Do you know your patch compatibility?

A pending ISA99 technical report defines a standard XML format for automation vendors to publish patch compatibility information.

03/01/2010


Managing dozens of software applications on dozens of servers with supporting software elements, such as browsers, office tools, and virus protection can be an overwhelming task. There are numerous compatibility issues for patches and updates from multiple vendors. On the first Tuesday of every month, Microsoft releases a new set of OS (operating system) and application patches, and automation vendors start testing the supported versions of their software against the patches.

Other vendors also release their patches and updates regularly or as needed. Virus updates may come out several times a week; database patches and updates may be released every few months; automation application patches and updates may be released quarterly. Manufacturing IT staff need to keep track of all these changes and all the compatibility dependencies across all of their applications. For example, your vendor’s HMI may require a specific version and minimum patch level for an OS, your data historian may require a different patch version, and your database may require a different maximum patch level. It can be a fulltime job just collecting the compatibility information from all of your vendors and building a compatibility network.

Managing patch and update compatibility across vendors is difficult, but managing patch and update compatibility within a vendor suite can be even more complicated. Most of the large automation vendors have constructed application suites by buying software companies and collecting the software into a commonly named suite, even if the software doesn’t integrate. It’s not uncommon to hear “… well, that version of the HMI doesn’t work with the latest version of our database” from your vendor’s support staff.

Because of compatibility issues, many organizations will get one application and operating system configuration working and then will not install any new patches or updates. While this strategy minimizes your support effort, it does add a significant amount of risk.

The ISA99 committee on industrial automation security is working on solutions to the problems of patch management in industrial systems. One new work product of the committee is a pending technical report that defines a standard XML format for vendors to publish their patch compatibility information.

Vendors currently publish the information in PDF files, spreadsheets, databases, and Microsoft Word documents. The formats for publication are not common, and it is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to find detailed information on: what was tested for compatibility; if testing is planned; and the results of the tests (success and failure). The ISA99 patch compatibility format addresses these issues.

Each vendor would provide a set of patch compatibility files for their products. Each file identifies the vendor’s product and version, the patch that was tested, and the test results. Patches are identified by the patch vendor’s name (such as Microsoft, Adobe or Oracle), the patch ID (which in the case of Microsoft is Patch KB-Number), the version of the patch, and the release date of the patch. The test results can specify if the patch applies to the vendor’s product, if a test was performed or is still in progress, and test results.

When vendors provide this information in a common format, it is possible to construct a compatibility network that shows the impact of implementing a patch or update on all of your systems. Vendors that provide this information across their own suite will also reduce their support and service calls.

In patch management, knowing compatibility dependencies helps you make intelligent decisions about what to patch and when to update. Ask your vendors to support the new format and make your job easier.




References
www.isa-99.com

 


Author Information
Dennis Brandl is president of BR&L Consulting in Cary, NC, www.brlconsulting.com . His firm focuses on manufacturing IT. Contact Dennis at dbrandl@brlconsulting.com .




The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me