Patch Management In The Enterprise, Part II

Altiris Patch Management Solution

As we extend beyond the patch management tools that we use on a regular basis, a colleague suggested a look at Altiris' Patch Management Solution. Altiris is a company that offers an entire range of products that can interact with one another, and are designed with the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) in mind. Defining and discussing ITIL is beyond the scope of this article, but those who are interested can refer to several websites for additional information.

Patch Management Solution - not exactly the most imaginative name ever conceived - is an agent-based tool that requires that client software be installed on every managed workstation or server. Fortunately, the agent doesn't have extreme system requirements, needing just 5 MB of disk space and 64 MB of RAM, and should seamlessly interact with the notification server.

While providing vulnerability analysis and patching PCs is its primary function, Patch Management Solution isn't a one trick pony. It also provides hardware and software inventory information, and the ability to deploy standard software. This appears to be a common trait among patch management tools: The more value they provide, the more attractive they are to potential customers.

Altiris also opted for a web-based administrative console

Deploying a patch with Altiris' Patch Management Solution is easy to accomplish. Using the web-based administrative console, a few clicks allow you to read up on a specific vulnerability, download it from the vendor's website, and queue it up for deployment. One feature that Altiris pushes is integration with "Recovery Solution", which provides rollback functionality in the event that a patch either causes instability or application compatibility problems. Given the timelines discussed in Part 1 of this series, many organizations have cut back on the exhaustive testing of individual patches. They opt rather to deploy the patch immediately with little testing to ensure that their infrastructure is secured promptly. If the patch causes problems, it can be rolled back later.

Is Patch Management Solution capable of patching remote clients? Yes, Altiris has kept the mobile workforce in mind, and remote clients will be able to receive patch deployments without flooding their slower network connections. In the event that there is a break in connectivity prior to patches being fully delivered to a remote system, it is capable of resuming the transfer the next time that particular machine connects to the network.

Real-time reporting is a must for most large organizations, and Altiris provides it.

Any quality patch management tool must provide real-time reports. Altiris has included such reporting in its Patch Management Solution. Out of the box, you will be able to summarize what patches are currently available, view all identified vulnerabilities, and get real-time status updates on any patches you've deployed with the tool. In particular, there are several vulnerability analysis reports, which provide excellent information about the status of your environment.

If your organization follows the principles defined by ITIL and IT Service Management, you might want to look at the suite of tools provided by Altiris.