Resellers Getting Patched In

First, there's money to be made while the world waits for Windows Update Services, a free patch management utility delayed by Microsoft until the first half of 2005.

Second, stand-alone products such as ON iPatch 1.1 that only patch Windows operating systems will become mostly obsolete when Windows Update Services arrives, so resellers shouldn't misrepresent them as long-term solutions.

ON iPatch 1.1 was hustled to market to seize the near-term opportunity for Windows patch management tools and will soon disappear into a broader suite of Symantec security software, said Thom Bailey, director of product management for enterprise administration at Symantec, Cupertino, Calif.

Short-term strategy or not, VARs such as Revolution Consulting, Tempe, Ariz., are making hay while the sun shines by selling the Symantec product to clients burdened by the frequency of Microsoft patch releases, said Amy Hawkins, director of marketing at Revolution Consulting.

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But the long-term play belongs to product suites that patch not only Microsoft code, but Linux, Unix and code from Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems, said Howard Cohen, senior vice president of business development at MTM Information Technologies, New York.

The need for vendors to diversify patch management offerings isn't due to a threat that Microsoft's free utility will kill the market, but that Windows Update Services won't patch third-party code and quite possibly won't patch Windows code all that well, said Dominick Genzano, senior partner and founder of the STI Group, Jersey City, N.J.

"When you think about spending just $8 to $15 per desktop with a third-party patch management product, that beats settling for something that may be not as good but is free," he said.