Sun's patch management strategy limited

Sun announced plans to buy patch update company, Aduva to broaden its patch service to include Linux. Experts say Sun will need to move beyond patching Solaris and Linux to gain a foothold in multiplatform data centers.

Sun Microsystems Inc. recently announced plans to acquire patch management specialists Aduva Inc. Sun plans to purchase the Sunnyvale, Calif.,-based startup to extend its patch management services to include Linux.

A patch is a piece of code that is a quick fix for a software flaw. Patch management software is designed to help IT shops get out from under the burden of collecting, validating, testing and distributing patches across the data center.

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Patching the patch process

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Sun's patch management software, Sun Update Connection, is delivered in software as a service (SaaS) model or as an in-house application.

Researchers at Sun determined that IT shops spend five hours per server per month on patch configuration. Sun claims its patch update service cuts that time down to 15 minutes per server per month for $120 a year.

While the benefit of such a service is notable, Richard Ptak, analyst with Ptak, Noel and Associates, said he is not impressed with the breadth of Sun's product.

"The Sun solution is inherently self-limiting compared to solutions available from other vendors," Ptak said. "Sun has the idea that the world revolves around them, but most enterprise shops have more operating systems than Solaris and Linux. If you have to coordinate patch management between multiple vendors, it doesn't save much time."

Ptak predicted Sun would have a hard time going up against companies like CA, BMC and IBM that he said offer more multi-platform support.

Mike Harding, vice president of customer network services at Sun, responded to Ptak saying it's important to view the acquisition as a move toward multiplatform patch management

"The Aduva acquisition is another step in a strategy that broadens Sun's approach to the data center," Harding said. "Sun now has the ability to solve real customer problems on Linux distributions running on a number of platforms, including IBM zSeries, as well as the opportunity to move beyond the OS into configuration and patch management."

Harding also said it is technically possible to use Aduva technology to manage Windows patches, but it makes more sense to plug into Microsoft's own patch management product and coordinate it through Sun's service.

Sun services move towards SaaS

This acquisition is part of a larger services strategy for Sun. The company plans to focus on delivering more new tools in a SaaS model. New programs in production include a security management service and power management software, both delivered over the network.

According to Harding, these new offerings allow Sun to focus on technology-based services. The company has jabbed at competing IBM Global Services (IGS) in the past, charging that IBM customers have to rely on IGS administrators to implement IBM technologies.

"IGS mobilizes an army of people -- which is a business model that has worked for them. Sun is mobilizing IP [intellectual property] that will help people be more self-sufficient," Harding said. "This marks a major step in the progression toward network services orchestration -- an inherently multiplatform space. Aduva, combined with Sun Update Connection and the N1 management tools, will enable Sun to define and lead in this emerging business."

But Ptak sees flaws in this plan. "IT can't afford to be focused on technologies," he said. "[Customers] aren't looking for tool kits and siloed technology."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, Site Editor

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