Wednesday, January 05, 2005

WUS - Windows Update Services Nearing Completion

Windows Update Services (WUS) is nearing completion - with a broad reach Beta, with Beta 2 available freely - and is due out this year. WUS is, in essence, SUS V2 and provides a number of new features currently available with SUS.

WUS is roughtly a year late so far - with expected RTM '1st half of 2005'. In October 2003 at the World Wide Partner Coference in New Orleans, I heard Steve Balmler announce SUS V2 would be delivered in the the 1st half of 2004. According to the transcript, he said "I guarantee you that if I come back to this conference, which I will -- when I am back at this conference next year, I am going to ask people whether they've deployed Software Update Services 2.0. And if as few hands go up as went up today, I'm going to have a real issue with our product development people or with our marketing people, because, believe me, this is targeted at one of the key pain points that you and our customers have identified."

WUS Beta 2 shipped last November, and RTM is due 1st half of 2005 (i.e. by end of June). Beta 2 is a solid product - it pretty much works, although there are as ever in a beta, a few minor issues to resolve.

As delivered Beta 2 provides a lot more facilities than were available in SUS, including:

  • Client targeting - supports different updates for different clients
  • Supports Exchange, SQL, Office, as well as Windows upates (despite the name!)
  • Better reporting
  • A thorough API to allow you to write add on tools/reports
  • Ability to remove a patch.

For more information on what's new, see the WUS Wiki Page on What's new in WUS.

WUS is far from perfect (and I'm not talking about the minor bugs you sort of expect to have with a beta!). The biggest problem to me is it's usability. I find it harder to use and troubleshoot than it should be. Some specific examples of this include:

  • From the main WUS Admin console, there are a series of dashboard figures on the number of updates available, the number approved and the numbers not approved. These numbers to not add up properly.
  • From the admin console, you can see clients that have yet to be udpated. But there is no easy way to actualy see which clients these are, and what updates are missing.
  • The client updates should 'just work'. But when they don't (9/11 of my systems worked fine first time, 2/11 didn't and still don't. It would be faster to fully reinstall the OS than it's taken me to troubleshoot this (unsucessfully).
  • There are no client troubleshooting tools.
  • There is no control over downloading updates (downloading it either on or off).
  • There is no support for 3rd party patching - it's MS only.

WUS is a great step forward, but it's late and needs more work.

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