In an interesting turn of events, Microsoft recently decided to completely revamp the Windows 10 servicing plans model which I described in a previous post. Here’s a quick re-cap of the phases Microsoft has gone through in regards to their client operating system (OS):

  • Phase I: Major operating system releases typically saw a three-year gap.
  • Phase II: Microsoft moved towards a “Windows as a Service” offering, in which major updates could be released at any time of the year. However, “branch” updates for stability and features would be released 2-3 times per year. This is where Current Branch (CB), Current Branch for Business (CBB), and Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) were born.
  • Phase III: Microsoft is now moving towards the same model as Windows Server on the client side.

Instead of sticking with CB, CBB, and LTSB, Microsoft will now be offering two servicing branches: Semi-Annual and Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). One of the primary drivers for making this change is to match up terminology with the Office 365 suite:

Office 365 ProPlus Update Model

Note that LTSC, formerly LTSB, is still around and is intended to stay where it is in terms of deployment releases and scheduling.

What does that mean for us from an IT support, maintenance, and management perspective?

Well, let’s take a look at a step-by-step example:

  1. Windows 10 v.1709 gets released in September of 2017. It becomes the pilot group for the Semi-Annual Channel. (note, you can defer this until step #2)
  2. Four to five months later, v.1709 is released to the broader scope of Semi-Annual Channel.
  3. 18 months after that, v.1709 is no longer under support
    • During these 18 months, a newer version will be back at step #1

Larger organizations may have a continued rollout of 2-3 operating system versions at a time, as they continue to complete in-place upgrades or machine wipes/reloads. Smaller organizations will likely complete upgrades in small pilot groups, and then roll out the updates in mass once confirmed to be properly working with their line of business software.

This does match the simplified approach of other Microsoft software suites, but it may cause issues in organizations that had just begun a cadence path with the CB/CBB/LTSB model.

For more information on how your organization can best manage this new Windows 10 servicing plans model, please visit our website. You can also contact RSM’s technology and management consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or via email.