This month saw the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (version 1607) release, a significant milestone in the life of Windows 10. There was more than a little controversy in its wake, with some going so far as to recommend skipping the update altogether. The 1E Blog decided to talk to resident Windows 10 expert to learn more about the servicing model, its implications for enterprises, and whether some of the criticism it draws is warranted.
Hi Dave, what do you think are the origins are of the Windows 10 servicing model?
It’s really about being able to do quicker increments to the functionality of the operating system, that’s the way I see it. Whereas before you’d have to wait a fairly long time for a service pack to introduce new features, the idea behind this is that Microsoft can develop and release new features more rapidly and engage more of the community in the testing of those features through the Insider Program, so that corporations can actually start working with those new features in the early stages of the development.
Do you think Windows 10 really is going to be the last Microsoft operating system ‘as we know it’?
There’s nothing to suggest otherwise. Gartner has said Windows 10 is inevitable, everyone’s got to migrate to it, it’s going to be maintained by the service model now, so it will just be future versions of Windows 10. The thing is, a feature upgrade is effectively an in-place upgrade to a new operating system now.
The main implication for enterprises is that they’re going to need to think about updates more frequently than they did in the past. The reality is that any version will be supported for perhaps 18 months maximum. If you think about the very first Windows 10 version (1507) released in July 2015, it was followed up four months later with the 1511 version. Now that 1607 is out, we can expect it to go ‘Business Ready’ (aka Current Branch for Business) in about 4 months, so November/December. At that time customers still on 1507 will have just 60 days to get onto either 1511 or 1607, so the supported lifecycle of 1507 will have been July 2015 through January or February 2016 –18 or 19 months.
Why do you think Microsoft ultimately decided to limit the frequency of these updates?
Originally they were talking about a release every four months – so two to three a year, and they’ve revised that down to two updates a year. I guess it’s down to the pace of organizations being able to adopt. If they were releasing three a year that considerably reduces the lifecycle of any one of those versions. If they’re releasing more versions more rapidly, it means those older versions are going to go out of support quicker. I guess it’s just a practicality thing. From an enterprise customer point of view, there’s only a certain pace enterprises can keep up with.
An eighteen-month lifecycle for a particular version is potentially sustainable but I think organizations should consider upgrading once a year – at least once a year. That’s probably what most larger organizations will plan to do.
How can 1E Nomad help large businesses manage this necessity?
Well, one of the main concerns for a large organization that has migrated onto Windows 10 will be getting those updates out. These are very large updates. In the past, if you think about a service pack for an operating system, that might have been in the region of hundreds of megabytes, now you’re talking about effectively in-place upgrades, which is around 3 gigabytes of content you need to get out to each machine in order to deploy that: that’s a big strain on your network.
With Nomad we’re able to distribute that content around using peer-to-peer technology, so we don’t need distribution servers in every remote location. It uses a dynamic election process where a client will download the content from a remote distribution point and share that content out with its local peers.
With Nomad you haven’t got all the clients downloading it across the WAN. You don’t need infrastructure there: it’s actually being distributed in the most efficient way throughout your environment, so you can get that content out safely and quicker to your end points so they can be upgraded.
What about the complaints following the recent Anniversary Update – could Microsoft be doing more to avoid these or are such imperfections pretty much inevitable?
I think it’s inevitable. With each phase of the release cycle it’s getting better … but, as a Current Branch or ‘pilot’ release goes mainstream it’s going to hit a lot more machines, there’s inevitably going to be issues that weren’t necessarily seen, and then you get the cumulative Service Updates – security fixes and patches that come out each month. By the time it gets to the deployment or Current Branch for Business release, four months down the line, it’s been much more extensively used and a lot of those issues will have already been addressed.