Windows as a service: Simplified and Aligned

As we announced back in April, Microsoft is aligning our servicing models with twice-per-year feature update releases targeting March and September, and 18-month servicing timelines for each release.  While the first fully-aligned release will occur later this year with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update release and a corresponding Office 365 ProPlus release, we got a head start with the Windows 10 1703 release (a.k.a. Creators Update):  It marks the first of our semi-annual releases, each of which will be serviced for 18 months.

As part of the alignment with Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, we are also adopting common terminology to make it as easy as possible to understand the servicing process.  The two most important terms to understand:

  • Semi-Annual Channel. These are the twice-per-year feature update releases, targeting March and September, designed for the broad population of general-purpose PCs used throughout organizations.  Each of these releases will be serviced for 18 months from the date of release.  (The Semi-Annual Channel replaces the Current Branch [CB] and Current Branch for Business [CBB] concepts.)
  • Long-Term Servicing Channel. These are less frequent releases, expected every 2-3 years (with the next one expected in 2019), designed for special-purpose PCs such as those used in point-of-sale systems or controlling factory or medical equipment.  Each of these releases will be serviced for 10 years from the date of release.  (The Long-Term Servicing Channel replaces the Long-Term Servicing Branch [LTSB].)

With each Semi-Annual Channel release, we begin deploying right away to targeted consumer devices and gradually ramp up to full deployment based on the telemetry that we receive.  As John Cable discussed on the Windows Experience blog, we recommend that enterprises follow the same approach. Start with targeted deployments to validate that apps, devices and infrastructure used by the organization works well with the new release.  When that validation is complete, begin broadly deploying.

Windows 10 1703 is ready for that broad deployment, based on feedback that we’ve received from organizations, ISVs, partners, OEMs, and consumers that have already done it.  As a convenience to help organizations that haven’t yet begun this broad deployment, we are updating the Windows 10 1703 packages and ISOs on the Volume License Servicing Center, MSDN, Windows Update, Windows Update for Business, and Windows Server Update Services, integrating the July cumulative update into the original Windows 10 1703 packages.

For more information on the common terminology, see the as well as the corresponding Office 365 ProPlus servicing guidance.  Today we have also made available a new Microsoft Mechanics video to help explain the servicing process:

With these new predictable releases and servicing timeframes, we are publishing the expected end of servicing dates for each of the Windows 10 releases.  You can find this information on the Windows lifecycle fact sheet, which includes a table in the “Updates and service packs” section listing each Windows 10 release, its initial availability date, and its estimated end of servicing date.

Windows as a service is an ongoing process:  New releases are deployed while old releases are retired.  Today, many customers are broadly deploying Windows 10 1703 after successful pilot deployments.  And many other customers are in the process of updating the last of their Windows 10 1511 PCs in preparation for the upcoming October 10th, 2017, end of servicing date.

For organizations implementing a servicing process for Windows, we suggest one with three main phases:

  • Plan and Prepare. Leverage the Windows Insider Program to follow along with the development of new Windows 10 features (so that you can prepare to deploy those features), while at the same time validating compatibility and providing feedback on any issues or concerns.
  • Targeted Deploy. Starting as soon as a new Semi-Annual Channel feature update is released, begin targeted pilot deployments to a targeted group of machines (we typically suggest around 10%) to validate app, device, and infrastructure compatibility.
  • Broadly Deploy. Once you are satisfied with the results of the pilot deployments, begin broadly deploying throughout the organization.  For some organizations, broad deployment can begin quickly; for others it can take longer.  It is up to each organization to determine when to make that transition.

This repeats every six months, starting with the first new Windows Insider Preview build that occurs after each Semi-Annual Channel release – it’s an ongoing process.

To help you implement Windows as a Service, we have tools like Windows Analytics to guide you through the feature update deployment process, Ready for Windows to tell you about ISV app support for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge and Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer to make supporting modern and legacy web apps at the same time, System Center Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune for enterprise-grade servicing and deployment, and great overall app compatibility.  For those looking for more assistance, Microsoft FastTrack can also help.


Continue the conversation. Find best practices. Visit the Windows 10 Tech Community.

Looking for support? Visit the Windows 10 IT pro forums.


Comments (2)

  1. yannara says:

    So let me make sure I get this right - the only big change here is, that we don´t have anymore the diversity between CB and CBB, and we have to pilot Semi Annual Channel ourselves in organizations? Before this, our attitude towards CBCBB was, that we don´t touch CB in business world, and wait the build to become CBB first.

    1. Steve says:

      CB vs. CBB was always a bit of an artificial, "we think it's business ready", designation. With this, they're telling you to do the piloting/testing within your own organization and make that designation yourself.

      The other big news is: "... twice-per-year feature update releases." CB going CBB didn't bring any new features. Now there will be Feature Upgrades (1703 and 1709) in the same year.

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