A public beta of WUS was released at the Microsoft IT Forum show in Copenhagen to give system administrators their first look at the tool that handles the download, installation and management of software updates.
Microsoft has been privately beta testing WUS, formerly Software Update Services 2.0, since the summer. It is seen as a crucial part of the companys enterprise patch-management strategy makeover.
The product is due to ship by mid-2005, a full year off the original schedule.
It falls under the companys new Microsoft Update Service, which is styled as a new patching system designed to provide fixes to not only Windows, but also Office, SQL Server, Exchange Server and other core Microsoft products.
Microsoft has been heavily criticized over the years for its hodge-podge approach to helping customers download, test and apply software products. With WUS, Microsoft is promising a complete architecture makeover with new technology to minimize reboots, save bandwidth and distribute updates in a streamlined way.
It provides a free mechanism for IT administrators to apply updates to Windows 2000-based servers and Windows Server 2003-based servers, as well as to desktop computers running Windows 2000 Pro or Windows XP Pro.
"RTM is still on track for the first half of next year," said David Hamilton, director of product management for Windows Management.
Hamilton admitted that Microsofts plans on a related patching technology, called "Microsoft Update," are less firm. "We are still working with partners on how that [Microsoft Update] will work, and how it will take advantage of [patching] third-party software," Hamilton said.
Microsoft Update is the evolution of Windows Update. The client component of WUS is Auto Update.
In addition to unveiling WUS at IT Forum, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates beat the Microsoft DSI (Dynamic Systems Initiative) drum and talked up his vision for Microsofts gradually emerging autonomic computing plan.
Gates also demonstrated "Indy," the performance-management-modeling tool that Microsoft first unveiled in March.
In addition, Microsoft used the IT Forum show to announce the worldwide availability of Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 and the second version of its solution accelerator tool for deploying Windows XP and Office 2003 desktops.
Additional reporting by Mary Jo Foley of