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New Boundary Technologies Inc.’s new Prism Patch Manager, based in part on technology from St. Bernard Software Inc.’s UpdateExpert, is a good addition to any corporate IT manager’s arsenal of patch management tools.

The combination of New Boundary’s Prism software deployment system and St. Bernard’s patch management system is part of a trend that IT managers will likely see repeated throughout next year. After all, it makes sense for software distribution and asset management tools to be harnessed closely with patch tools. Prism Patch Manager became available last month and costs $1,100 to manage 100 systems.

See how Prism matches up against other patch management tools

In the future, we’d like to see a complete fusion with Prism Deploy such that patch management becomes an option that can be built into the Prism platform. The advantage for IT would be a seamless integration of the agents, policies and procedures to deploy application and operating system software as well as security hot fixes and operating system and application patches.

Prism Patch Manager is limited to the Windows environment—a restriction that we hope will be eliminated in subsequent work with St. Bernard. Although patch deployment is now primarily limited to PCs, we did use the product to effectively manage our server patches as well—and Prism Patch Manager is designed to help keep servers up and running. Because data centers run a variety of Unix and Linux breeds, we think Prism Patch Manager should expand as quickly as possible to cover other operating systems.

Prism Patch Manager is quite simple to get up and running. Research and system scanning tools, which were also relatively simple to implement, ensured we were keeping our systems up-to-date. However, the ongoing effort that’s required to monitor the system might be an area where IT managers need to devote more staff and time.

When compared with other patch management tools we’ve tested recently, such as PatchLink Corp.’s PatchLink Update, we found it was sometimes difficult to figure out which patches were needed and which were not applicable.

For example, one test server was deemed eligible for a fix described in Microsoft Corp.’s Knowledge Base Article Q825237. In this case, a memory leak was sometimes seen after installing Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 on a machine that was also running Microsoft Operations Manager. Prism Patch Manager found the appropriate fix, but showed the solution as being both “not released” and available as of Aug. 7.

After reading through the Knowledge Base article, it was easy for us to determine that this particular patch was not applicable to our system. Furthermore, the correct remedy was a complicated fix available from Microsoft.

Patch management systems should be able to determine which patches are necessary and show only those ones in the administration screen. Still, Prism Patch Manager made it easy to download and deploy the patches that we needed.

In addition, because the agent-based system made it possible for us to deploy patches through a firewall connection, we believe the system is scalable enough for moderate to large enterprises that have distributed offices.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at