SMS 2.0 feature pack swats bugs

Microsoft's Software Update Services feature pack for its Systems Management Server 2.0 was released in November. One expert says the feature pack will help administrators thwart devastating attacks, like the recent SQL Slammer worm.

Microsoft customers charged with keeping software bug-free have gotten a boost with the release of a tool late last year that helps automate the distribution of fixes on the company's client manageability platform.

Microsoft released the Software Update Services feature pack for Systems Management Server 2.0. Until recently, SUS was mainly just a tool that automated bug fixes for Windows Server and Office, but the company is now expanding its functionality to other Microsoft platforms. One of the biggest improvements for customers will be the ability to grab information to help fend off attacks like those posed by the SQL Slammer worm earlier this year, said Rod Trent, CEO of MyITForum.com.

Previously, customers using SQL Server and SMS would have to manually check each server to see if it was vulnerable to a worm or virus. This feature pack will give customers the ability to use SUS to check on a wide range of products, including SQL Server, Trent said.

Customers who have tried the software say it does a great job of automating the security patch rollouts for Office, Windows and for Internet Explorer. "The system can search on a regular schedule and [it] comes back to tell you what you are missing," said Roger Wilding, senior technical engineer at CNF Inc., a global transportation company based in Palo Alto, Calif. CNF has rolled out more than 20,000 patches to about 1,200 workstations.

"It does it all under the hood, behind the scenes, and we haven't broken anything," Wilding said.

Wilding said he experienced one minor glitch when distributing software to some clients with Adobe Acrobat. But once the problem was discovered and fixed, users simply rebooted and everything functioned properly.

For some companies with a small IT staff, the tool sounds like a time saver. Arch Willingham, vice president of T.U. Parks Construction of Chattanooga, Tenn., said his job as an IT professional is only a portion of what he does at the construction firm, so the tool will offer a good way to distribute bug fixes with limited resources.

"I'm sure there are a lot of organizations with just one guy," he said. "I've got to build buildings as well as manage [the software]. This will make our lives easier."

The feature pack includes several software update management tools that integrate their functionality into the SMS software distribution features. In this manner, they can automate the process of rolling out security and Office software updates, Microsoft said.

Following are the components of the feature pack:

  • Security Update Inventory Installer creates an inventory of security updates for client computers.
  • Office Update Inventory Tool creates an inventory of Office updates for client computers.
  • Distribute Software Updates Wizard Installer performs software update distribution tasks.
  • Web Reports Add-In for Software Updates helps users view reports created from information gathered by software update inventory tools.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Article: New tool fills gaps left by SMS 2.0

News: Expert: Slammer could have been worse

Best Web Links: SMS

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