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Microsoft Improves Windows Patch and Azure Service Communications

Microsoft this week talked about how it has been improving communications for IT pros dealing with software patch and Azure service issues.

A couple of announcement described such measures. Microsoft disclosed how it has been improving its Knowledge Base articles used by IT pros in patching Windows systems via a Tuesday announcement. It also described how it is planning to be more transparent about Azure service outages in a Monday announcement.

More Relevant KB Articles
Microsoft's Knowledge Base (KB) articles on cumulative updates started using a more "relevant and actionable" format back in March, Microsoft explained.

In essence, these KB articles are now getting short descriptions up front, called "blurbs" by Microsoft, that describe the "symptoms" being addressed by the cumulative update software patch. Microsoft releases cumulative updates for its software products every month. They are called "cumulative" because the patch contains past fixes for the software component, as well as the current month's fix.

If more detail needs to be included than afforded by this short KB article blurb format, Microsoft adds links to its support articles within the KB article, which it calls "article inlining." Only if that inlining approach becomes too unwieldy does Microsoft create "an individual fix article" that's longer, containing greater detail.

Reactions to this new approach with KB articles "have been predominantly positive and encouraging," Microsoft indicated, although it is still getting user feedback.

Possibly, it's so. Microsoft's voluminous Security Update Guide, describing security patches each month, now seems to contain KB articles that are a little more verbose. In the recent past, KB articles have looked like repetitive machine-generated content (although, the new stuff still has a machine-dump air to it). Microsoft's announcement somewhat implied that humans might still be involved in overseeing its KB articles by saying that "the article writing, and documentation process is the last step in the cumulative update release cycle."

Microsoft's announcement didn't mention it, but it seems that the Microsoft Security Response Center blog has stopped announcing "update Tuesday" releases (security fixes that arrive on the second Tuesday each month). The last MSRC patch Tuesday announcement was posted back in March. IT pros can get clued into when an update Tuesday patch release occurs by following third-party software security company announcements, or by subscribing to Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency notices.

Azure Outage Communications
Also this week, Microsoft took the time to explain that Azure service outages will always happen. Microsoft wants IT pros to get Azure service outage information through the Service Health view within the Azure Portal, which requires IT personnel to have "owner, contributor, or reader access."

Service Health specifically shows issues associated with an organization's use of Azure services. Microsoft also has a publicly accessible Azure Status Web page, but it's more generalized to show big outages, yet its customers still tend to go to it, possibly because it once was "the only way to discover known platform issues," Microsoft explained.

Microsoft has streamlined its Azure outage reporting via artificial intelligence (AI) technology. This notion was explained in a June Microsoft announcement as "infusing AI into our cloud platform and DevOps process, becoming AIOps." Apparently, the AIOps term derives from analyst and consulting firm Gartner Inc., which used similar phraseology.

Microsoft's Monday announcement explained that AIOps "includes working towards improving automatic detection, engagement, and mitigation of cloud outages," but it's also being used "to notify customers of outages that may be impacting their resources." Notices sometimes get sent "in less than 10 minutes" to the Service Health portal via AIOps, it added.

Microsoft is targeting sending Azure service outage notifications via AIOps processes in "less than 15 minutes" without requiring human confirmation.

Oddly, users of the Azure DevOps service don't use the Azure Portal, so Microsoft set up a separate, publicly accessible DevOps status page for those users.

Microsoft recommended that IT pros should set up Service Health Alerts. These alerts will send notifications about Azure service issues via the Azure Monitor portal.

Microsoft also has an Azure Status Twitter feed, but it's only available for approved followers. Microsoft is much more transparent and responsive with its Microsoft 365 Status Twitter feed, where service outages get publicly described, often in response to posted complaints by subscribers to Microsoft 365 services.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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