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Microsoft Centralizes Patch Management

Microsoft last week began to deliver on its promise to create a centralized source for all software patches and updates with the release of new versions of Windows Server Update Service and Microsoft Update.

Windows operating systems and applications are a favorite target of hackers and virus writers, forcing the company to issue a steady stream of patches, security fixes, and other updates. But customers often have to visit several Web sites to get patches for different Microsoft products. That process is now simplified.

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 ultimate goal is for the services to use a single Windows Update Agent to access a catalog that contains information about security patches and software updates for all Microsoft products.

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