Patch management, a differentiator for small businesses?

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Small Novell networks often have a Microsoft Windows server somewhere. This might seem odd, but it actually makes sense when you look at the way businesses tend to cave under the pressure of keeping their networks updated. Most of the times this is why a Windows Server gets introduced and most of the time it's the first of many.

Strangely enough Novell offers a product named ZENworks Patch Managementt, but it just doesn't cut it and the reason is simple: it costs too much. Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) are a lot cheaper.



Let's look at a fictional company, named This is a standard Small Novell-based company. They have a couple of nice Novell Netware servers serving files, printers and an eDirectory. They also have twenty-five desktop PC's, which they manage using ZENworks. The PC's all run Microsoft Windows XP Professional.

Novell ZENworks Patch Management

Novell's ZENworks Patch Management server installs on Windows Server 2003. (with ServicePack 1 as a minimum requirement) ZENworks Patch Management uses Patchlink technology.

If you'd want to use Novell's ZENworks Patch Management you'd have to buy:

  • 1 Windows Server 2003 license
  • 2 ZENworks Patch Management 1-Device 1-Year Subscriptions for NetWare Licenses
  • 25 ZENworks Patch Management 1-Device 1-Year Subscription for Windows Licenses

Licensing costs for ZENworks Patch Management would be 600 US$ per year.
These prices were taken from the website and apply to commercial businesses.

Microsoft Windows Server Update Services

Assuming the management of PokkieWokkie decides to implement Windows Server Update Services. The same Windows Server 2003 machine would be introduced, but this time you wouldn't license 25 ZENworks Patch Management licenses for your desktops. Instead you'd be using Windows Server Update Services and deploy the settings with wuau.adm through ZENworks. Of course you would spend 150 US$ for the 2 ZENworks Patch Management 1-Device 1-Year Subscription for NetWare Licenses.

Your saving would be 450 US$ per year. Thank you Microsoft.



Not only price would make a difference, but also features and functionality. According to Novell it has a couple of features that justify 18 US$ per device per year. These features are pre-tested patches, and on-demand reporting options.

Pre-tested patches

I don't know where the guys at Novell have been hiding the couple of years. The guys at Microsoft already state they test their patches thoroughly. In my opinion it's the Novell Client itself that causes problems over so often when new patches arrive. Besides, for small businesses testing patching is a no-go anyway. Do you really need a second company testing your patches? Do you want this company to be Novell? Don't you want your zero-day patches to arrive as quickly as possible?

On-demand reporting

Is this really something the guys at Novell made possible? Is there no other patch management solution that can do this? This might have been an Unique Buying Point in the Server Update Services (SUS) 1.0 era, but Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) 2.0 and 3.0 learned this trick.


Looking ahead

Novell will release Open Enterprise Server (OES) 2, codenamed "Cypress", in the near future. One of the features of this Operating System will be the fact that virtualization is implemented at the core of the Operating System.

With this version of Open Enterprise Server Novell uses SuSe Linux Enterprise Server 10 with ServicePack 1 as a basis and Xen 3.05 as hypervisor to run a completely virtual instance of Novell Netware. By hosting Novell Netware with all its Netware Loadable Modules (NLM's) customers now using Novell Netware can continue to use their (custom made) software packages. By using SuSe Linux Enterprise and Xen as the basis you can also host Windows Server on the same machine. I think this is ideal for Windows Server Update Services in small businesses!



If you have Novell servers and Windows workstations introducing a Windows Server with Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) might very well be a better decision than buying Novell ZENworks Patch Management licenses to update your workstations. For every workstations you'd save 15 to 18 US$.

Further reading

Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 to Deliver Innovative Workgroup Services on Linux
Jeff Jaffe on Open Enterprise Server 2
Novell ZENworks Patch Management
Novell ZENworks Patch Management How to Buy
Novell ZENworks Patch Management Tech Specs
Microsoft patch process called into question
Microsoft Windows Server Update Services

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