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MS ‘retires’ corporate Windows Update in favour of SUS

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According to the date on the relevant pages, Microsoft started talking about SUS (Software Update Services) on 20th June, but it's only today we've had the press release from the UK arm. Granted, it might have been announced somewhere else during the past couple of weeks, but it doesn't seem to have made it to the main press release pile at microsoft.com. Which is a pity, because it says here "Formerly known as Corporate Windows Update or Federated Windows Update, SUS is a security patch management tool targeted at small to medium sized enterprises..."

So corporate Windows update is dead, right? As regular readers will recall, The Register regularly gnaws away at the mismatch between Microsoft's drive for direct contact with individual users and the corporate sector's desire to manage its own users, and corporate Windows update was central to this. With SP1 for WinXP Microsoft will be checking validity of licences before permitting the service pack to install, but as we pointed out a little earlier this doesn't matter a great deal while corporate Windows update exists. IT management in major businesses wants to download the updates itself and decide whether or not users should get them, and it does it (did it) via corporate Windows update. Which is also where you'd go if you wanted to download the software and install it yourself, rather than depend on Microsoft deciding what you needed, and whether you were legal/eligible.

Which is a long-winded way of pointing out that SUS, what corporate Windows update did next, is important. If you go to the site formerly known as Corporate Windows Update, which you will find here, you will find it has "been retired." The text looks like it's designed to lead you to believe it was retired in March, but that's not what it says, and although we at The Register are particularly unobservant and dozy by the standards of cutting-edge journalists, we're pretty certain we'd have noticed it said that when we last visited last in, er, early June.

Down at the bottom it now (didn't say this in June either) directs you to SUS, the corporate Windows Update replacement. Pop over to SUS (main page here) and you'll find something that presents itself somewhere in the middle ground between the old corporate service and the automated, Microsoft-to-client Windows Update service. IT managers can use SUS as a kind of entry level automated critical update system, and they can set privileges for individual clients and decide on how they get the updates rolled out, but they've got to do it the Microsoft way, there's a degradation in the amount of control they have, and inertia will surely lead to control being slowly but surely abdicated to Redmond.

If you look at Choosing a Security Update Management Solution (and friends, when was it Windows updates became solely about security updates?) then you'll see Microsoft is presenting a choice between Windows Update (non-corporate), SUS, and SMS. So presentationally at least, corporate Windows update is dead.

But it's possible it's not quite dead. You can still follow the link from the old corporate Windows update site to the Windows Update Catalog (so long as you're running Win2k or XP of course - Win9x is in the pipeline, NT is probably never) and download patches and install them by hand. For how long, we know not. But for XP, we note that all of the critical updates have posted dates of 25th June, while the most recent one was actually issued on 10th February. So "update" is maybe not the right word, and we'd guess this isn't long for the world either. ®

* We can't help noticing that the URLs of the pages we're checking have /windows2000/ in them, which tends to suggest the possibility that people checking with Windows XP might read something slightly (or even wildly) different. We've no idea. The Register can proudly state that it doesn't have a single XP machine in use (well OK, just the one, for the kids to play games on, and it's in a different country today anyway), so we must restrain our paranoia. But if any XP users find markedly different results, do let us know.

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