Patch Manager is aimed at easing problems faced by users in determining which security patches should be applied to a system and how to apply them.
The new utility will allow users to scan their Solaris 9 systems, both locally and remotely, for patchable vulnerabilities and to download and install those patches automatically, said Derek Maxwell, product line manager for Solaris Systems and Resource Management at Sun.
The software is designed to provide users with a better, easier way to determine what patches they need and how to apply them, Maxwell said.
Patch Manager is a desktop application written in Java that does its work by comparing the configuration of a Solaris system to a local copy of Sun's knowledge base, which contains information about known security vulnerabilities.
The local copy of the knowledge base can be updated as often as a user wants or is updated automatically when a scan is initiated, she said. Sun updates the copy of the knowledge base that resides on its servers daily, she added.
Once the list of needed patches is returned, users are able to download and apply them right away, either automatically or by hand, or schedule a time to do so, Maxwell said. The patches are digitally signed to prevent unauthorised installations, Little added.
Microsoft offers a similar service, the Web-based Windows Update, which offers PC scans and patch recommendations. That service has come under fire from some users who have called it unreliable and said it leads to further security problems.
"The comparison is not direct between Windows Update and Patch Manager," Maxwell said. "Sun's patches are break-fix remediation packages targeted to fix a specific problem," whereas Microsoft often includes new features in its service packs which can cause problems, he said.
Sun will also make a version of Patch Manager available that is compatible with versions 2.6 to 8.0 of Solaris. These versions will be identical to the Solaris 9 version but will not be able to scan remote systems, only local ones.