Microsoft Centralizes Patch Management

Microsoft CEO Stave Ballmer introduces new versions of Windows Server Update Service and Microsoft Update to make it easier for customers to find and download security patches and software updates.
Nearly two years ago, Microsoft CEO Stave Ballmer promised that the company would create a centralized source for all software patches and updates. On Monday, he delivered on that promise at the company's Tech Ed conference when he introduced new versions of Windows Server Update Service and Microsoft Update.

In the two years since Ballmer made that promise, Microsoft's Windows operating systems and applications have remained the favorite target of hackers, virus writers, and other purveyors of malicious software. That has forced the software company to issue a steady stream of patches, security fixes, and other software updates. But customers often had to visit several different Web sites to get patches for different Microsoft products. Now the process has been simplified.

"While we know your No. 1 desire is for us to eliminate the need for all future patches," Ballmer said. "We're working hard on that, but we're also working hard to make sure that you have the tools to reasonably and responsibly manage the security inside the organizations that you're responsible for."

Windows Server Update Service is a management component of Windows Server 2003 that lets administrators access, control, and automatically deploy Microsoft server software updates, including security patches. Microsoft Update is the next-generation version of Windows Update with added support for Office and other Microsoft apps. The update services now use a single Windows Update Agent to access an update catalog that contains information about all security patches and software updates for all of Microsoft's products.

"This is an important first step," says Michael Cherry, lead analyst on Windows at Directions On Microsoft, an IT advisory firm. "But it won't be complete until customers can download every single security product from one site." He cites the BizTalk component of Windows Server as one example of what's missing from the new software patching and updating process.

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