The console, called Quest Central for Microsoft v1.0, gives IT administrators a graphical interface with multiple task panes, the ability to do basic Active Directory and Windows NT administrative tasks, access to tools on various Microsoft servers and integrated access to some of Quest's own troubleshooting software, among other things. The console is free.
Quest, of Irvine, Calif., plans to offer plug-ins to add features to the console. The first plug-in available is called Quest Patch Management, which will help users apply patches to Windows servers and workstations, SQL Server, Exchange and IIS Server. The software, which uses HFNetChkPro scanning and deployment technology from Shavlik Technologies, of Roseville, Minn., provides scanning, analysis, patch bundling, deployment and tracking features.
The patch management software starts at $100 per server and $16 per user per workstation, the company said. Both are to be released this week.
An appeal to the installed base
Analysts and customers said that while the products aren't revolutionary, they should have some value to Quest and Aelita's existing customer base.
"There are other vendors that have a unified console," said Howard Marks, founder of Networks Are Our Lives, a Hoboken, N.J., consulting firm. "They are useful because, frankly, the tools in Windows are disjointed. Remembering what's in Active Directory sites and services is confusing."
The question of whether or not customers will need another patch management tool is debatable, industry watchers say. Quest is releasing its patch management product, based on Shavlik's technology, just months before Microsoft will release Windows Update Services, a new and rebranded version of its Software Update Services that no longer relies Shavlik's technology. WUS is free to Microsoft customers.
Patch management's complexity
The job of staying on top of patch management is a tough one, so any added functionality on the market helps, said John McGlinchey, an Active Directory administrator and senior platform engineer at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., New York.
McGlinchey said he will be interested to see how the HFNetChkPro is leveraged within the Quest Patch Manager. HFNetChkPro has some limitations in its reporting in terms of seeing what patches look like across the board. For additional help, he uses a product made by Patchlink Corp., of Scottsdale, Ariz., which he says also has drawbacks.
He said he believes Microsoft should provide patching mechanisms for Windows, but third parties are best for reporting and other features. "I need the Quests and Aelitas to be the check and balance," he said. "They need to give me the reporting tools."
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