Microsoft answers admins' WUS questions

In an interactive forum for IT administrators, Microsoft officials outlined features and related plans for its Windows Update Services patch management tool.

In an interactive Web forum on Wednesday, Microsoft technical experts addressed several questions by IT administrators about the company's forthcoming free patch management tool, but left unanswered the specifics of when it will be released.

Windows Update Services (WUS), which will replace Software Update Services, is expected to be released for open beta testing this year and be generally available in the first half of 2005. The experts -- a combination of program managers, test engineers and development managers -- explained several aspects of WUS during the chat on Microsoft's TechNet site, including:

  • WUS will be the same for all customers. There will be no different version for those with Software Assurance.
  • There will be a migration tool to move from SUS 1.0 to WUS that will be included in the next beta.
  • WUS will let administrators filter updates by products as well as by the type of update. WUS will not support service packs and patches for applications other than Microsoft at this time.
  • WUS will automatically approve and distribute critical updates without requiring manual approval.
  • WUS will offer reporting features, including the ability to see the last-contact date, OS version, BIOS and machine details, as well as updates installed, needed or failed on a per-machine, per-update basis. Reporting features will not require third-party software. Reports are filterable by group and approval action. Users can view the status per machine.
  • SUS 1.0 server will not support the features in the new WUS client.
  • The initial release of WUS will not allow administrators to send updates to custom applications.
  • Administrators can create auto-approval rules for specific target groups. Deployments to other groups, or to the entire organization, happen at an administrator's discretion.
  • Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) is still a separate entity, but WUS will have similar functions for predeployment checks and scanning.
  • This release will not have a big red button (immediate push install), but there are client APIs that will allow administrators to script this.
  • WUS will support Office XP and Office 2003, as well as Exchange and SQL Server.
  • Administrators can use remote SQL to store data.

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the trials have said that WUS will be significantly rewritten in preparation for the second beta because of some significant bugs in the first trial version. Eric Berg, a group product manager at Microsoft, wouldn't confirm the overhaul but he did say that WUS would include some additional, unannounced features that he declined to specify. "We are focused on listening to customers and putting out the right product to that open evaluation," Berg said.

Microsoft executives have said that there are about 300 people currently testing WUS. The release of WUS has been postponed several times. The latest delay was blamed by backups in the delivery of XP SP2, which finally shipped in August. More than 50,000 potential beta testers have signed up to be part of the open evaluation program for WUS, Microsoft has said.

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