Microsoft made available on Monday the much-delayed Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) patching tool and Microsoft Update software patching service, which the company had originally planned to ship in the first half of 2004.
Shipping in mid-July will be two other software update tools currently in beta: Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.0 and Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 Inventory Tool for Microsoft.
All four will feed off the same software update infrastructure and grab code from the same backend software catalog, simplifying the process and making it consistent for consumers and IT professionals, said Gordon Mangione, vice president of Microsoft's security business and technology unit.
"We've heard from customers that updates are a big pain in their environments. They want us to do whatever we can to minimize the costs associated with updates and this gives both consumers and IT professionals a single place to look for those updates," Mangione said at a panel discussion with reporters.
Microsoft Update (MU), the successor to the existing Windows Update service, will provide updates from various Microsoft products, not just Windows, and is aimed primarily at home users and small businesses.
Meanwhile, WSUS succeeds the existing Software Update Services (SUS) tool, Microsoft's no-charge patch management tool for business users. Microsoft officials have said in the past that WSUS includes improvements in patch delivery, status reporting, network usage and improved implementation and administration flexibility.
Like MU, WSUS also offers patches for Windows operating systems as well as Office XP, Office 2003, SQL Server, MSDE (Microsoft Desktop Engine), Exchange 2000 Server and Exchange Server 2003 products, Microsoft has said in the past.
Meanwhile, SMS is Microsoft's enterprise change and configuration management product, which is also used for patching.
When scanning for patch requirements with Windows Update, SMS and Microsoft's Baseline Security Analyzer, users sometimes get different results, and this new unified approach is designed to address that problem, Microsoft has said in the past.