As Microsoft strives to get its delayed Windows Update Services out by year's end, one Windows ISV has launched a patch-management solution that leverages and extends the Group Policy features of the Windows Active Directory.
AutoProf, Portsmouth, N.H., this week rolled out Policy Maker Software Update, a Group Policy-based patch-management solution for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. The offering leverages another AutoProf product called Policy Maker Professional, which extends the Group Policy-based management and configuration features in the Windows 2000/2003 Server Active Directory.
Founded in 1998, AutoProf originally provided configuration management tools for ASPs and ISPs. But more recently, the company has earmarked its Group Policy extensions for Windows server administrators, who often have the tedious chore of writing scripts and customized code to enact group policies beyond what Active Directory currently offers.
Policy Maker Professional fills in holes in Microsoft's current Group Policy tool, such as allowing administrators to map network drives as well as configure and map printer settings for individual users, according to AutoProf executives. The series of dynamic link libraries (DLLs) gives administrators 900 Group Policy settings that can be used to deploy desktop upgrades and updates to users, they said.
Policy Maker Professional aids in desktop migrations and patch management, said Michael Trapnell, principal consultant at Intellinet, an Atlanta-based solution provider. "Policy Maker's extensions to Group Policy have made it easy to manage the desktop environment during the course of the new desktop rollout," Trapnell said. "Policy Maker really saved time when it came to configuring Microsoft Outlook profiles and network printer assignments."
An upgrade of Policy Maker Pro is scheduled for later this summer, according to AutoProf. The update will offer an additional 12 settings that extend Group Policy for device management, power management, terminal service configuration management, regional options, network options, scheduled tasks, display options, local users and group management, and configuration of ODBC data sources.
Policy Maker Professional can be purchased separately. But when combined with the patch-management offering unveiled this week, the solution offers administrators a powerful tool for deploying Windows updates, Services Packs and security fixes using Group Policy settings beyond what Microsoft now provides, AutoProf executives said.
Microsoft's much-anticipated Windows Update Services for Windows Server 2003/2000, formerly known as Software Update Services 2.0, isn't expected to move into public beta until the third quarter and is now expected to ship by year-end, Microsoft security executives said during a security briefing last week. Microsoft's patch-management server originally was expected to ship during the first half of the year but has been delayed. The software has significant changes, including new support for Office and Exchange patches and updates as well as Windows updates.
AutoProf's patch-management solution with extended Group Policy settings costs $17 per user for up to 100 users. Separate offerings are available at roughly $10 per user.
The extensions fill an important gap, according to Michael Emanuel, director of product management in Microsoft's Enterprise Management Division. "As more customers adopt Active Directory, we have also seen a significant uptake in their use of Group Policy to manage desktop and server configurations," Emanuel said in an e-mail. "AutoProf's Policy Maker Professional is a great example of the value-added tools that partners are delivering to help customers manage desktops and servers by adding custom extensions to Group Policy."