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The following just came through my email...  System Center Service Manager is the keystone for the entire System Center suite of products, tying together Help Desk Functions, a CMDB, a self-service portal, Operations Manager 2007, Configuration Manager 2007... The System Center team has been hard at work on this product for a LOOONG time.  As such, it is great to see that they have hit an important milestone:

We are extremely excited to announce Beta 1 of System Center Service Manager is now available for download on Connect. We hope you will promptly download, test and provide feedback on this Beta.

Beta 1 provides a wide range of functionality for you to test and evaluate:
· Distributed install
· Administration wizards for easy solution configuration
· AD connection wizard
· SMS 2003 SP3 connection wizard
· Asset inventory including the first phase of asset reconciliation in the CMDB
· Incident management including queues, customizable drop-down values, asset linking, and notification workflows
· Change management including queues, customizable drop-down values, asset and incident linking, multiple review stages, activity management and notification workflows
· A self-service portal which includes knowledge search, service request submission, and software provisioning integrated with SMS 2003 SP3
· Knowledge Management including authoring, viewing, comment and rating all integrated with Word 2007 and SharePoint 2007
· Data Warehousing and Reporting including 6 sample reports for incident, change and asset data

Like any first beta release, features are subject to change - usually based on your feedback! With that in mind, we're encouraging customers and partners to focus on the documented scenarios and how well those scenarios meet your business needs. In particular, we expect that certain design modifications to the extensibility model will be necessary as the team seeks to reach our scale and performance goals. Customers and partners looking to extend Service Manager through solution pack authoring or connector development are encouraged to focus on the experience itself, but should be careful to not invest heavily in custom development at this time.

The beta is downloadable from http://connect.microsoft.com/SystemCenter along with documentation and other important information such as the release notes, quick start guide and a features guide document. Please be sure to carefully read the Release Notes to avoid known issues with this beta. We have also posted a video to help introduce you to both the features of the product and some of the people behind the product.

The Service Manager team is supporting Beta 1 via the Connect Newsgroups. Please post your questions, feedback and suggestions to these forums. Click on the "Newsgroup" link for instructions on how to configure your newsgroup reader and activate your account.

Production deployments on beta 1 are not supported. We are unable to provide any upgrade from Beta 1 to Beta 2.

Thank you for your helping our team build the best Service Manager product!

The System Center Service Manager team