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The Patch Wild, Wild West

April 17, 2013
The wild, wild west, immortalized in so many movies, was very chaotic. Not what I want in a patching process.

The wild, wild west, immortalized in so many movies, was very chaotic. Not what I want in a patching process.

I’ve had various iOS devices over the last few years and one thing that’s annoyed me is the patching process. I have very little control over which patches I install, and I can’t roll back patches if I get a new version of an application that doesn’t seem to work well. As a result, I’m glad I have control over when I patch particular apps, and patch them rarely. This isn’t the best security process, but it provides stability, which is usually more important to me on my devices.

It seems to have worked well for Apple, which has sold billions of applications across their devices. It works so well that Microsoft seems to have adopted a new process for the “Metro” style applications for devices and Windows 8. According to this article, the “Black Tuesday” for patches might be going away. All of the things I don’t like about the iOS patch system seem to be coming to Metro apps. I wouldn’t care, but since Windows Server 2012 has some of the Windows 8 characteristics, I’m a little concerned. Are we doomed to get more “Metro” style interfaces for Windows features and potentially third party applications that will send patches mixed in with enhancements? Will we get stuck “upgrading” systems with new features in order to get security patches?

Consumers want things to work, and I can understand Microsoft’s desire to simplify the patch process, but removing the ability to roll back and not warning users of patches could backfire with companies that end up using these same devices. This most assuredly makes the process of publishing and distributing patches easier for Microsoft, but it’s a big step backward for companies, and it’s one that I’m sure will upset, anger, and frustrate both users and IT departments.

The world continues to abstract away from particular platforms for any purpose. Those of us using SQL Server are stuck with Windows, but many of the applications we use are increasingly being released on multiple platforms. If Microsoft is having issues with Windows 8, Windows phone, and Windows RT adoption, this is a sure way to continue the problems. Other ecosystems might not be any better, but if that’s the case, then wouldn’t you consider iOS, Android or something else?

Steve Jones


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