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Microsoft's security practices seem to be rubbing off on Sun Microsystems as the company is changing the way it updates and secures Java.

Sun will synchronize releases of critical security updates to current and legacy version of Java Standard Edition (Java SE) and has promised to provide a system of alerts on upcoming patches.

Critical security fixes will be released simultaneously for Java SE 6, J2SE 5.0 and J2SE 1.4.2 (yes, crazy branding but the same software, folks), with plans to also cover J2SE 1.3.1 - no longer supported by Sun on Windows, Linux or Solaris 9 and 10 - next year. Updates will contain the same critical security fixes recommended for all enterprise and consumer users.

Java SE is important to Sun and developers thanks to its presence on PCs - in games and business applications - and because it serves as a foundational element of the Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) stack.

There was no word from Sun on whether it also planned a similar system of synchronization and alerts for users running Java EE.

Sun's change seems geared to making the lives of developers and administrators who update and run increasingly dated and mixed Java environments a little easier. It will also help companies starting to bring in new PCs running Windows Vista with Java on the desktop.

While Sun wants customers running its latest implementations of Java SE, the company recognizes the fact that Java SE has broad and deep penetration among enterprises. "The advent of synchronized security fixes is welcome news for consumers and enterprise administrators running on older operating systems or other software requiring the use of older versions of the Java platform," Sun said.

Advanced notification of upcoming security updates are designed to help customers "plan for successful and timely deployment of critical Java fixes and updates." Alerts will summarize forthcoming changes and are expected up to post a week before synchronized security updates are released. Notifications will be posted here.

Sun and Microsoft have been getting quite cozy of late, as they work on technology interoperability. While not exactly renowned for the security of its own software, its widely recognized that Microsoft has taken some solid steps towards delivering an improved and more coordinated system of patches and updates, using bulletins and Patch Tuesday.

This can't have failed to have rubbed off on Sun as Java - now more than 10 years old - begins to resemble the kind of legacy infrastructure that Windows has become.

Just like legacy versions of Windows, Java is spread through the enterprise and requires ongoing updates that tackle a growing layer of interdependencies between Java and other, newer software to help ensure the security backdoor remains firmly closed.®

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