In most cases - and in most organizations - the world of networking and the world of applying software patches for servers and applications are at opposite ends of the IT departmental spectrum. However, a new class of appliances offers a fusion of these worlds that makes a lot of sense to us.Here's the problem: Whether you're talking about a patch for Oracle, a Microsoft product, or some other server-based application, keeping up with the management of these changes is a complex and time-consuming job. Further, as time goes on, we're faced with an alarming increase in the rate at which security patches need to be applied. And many of these same patches need to be applied to multiple servers.Now mentally switch gears to the often-discussed world of traffic management appliances. As you are well aware, this class of equipment has the ability to do packet inspection, view various classes of traffic, etc.The exciting part is that some companies are now fusing these two disparate worlds. The idea is both obvious and brilliant. Put a patch management appliance, sometimes called a "patch proxy," in line with the data stream and filter for strategic patches for all traffic entering the site. This gets the patch in place immediately for all servers, buying some time for the regression testing, updating of multiple servers and similar tasks while not leaving your systems at risk.One company that is offering this type of appliance is Blue Lane Technologies. For a detailed example of how it is handling the current update of Oracle software, there's a new paper at Webtorials called "A No Risk Solution for Patching Oracle Servers".Next time we'll move from Blue Lane to some blue sky thinking and consider how this type of appliance could be useful as a part of a managed network service.