solutions such as Peregrine itself or BMC’s Remedy.

This is important for IT departments that are often under duress.

“Suppliers like Salesforce.com and Workday have gone around IT and sold to HR and sales, and IT has been under pressure to cut costs,” says Josefsberg. “We really believe in the power of IT to become the centre again and to retake the initiative by solving business problems very quickly. Before, the business asked IT for something and IT delivered in 12 to 18 months, by which time the business had moved on. But now it can literally be weeks. We see a dramatic shift where the CIO can move the infrastructure out [to the Cloud] and solve business problems to help the business to become more competitive.”

ServiceNow is today formalising the environment, certifying integration of adjacent tools, but that’s just for starters. Josefsberg says the company is “going all in on creating an ecosystem” where providers of specialist tools can plug in and he agrees that an app store is “an obvious area to look at”.

ServiceNow’s ambition is to be “one of the most strategic vendors to IT” and Josefsberg sees “a revolution in systems management” that includes companies like Splunk (“I’m a big fan”), Opscode and Puppet Labs. ServiceNow is certainly at the heart of that action.

 

By Martin Veitch, Editorial Director, IDG Connect

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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