Microsoft unveils a public preview of Update Management Center

It's an Azure Arc world: Perform patching across your IT estate

Update time is always stressful, particularly when one has a seemingly endless array of Windows and Linux machines spinning away in the cloud. To simplify all of this, Microsoft has wheeled out a public preview of Update Management Center.

UMC is the latest iteration of Azure Automation Update Management, a useful but somewhat convoluted platform aimed at managing updates both on Azure and on-premises Windows machines, as well as Linux installations.

The old service is handy and undoubtedly familiar to administrators faced with sprawling enterprise estates. However, as Microsoft admitted in the preview announcement, it can be "cumbersome and error-prone".

The update does bring a modern feel to an older toolset, with a facelifted overview tab to track the compliance and deployment status of updates to all Windows and Linux machines on both Azure and Azure Arc-enabled servers. Filtering is present to deal with information overload.

The Arc comment is key, since UMC ditches Log Analytics and Azure Automation in favor of native functionality on Azure Compute and Azure Arc for Servers. Microsoft claims this approach does away with the multi-step onboarding process that bedeviled Azure Automation Update Management.

Other features include granular access control at an individual resource level (rather than at an Automation account level) and, according to Microsoft, "allows RBAC and roles based of ARM in Azure." Also useful is the increased flexibility in the scheduling of patch deployment. There's on demand and periodic assessment of patching, customizable schedules and patching methods including automatic VM guest patching (in Azure).

It all looks terrifically whizzy, but there are a few downsides. Users cannot set up pre- or post-tasks, which could be a showstopper for some scenarios. Support still needs to be extended to all Azure-endorsed distributions and operating systems. Patch management must also be added to all Arc workloads "including Arc for Private cloud, VMSS, and AKS," according to Microsoft.

Still, it is early days and this remains very much a preview. However, it also represents a glimpse of a future in the Microsoft world where one can manage the OS and application patching scenarios for anything from a single VM to an estate with dozens, hundreds or possibly thousands of them. ®

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