Patch Management with RES Automation Manager

It’s a question that I get asked; lots. As you may well know my stock answer to nearly all questions is “YES! However…” In this particular case I’m going to stick with my stock answer and I’ll explain why here.

Using RES Automation Manager to manage application deployment and patching is absolutely the right thing to be doing, but not for Microsoft products, i.e. Windows and Office updates etc. RES Automation Manager provides us with the advanced scheduling capabilities that are required when deploying updates. We can send feedback to users, control reboots and also create our own dependencies and prerequisites using the built-in Conditions. Creating installation and/or update modules for Adobe Reader, Flash and Java etc. is a fairly straightforward process.

So why can’t we use RES Automation Manager for MS updates? Let’s get one thing clear – there is nothing stopping you from doing this. However, do you really (and I mean REALLY!) want to be creating modules for every hotfix, patch and Service Pack that Microsoft releases? What about controlling installation orders and prerequisites? What about testing and ensuring the update is really needed before attempting to install it? When I last checked WSUS for Windows and Office updates I think there was more than 20,000+ updates. Hopefully you get the point!

What can we do then? By leveraging the metadata that Microsoft has already created we don’t need to and I’m guessing the product teams inside Microsoft are the best people to create this information! We use WSUS internally to manage our patching for Microsoft products on clients, servers, hosted servers and training labs. We recommend that our customers either use WSUS or an existing patch management tool if one is already in place. We then manage all other application installations and updates as Modules within RES Automation Manager and use its advanced scheduling capabilities to push them out.

Surely if we’re going to implement WSUS for Microsoft patching, it would make sense to patch all our products with an extension to WSUS? Not necessarily. Remember you’re getting a whole load more with RES Automation Manager than just pushing out patches; think Run Books and Evaluators. We can deploy software and machine configurations, provision resources such as Active Directory accounts and Exchange mailboxes and a whole lot more.

For those that want to extend WSUS there are products available in the market to integrate 3rd party patches such as Adobe and Java. Check out the EminentWare web site for one such example. You can roll your own application updates as well with the free Local Update Publisher on SourceForge.

At the end of the day, if you have to package a single internally developed application or products not supported with 3rd party tools you might as well extend that list to common middleware such as Flash and/or Java as save the money on the 3rd party integration. Leverage WSUS for what it’s good at and use RES Automation Manager for what it’s very good at; the rest!

1 Comment

  1. Max Ranzau (RESguru.com) Author July 16, 2011 (12:23 am)

    Hi Iain, as always I enjoy your balanced view on our product functionality. However I wish to address the usage of the MS update functionality. To set the record straight, it was never meant as a replacement for WSUS or anything like that. It was originally just meant as a means to install a MS update as prerequisite, where necessary. In such a scenario you’d know exactly which updates you’d need and just lob them out there accordingly.

    However… (yeah, I like that one too 🙂 If you try doing an MBSA task on a computer, any missing updates will be shown in the AM job results as download links. At the same time we offer you a schedule button where you in one rather smooth flow can get the missing updates where they are needed. The workflow is to click the schedule button when viewing the MBSA results, -> add module -> create module -> add task -> MS update -> add resource -> add the MS update(s) -> back out to the scheduling and go.

    Cheers,
    Max

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