Big Changes to Windows Server–Semi-Annual Channel

Microsoft has just announced that they are splitting Windows Server and System Center into two channels:

  • Long-Term Servicing Channel (aka Branch)
  • Semi-Annual Channel

Long-Term Servicing Channel

This is the program that we’ve been using for years. Going forward, we will get a new version of Windows Server every 2-3 years. This big-bang release is what we are used to. We’ll continue to get 5 years mainstream support and 5 years extended support, and recently Microsoft announced the option to pay for an extra 6 years of Premium Assurance support.

Existing installations of Windows Server will fall into this channel. This channel will continue to get the usual software updates and security updates every month.

Semi-Annual Channel

This is aimed at hosting companies, private cloud (Azure Stack), and other customers that desire the latest and greatest. In addition to the usual monthly updates, these customers will get an OS upgrade, similar to what happens with Windows 10 now, twice per year in the Spring and Autumn.  Each of these releases will have 18 months of support after the initial release. Most of the included features will be rolled up to create future Long-Term Servicing Channel builds. While the Long-Term Servicing Channel releases will probably continue to be named based on years, the Semi-Annual Channel will use build numbers. A theoretical release in September 2017 would be called version 1709, and a March release in 2018 would be called version 1803.

Customers who can avail of this option are:

  • Software Assurance customers
  • Azure marketplace
  • MSDN and similar programs

SPLA wasn’t mention but this surely would have to be included for hosters?

Impact

The first word that came to my mind was “confusion”. Customers will be baffled by all this. MS wants to push out updates to more aggressive customers, but most companies are conservative with servers. The channel had to split. But it shall be fun to explain all of this … over and over … and over … and over … and again.

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