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Windows Update Services Delayed

Citing the need to incorporate user feedback and the higher priority of Windows XP Service Pack 2-related work, Microsoft pushed back its shipment target for Windows Update Services from the end of this year to the first half of next year.

Windows Update Services, or WUS, is the renamed second release of Software Update Services (SUS). The technology is an add-on component of Windows that is designed to give administrators tools for keeping track of, downloading and distributing Microsoft patches throughout the enterprise.

Microsoft is also pushing back the broad beta from this summer to the fourth quarter. In announcing the delay this week, Microsoft blamed "overwhelming" feedback from a closed beta in March and design decisions on Windows XP Service Pack 2 that have forced Microsoft's patch technology developers to prioritize work on the service pack over work on WUS.

"The Windows Update Services team is developing a new Automatic Updates agent which will be included in XPSP2," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "This decision to include the new Automatic Update technology in XPSP2 and perform the necessary integration and testing requires the development schedule for Windows Update Services being staggered behind the XPSP2 release."

Windows XP Service Pack 2, the most important security project Microsoft is working on right now, went through a similar series of delays. It was originally slated for 2003, then the first half of 2004 and now it is set for an August delivery.

Patch management vendors view the WUS delay as a boost that will free up those IT buyers who had frozen patch-related spending because of Microsoft's pre-announcements. Those customers now must face the reality that Microsoft's technology very likely won't be available for nearly a year, says Eric Schultze, chief security architect for Shavlik Technologies, which sells the competitive HFNetChkPro patch management software.

"Those customers are going to have to make some kind of decision now and not wait for Microsoft," Schultze says. "We saw the same thing when Software Update Services first shipped. Customers were waiting and waiting. After it shipped, people looked at it for two or three months, then called us back and cut us a purchase order."

Microsoft plans several enhancements between SUS and WUS. Major functional additions include support for basic reporting, targeting groups of systems and for patching a much broader set of Microsoft products. While SUS only provided Windows patches, WUS is supposed to add Office XP, Office 2003, SQL Server 2000, MSDE 2000 and Exchange Server 2003.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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