MICROSOFT HAS made another step towards streamlining its operating system development cycle with the announcement that Windows Server 2016 is to move to a twice-yearly update cycle.
The announcement is the next logical step after the company confirmed it would be moving to the same strategy for Windows 10, with updates in the Spring and Autumn, and the Office productivity suite which is also going twice-yearly.
The move will serve both to give a cohesive predictable sense to Windows Updates going forward and will allow sysadmins and consumers alike to prepare for the changes ahead (though as of yet, it's estimated that less than a quarter of Windows 10 users have received the Creators Update, released in April).
However, it will also serve to drive adoption of services. Enterprise rollout is now small task, and a huge change to a new edition every few years has been one of the catalysts that has led to out of date software still being installed on thousands of PCs - including those used by the NHS and Met Police as well as London Councils.
By switching to a more silent and regular pattern, adoption is more likely, and while there are still issues surrounding the freedom of sysadmins over what they do and don't want to be installed on their networks, Microsoft will always argue the payoff is in the ability to stay up to date, and more importantly secure with the minimum of disruption.
Not every server will receive this treatment. The Nano Server, with its non-GUI front end and tiny footprint, will get new releases every six months, supported for 18 months (known as the semi-annual branch). Bigger servers will get releases every six months but with a long-term stable release every two-three years - much as Ubuntu does now (this is called the Long Term Service Channel or LTSC, replacing the existing LTSB). The LTSC releases will have a footprint of 5-6 years, but of course, there will be "leanings" from Microsoft to allow it to handle the incremental stuff.
In truth, these changes aren't massive. What Microsoft has done is add an air of predictability to policies that were actually, for the most part, happening anyway, but the unification of years of disparate policies can only be a good thing for users. And of course for Microsoft. µ
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