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FAQ: Microsoft drafts new Windows Server upgrade blueprint

Gregg Keizer | June 22, 2017
Syncs schedule with Windows 10, Office 365 for twice-a-year upgrade madness.

What gets upgraded? More than before.

Along with firming up the schedule, Microsoft announced that it will issue twice-yearly upgrades for both Nano installations and those configured as Server Core. Previously, only Nano was upgraded on a rapid cadence.

"Server Core will now be included in the Semi-annual Channel," said Chapple. "Server Core is a 'headless' installation option of the operating system that includes all the roles and features needed to run datacenter servers and containerized traditional applications."

In his post, Chapple summarized the revised Windows Server release blueprint with a table. Computerworld's version is below.

table 1
Credit: Computerworld

What about support? Has that changed too? Yes and no.

When Nano was upgraded two to three times a year, Microsoft said it would support just two consecutive builds: The latest, or "N," and its predecessor, or "N-1." When N was replaced its by successor, "N+1," support for N-1 would dry up.

Under that regime and with a three-times-a-year upgrade pace, support could be as short as eight months. A twice-annual tempo might mean support lasts 12 months.

But like Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, each Windows Server interim upgrade will be supported for 18 months, an increase of approximately 50%. That additional time, Chapple contended, will let enterprises "skip one of the semi-annual releases and wait to upgrade until the next release."

Figure 1 shows the start and end dates for this fall's upgrade.

figure 1
Credit: Computerworld

Did Microsoft also change the labels it uses for Windows Server refreshes? Yes. In another move toward conformity, Microsoft revised the terminology for the Windows Server release "tracks."

The new naming is easiest to understand with a table, like so:

table 2
Credit: Computerworld

The twice-a-year updates will be named Semi-annual Channel, matching, more or less, the nomenclature of Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus.

The traditional release model, with a new edition of Windows Server shipped every two or three years, remains in place but gets a name tweak. Previously called "Long-term Servicing Branch" (LTSB) to mimic Windows 10's least-changing version, it's now been dubbed "Long-term Servicing Channel," or LTSC.

Windows Server 2016, which debuted last year, is the current LTSC. It will be supported using the standard 5+5 scheme, with five years of "Mainstream" support and another five years of "Extended" support. The former expires Jan. 11, 2022, while the latter is exhausted Jan. 11, 2027.

However, customers willing to pay for the privilege may receive support for six more years atop the usual decade, for a total of 16 years. The new licensing option, titled "Premium Assurance," debuted in December. Depending on when the customer buys into the deal, each additional year runs between 5% and 12% of the current licensing cost.


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