Yesterday, Microsoft publicly shipped a release candidate (RC) version of what's now called Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). Previously, the product was called Software Update Services (SUS) 2.0, then Windows Update Services (WUS). The free add-on for Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Server gives small and midsized businesses (SMBs) a way to manage and deploy software updates to client machines in a network.
  
Like earlier versions, the WSUS RC is designed as the core patch and update component of Windows Server and will, presumably, be included in a future Windows Server version. WSUS offers Web-based administration tools, the ability to group machines logically and issue appropriate patches accordingly, simple reports, and integration with various Microsoft SQL Server-based databases, including a special bundled version that offers none of the limitationsof the Microsoft Database Engine (MSDE). 
  
WSUS has been on the slow road to release. I first wrote about this technology back in June 2003, and it was variously scheduled to appear in late 2003, then alongside Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) in 2004 and, later, in early 2005. Microsoft now says that it will ship the final version of WSUS in second quarter 2005.
  
If you're interested in testing WSUS, you can download the RC version from the Microsoft Web site. The WSUS server requires Windows 2003 or Win2K Server SP4 or later. Supported clients include Windows 2003 (32-bit only), Windows 2003 with SP1 (x64 and Itanium versions), Windows XP, XP Professional x64 Edition, and Win2K SP3 or later.