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SUS vs. SMS: Who needs 'em?

Microsoft's SUS offers some of the features of SMS, but it's not a good substitute for an enterprise that needs broad management capabilities. Companies with minimal complexity may get all they need from SUS.

Can Microsoft's new Software Update Services replace Systems Management Server, its older and broader management platform? The answer depends on who you ask and what you need it for.

Windows administrators who are looking for more from a management system than receiving security updates should not consider substituting Microsoft Corp.'s Software Update Services (SUS) for a full-blown asset management platform, according to Microsoft executives and consultants.


"Desktops becoming less Windowscentric"

"Taking the pain out of deploying Systems Management Server 2.0"

Feedback on this story? Send your comments to Senior News Writer Margie Semilof

Rod Trent, a system management expert and owner of, said a growing number of his customers think they can replace [Microsoft's] System Management Server (SMS) for SUS. "There just doesn't seem to be enough communication out there that SUS cannot replace SMS," Trent said.

Bill Anderson, lead product manager of Microsoft's management business group agreed that administrators who need to do more than just keep their Windows desktops up to date will probably need a broad management platform, such as SMS. But, he said, for small-to-medium sized customers who don't need the power and control of SMS, SUS should work fine .

SUS, which is a subset of SMS, was first discussed by Microsoft last October and started shipping in June. SUS delivers critical updates for the Windows 2000 and XP platforms.

Analysts said in about 20% of cases, customers may not need SMS and that SUS will be adequate. "A small company may just want security patches, for example," said Jeb Bolding, a consultant at Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, Colo.

According to Anderson, SMS is more expansive. It delivers more than just security content across the enterprise. It is an auditor that can be used for application distribution, scheduling, and providing control across the enterprise. With the addition of the SMS Value pack, SMS tackles security patching on the entire Windows platform including Office and SQL Server. IT administrators can see which of the users receive patches, can determine when the patches are distributed and can keep an inventory of such across the entire enterprise.

Choosing between SUS and SMS is more a factor of network complexity than of network size, Anderson said.

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