I am very pleased to announce the release of Systems Management Server 2003 R2. It has been a real thrill to work on a new set of features for the SMS 2003 product. In my opinion, R2 includes one of the most exiting new innovations in systems management, namely, custom update management. Custom update management refers to the ability for any commercial software vendor to develop software update catalogs for the applications they produce. These catalogs are then made available to customers for downloading in their environment. In addition, organizational teams who manage updating in-house line of business applications can create software update catalogs to enable patch management, not just for commercially available software applications, but any software application where updates apply. This new and exciting technology has made it possible for Microsoft partners like Adobe, Citrix, and 1E to develop and release software update catalogs for the applications that they produce. Technology adoption partners and other customers have been able to develop catalogs for servicing in-house applications as well. This ultimately enables customers to detect and deploy security updates and critical hotfixes to non-Microsoft applications, keeping their environments more secure than ever. I am very pleased to have such strong partners building catalogs so early in the emergence of this new software update functionality.

One of the most compelling aspects of the custom updating technology is the schema that is used to define the updates. This schema, known as corporate publishing XML, is rich with metadata that can be used to define almost any software update. Schema elements include title, description, and other properties. Applicability and installed rules include File, Registry, MSI, and WMI checks in any combination. Installation properties are defined by filename, download URL, command-line parameters and more. This schema is not just envisioned to support custom update management in R2, but many new management products at Microsoft, including Systems Center Configuration Manager 2007 when it releases.

Tools that ship with R2 make it easy to discover, download, and create custom update catalogs that synchronize directly with the SMS 2003 software update management infrastructure.

The SMS 2003 R2 evaluation copy can be obtained here. R2 is available to active Software Assurance (SA) customers at no charge and will be part of the August volume licensing kit. Non-SA customers can purchase R2 licenses.

Please take the opportunity to send me comments/feedback on your experiences with SMS 2003 R2. I am more than happy to post articles on advanced custom update authoring topics, as well as provide samples through this blog.

Thanks,
Bryan