Ahhhhh…. Fall, where the leaves change color and Microsoft releases a new/updated version of Windows 10. The release of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is looming, how is your Windows 10 migration going? Still trying to get your head around all these terms – Windows Insider Program, Current Branch, Current Branch for Business, Long-Term Servicing Branch and now Semi-Annual Channel. Oh, and let’s not forget updates and rings!? Remember the good old days of Windows 7 where all we had to worry about was patching and service packs. No wonder Enterprises are dragging their feet adopting Windows 10. Back when I was at RES (now Ivanti), I wrote a blog called “Branched Gone Wild”. Let’s revisit this topic and see where Windows 10 stands since last December.
The biggest change since last December is all the confusion and frustration around Current Branch (CB) and Current Branch for Business (CBB). Now Microsoft calls this Semi-Annual Channel but if you read closer, the will still have CB and CBB… just “Targeted” versus not. That said there will NO LONGER be two releases, but rather guidance around how to update within the enterprise. I will explore more later.
The next change is rather simple… Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) will now be known as the Long-Term Servicing Channel. The stance is still the same… “Long-term Servicing channel is not intended for deployment on most or all the PCs in an organization; it should be used only for special-purpose devices. As a general guideline, a PC with Microsoft Office installed is a general-purpose device, typically used by an information worker, and therefore it is better suited for the Semi-Annual servicing channel.” (Source: http://bit.ly/2zc1SMQ)
It is sad I must define how to deploy Windows, so I will spin the definitions into more tangible concepts.
- Feature Updates: Put simply – These are the releases Microsoft puts out twice per year. This is why enterprises are pulling their hair out! Microsoft refers to them as “bite-sized” but in reality, they are time and money for the enterprise!
- Quality Updates: Microsoft marketing is on a roll! These are the good old fashion patches that include security and non-security updates. In short… these are Patch Updates released on the second Tuesday of every month (sometimes the fourth if needed). The patches are finally cumulative which makes life much easier.
- Insider Preview: These are betas of future releases. The technical faithful and those who love to live on the edge of your system blowing up run these updates.
- Servicing Channels: Another term for Window 10 releases.
- Semi-Annual Channel: Twice a year Windows 10 releases.
- Long-Term Servicing Channel: The stable Windows 10 but only updated every three years and for “special” devices (I could write an editorial blog on this topic).
- Deployment Rings: Your release strategy or how you should deploy Windows 10 to your enterprise.
Running around with your hair on fire yet? Let’s simplify the deployment of a “Feature Update” and bring it down to a straightforward guide.
- Preview (Pre-Release): The bold will be running this and by that, I mean anyone in IT who truly cares about their end-users. These are the Insider Previews Microsoft releases prior to Feature Updates. Use this to vet out bugs, understand new features and figure out a locking down strategy.
- Targeted (Day 0 End-Users): These are your power users. In short, they can sustain pain, are IT’s best friends and don’t mind a disruption or few. These end-users get a Feature Update on ‘Day 0’ and ideally you should target various user types in your organization.
- Broad (The 80%): Your target group has kicked the tires, you have been through three to four Quality Updates and now you are ready to target your end-users with a new version of Windows 10. Obviously, you have a small percentage of folks who it their machine blows up, there goes your job and those devices that if they go down… people die or lots of money is lost. Yeah… we leave that 20% alone for now and DO NOT update. The rest or as I like to call them, the 80%, are ready. Update at will and monitor.
- Critical (The 20%): At this point, you are six months in and the 20% as I like to call them are ready. These are the critical devices, sensitive users and corner cases that need special attention. When it comes to Quality Updates it is recommended to test, test again and then deploy.
The reality is, two Feature Updates per year is unrealistic for enterprise organizations. A little secret… you can skip a release. Microsoft has pushed that each release will have an 18-month lifecycle but, they tend to throw on a grace period at the end. The reality… Software releases are not perfect and there will be delays! The other reality… It is unrealistic for larger enterprises to upgrade every 18 months and hopefully Microsoft will recognize that. Here is where we stand to date with present and future releases:
Windows 10 Initial Release 1507 RTM (OS Build: 10240.17236)
- 1507 Initial Release Date:7/29/2015
- 1507 End-of-Life Date:5/9/2017 (confirmed by Microsoft April 13, 2017)
Windows 10 November Update 1511 (OS Build: 10586.753)
- 1511 CB Release Date:11/12/2015
- 1511 CBB Release Date:4/8/2016
- 1511 End-of-Life Date: 10/10/2017 (confirmed by Microsoft July 27, 2017)
Windows 10 Anniversary Update 1607 (OS Build: 14393.693)
- 1607 CB Release Date:8/2/2016
- 1607 CBB Release Date:11/29/2016
- Expected 1607 End-of-Life Date: Assuming March 2018*
Windows 10 Creators Update 1703 (OS Build: 15063.138)
- 1703 CB Release Date: 4/11/2017
- 1703 Current BB Release Date:7/11/2017
- Expected 1703 End-of-Life Date: Assuming September 2018*
Windows 10 Fall Creators Update 1709 (OS Build: 16299.19)
- 1709 Semi-Annual Channel Release Date: 10/17/2017
- Expected End-of-Life Date:Assuming March 2019**
Expected Windows 10 “Redstone 4” Update
- 1803 Semi-Annual Channel Release Date (Expected): March 2018
- Expected End-of-Life Date:Assuming September 2019**
* This assumption assumes Microsoft is following their own initial rules for Windows Branching.
** This assumes Microsoft is following their new, simplified release cadence.
There is A LOT here and frankly, I could write a dissertation on this topic, but will spare you all and break into meaningful chunks. With the release of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update expected on October 17, 2017, I will write about ways to ease the pain by leveraging the many partners XenTegra works with as well as offer up insight on how to tackle the update. Parallel, I will offer up ideas on how to plan for Windows 10 if you have been waiting to upgrade, because let’s face it, time to start planning! Windows 10 is a massive shift, but once a strategy is put into place, it is not so bad! Let me help you and we will get through at least until 2020!