Windows 10 Servicing (Part Two): Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Microsoft (For changing things a lot).

So, a couple of posts ago I mentioned that I was happy about finally figuring out how Windows 10 should be updated, and I tried to decode how all the Windows 10 versions were named. Microsoft must have heard that I figured it out because they decided to change it again.

Bye Bye CB and CBB…

So they did away with the “Current Branch” and “Current Branch for Business” nomenclature, and are instead calling the new Windows 10 servicing model the “Semi Annual” Channel. To add additional confusion, they still are separating the new Semi Annual Channel into two “releases”.

Preview Release

There will still be preview releases of Windows 10 as the software is being developed

Hello Semi Annual Channel

When a version of Windows 10 is widely released, it will be known as “Semi Annual (Pilot).” During this time Microsoft recommends that you have some appropriate people testing the release so you can fix any issues with how it works in your environment. After a couple of months, it will become “Semi Annual (broad).” At this time Microsoft is assuming that you have tested sufficiently and are ready to deploy the software to the masses.

What’s With The Long Term Servicing Channel?

The Long Term Servicing Channel (formerly Long Term Servicing Branch) still exists in this model, but it is still should only really be used in static environments. It still will not support new technologies when they are released, and exists so that environments that absolutely can not update (the example that is always given is Hospitals, who are installing on computers that control large diagnostic equipment that can’t be taken offline to update, or might cost a ton of money to certify with a new OS).

The User Environment

Here is a run down of how our environment stacks up with each of the releases. (now that Microsoft has changed the names.)

  1. I think one of our network guys runs the Preview Releaseof Windows 10 on one of his machines. Maybe. We largely ignore Preview Releases of Windows 10. Sorry Microsoft.
  2. For our company we allow the infrastructure team to install Semi Annual (Pilot) on their primary machine. They do not have access to the Service Desk for support (though they also generally do not need it.)
  3. We are currently deploying Semi Annual (Broad) to all of our machines that get Windows 10. That number is not very large right now. We moved to Windows 10 on all of our Surface Pros because of the ability to work with multiple resolutions was much more advanced than Windows 8.1. We are also testing a few users with Windows 10 so that we can try to get ahead of the 2020 deadline for the removal of Windows 7.
  4. Long Term Servicing channel doesn’t support our needs at all. We don’t use it. Unless you have mission critical machines that can’t/don’t ever need to change over the next 7 years, you shouldn’t be using it either.

Here’s an outline of how we are doing Windows 10 servicing in our user environment.

Servicing Plan for Windows 10

  1. During Operating System Deployment (OSD), the newest version of Semi Annual (Broad) will always be installed. (currently this is the 1703 version.)
  2. Monthly patches will be provided through our “normal” monthly patching process.
  3. When support expiration is announced for a specific version, two branches of Semi Annual (Broad) will become available in Software Center for users of the expiring version. (Example, when 1703 expiration is announced, the two active CBB versions (1709 and 1803 will be made available)
  4. When support expiration is reached, if the user has not updated their computer they will be required to install the newest of the two CBB Branches. (Example, when 1703 expiration is reached, users will be required to update to 1803 rather than 1709, which is the older version.) Jumping them ahead a version should make it so the user will need to update the computer less frequently.

How we are making it happen

  1. We will create device collections in ConfigMgr that include machines with each of the Windows versions. (Example: machines with 1607 Pro and Ent, 1703 Pro and Ent, 1709 Pro and Ent, 1803 Pro and Ent)
  2. We will create upgrade task sequences in ConfigMgr for each Windows 10 version as they are released by Microsoft.
  3. Those Upgrade task sequences will become available in Software Center for members of the Windows 10 device collections as versions become Semi Annual (Broad). Example: when 1709 becomes Semi Annual (Broad), it will be an available update for members of the 1703 and 1607 device collections.
  4. Task sequences will become required as branches reach End Of Life so that computers will not be unpatched in the environment. Example: When 1607 becomes EOL, the 1709 Upgrade Task Sequence will become a required install for computers in the 1607 device collection.

So I think this is all correct. With the Semi Annual channels, Microsoft is promising two releases a year in March and September. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up with the pace, and what happens if they run into a big bug right before the release of one of the semi annual updates. Do they keep the name the same and just release it a bit late, or will they feel obligated to call it 1811 if the release comes out in November rather than September as promised. Time will tell.



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