I must admit to being frustrated when Teams was first introduced. It automatically started at Windows login, sometimes before I’d even connected to wifi (and then would error out due to the lack of an Internet connection) and the disconnection between some of the Office 365 services Teams uses and the main apps for those services, e.g. Skype for Business, was hard to explain to customers.
The gap is closing however and Redmond are putting some thought into Teams now that it’s gaining momentum. There is a healthy roadmap, some good product management and top level buy-in from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
There is still a gap between some of the native clients and functionality in Teams. For example, you can do more in online meetings through Skype for Business currently than you can in a Teams meeting despite both apps using the Skype for Business online services. Teams is now bringing in functionality for meetings that isn’t available in Skype for Business so we find ourselves in the familiar place where we have two apps with an overlap of features but which individually might not meet all our needs; we need to choose which tool to use and accept some sacrifices in functionality. Check out this brief post from Satya introducing the updated features and the new, free edition of Teams. We’ll blog about the differences over the next week or so.
The thing to bear in mind is Teams is a presentation layer; an app. It connects to the existing backend Office 365 online services and enhances them with integration and connectivity to other services, including 3rd party services and apps. This is the strength of Teams – it is a hub where we can perform 60-70% of our collaborative tasks before we might need to go into another app to continue or access deeper features.
We would like to see Teams become an Office 365 service in itself and have service definitions just like Exchange online, SharePoint online, Yammer and Skype for Business online. It would need to find it’s own place for that to happen though, or displace Skype for Business completely.
But why do we need containers? What do containers provide that virtual machines can’t?
For the developers, containers unlock the ability to build an application, package within a container, and deploy, knowing that wherever you deploy that container, it will run without modification, whether that is on-premises, in a service provider’s datacenter or in the public cloud such as Azure. You can also have complex multi-tier applications, with each tier packaged in a container.
So that’s containers in a nutshell. What about Nano Server? Is that a special edition for my granny?
If you are hosting lots of VOSEs, the last thing you want is for the host OS to reboot because that means everything I’m running on that host either needs to migrate to another server or also reboot. You want to minimise what’s running to reduce the resources used and the surface area open to bugs and attacks. Yes, I used the B word.
Windows Server 2008 came up with Server Core which was a hugely reduced installation intended to just support specific workloads such as hosting VOSEs. Windows server 2012 improved Server Core so it was more modular and you could install and configure the server and then switch into Server Core whereas in 2008 it was an either-or choice at installation.
Windows Server 2016 goes further with Nano Server. Just to give you an idea of the scale here, the charts below compare setup time, disk footprint and VHD size between the already trimmed Server Core installation and the new Nano Server.
Now the big question here is how do you licence Nano Server?
Well, Nano Server is a deployment option within Windows Server 2016. It’s included as part of the licensing of both Standard and Datacenter editions so there is no unique or separate licensing for Nano Server. Good news.
Look Like an Expert with these Extra Facts
Q – Will the Core Infrastructure Suite SKU also be core based licensing?
A – Yes, Core Infrastructure Suite is a single SKU incorporating both Windows Server and System Center at a discount. This will also be core based when Windows Server and System Center are released.
Q – Is the Windows Server External Connector available at the release of Windows Server 2016?
A – Yes, the Windows Server External Connector license will still be available for external users’ access to Windows Server. Just like it is today, an external connector is required for each Windows Server the external user is accessing.
Q – How should I think about hyper-threading in the core based licensing?
A – Just count the physical cores. Windows Server and System Center 2016 are licensed by physical cores, not virtual cores. So you only need to inventory and license the physical cores on the processors.
Q – If processors (and therefore cores) are disabled from Windows use, do I still need to license the cores?
A – No, if the processor is disabled for use by Windows, the cores on that processor don’t need to be licensed. For example, if 2 processors in a 4 processor server (with 8 cores per processor) were disabled and not available for Windows Server use, only 16 cores would need to be licensed. However, disabling hyper threading or disabling cores for specific programs does not relieve the need for a Windows Server license on the physical cores.
Don’t Forget CALs
Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions will continue to require Windows Server CALs for every user or device accessing a server (See the Product Use Rights for exceptions).
Some additional or advanced functionality will continue to require the purchase of an additive CAL. These are CALs that you need in addition to the Windows Server CAL to access functionality, such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions – we love to hear from you!
Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2016 will be licenced in a per-core + CAL (client access licence) model. This changes from Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 which were per-processor + CAL.
Whilst the main editions of Windows Server 2016 remain Standard and Datacenter (US spelling of course), another change is that Datacenter enjoys more features than Standard. This was not the case with Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 when Standard and Datacenter had exactly the same set of technical features and capabilities.
The licensing rules in brief
All physical cores in the server must be licenced
Core licences are sold in packs of 2
A minimum of 8 cores per processor must be licenced, even if the processor has less than 8 cores
For a single-processor server, a minimum of 16 cores must be licenced
Only physical cores need be counted; hyper-threading has no effect on licensing
Processors that are disabled in the server do not need to be licenced
Licensing all cores in the physical server with Datacenter edition allows you to run Windows Server in an unlimited number of VOSEs (Virtual Operating System Environment) on that server
Licensing all cores in the physical server with Standard edition allows you to run Windows Server in two VOSEs (Virtual Operating System Environment) on that server. You can apply extra licences to the physical server if you wish to run more than two.
A bit of background
If you’re scratching your head about the minimum licensing requirement or even why Microsoft chose to change the licensing model at all, a little explanation may help.
The reason for requiring a minimum of 16 core licences per server is to keep the prices of Windows Server 2016 in line with the minimum licensing (2 processors) of Windows Server 2012 R2. In turn, Windows 2012 required a minimum of 2 processors because it kept the price in line with the per-server + CAL model from Windows Server 2008 R2.
One reason for changing to per-core model is to align with a new benefit that will soon be in Microsoft Azure which will allow customers who have Software Assurance (SA) on their Windows Server licence to ‘lend’ that licence to the Azure datacentre. So you would only need to rent an empty VM and upload your own Windows image instead of paying for an Azure VM which had Windows. Azure compute units are based on cores so it makes sense for Windows licensing to match.
With Windows Server Datacenter edition, it gets even better because you don’t lose your on-premises rights and you can virtualise on-premises at the same time as on Microsoft Azure. We’ll blog about that in more detail at a later date.
System Center 2016 and Core Infrastructure Suite 2016 (a single SKU combination of both Windows Server and System Center) will also be licensed in the new per-core model.
We described the new Office 365 E5 plan and standalone features as well as how to licence them in previous blog posts. One of the features included in the PSTN Conferencing for Skype for Business (SfB) is to allow presenters to dial-out to a national phone number in order to add attendees into the meeting (or for attendees to ask SfB to dial them back on a national phone number).
The word national is important there because the plan wouldn’t allow you to dial-out to international phone numbers. This would be enabled when consumption billing is introduced in 2016 and customers could maintain a credit balance that international and freephone call costs would be drawn against.
However, today Microsoft have announced a free trial period where international dial-out will be enabled at no cost.
PSTN conferencing for Skype for Business is available to buy in 15 countries (as of the date of this blog post):
During the free trial period, users of PSTN Conferencing will be allowed to make international dial-out calls at no charge to phone numbers in any of those 15 countries where PSTN conferencing is available for sale. International dial-out calls outside of the 15 countries will not be enabled. This free period will last until April, 30th 2016. After that, customers will be billed per minute for all International Dial-Out calls.
Whilst Microsoft are selling PSTN conferencing in 15 countries, the users can be worldwide so this makes it easier to sell to multinational accounts. For example, a UK company who subscribe to PSTN conferencing can host a webcast and offer a New Zealand dial-in number even though PSTN Conferencing is not available to buy in that country yet.
December 1st marked two extraordinary launches: a brand new Office 365 plan called E5 and Microsoft becoming a Telco.
We described the key new features and capabilities in an earlier post and we’re going to concentrate on the licensing concepts in this blog post.
Some of the new features will be included via updates to the E1 and E3 plans. Most of the new features will be included in the E5 plan with the exception of PSTN Calling which will be an add-on subscription. All of the new features will be available as standalone subscriptions which will suit customers that don’t require all of the E5 functionality but do want one of two of the new capabilities.
This does mean that Office 365 E4 plan follows E2 in being discontinued. E4 will remain on the pricelist until the end of Microsoft’s financial year, June 30th, 2016. Customers on E4 will be able to renew it as E4 prior to that date but should look to transition into E5 or into E3 with the Cloud PBX add-on. If customers want to maintain E4 functionality after June 30th, they can transition to the E3 plan and add the new Skype for Business Plus user subscription licence (USL) that was released on the 1st December.
Table 1: Office 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans with new or enhanced features highlighted in orange
How can customers licence Office 356 E5?
Office 365 E5 is available as a:
Full User Subscription Licence (USL) for new users
Step-up licence for existing Office 365 E3 and E4 customers
From SA USL for customers who currently own licences for and have active Software Assurance (SA) on Office and a Client Access licence (CAL) Suite
Add-on licence for customers who already subscribe to the Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS)
At launch, what you’ll see on the price list is Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing. Office 365 E5 and Cloud PBX is available worldwide, however the PSTN conferencing feature is only available in fifteen countries from the 1st December. Lucky UK; we’re one of those fifteen. The remaining 191 countries (bonus points if you can name them all; I had to source from the United Nations) cannot enjoy PSTN conferencing yet so it‘s unfair to sell them full E5.
Where PSTN Conferencing is available, customers will purchase Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencingand Office 365 Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing
Where PSTN Conferencing is not available, customers will purchase Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing
At some point in the future, we’ll announce a single Office 365 E5 licence on the pricelist which is likely to be priced the same as the combination of E5 w/out PSTN Conferencingand the Skype for Business PSTN Conferencinglicences.
What channels are the new plans available through?
Being a telco brings tax and regulatory responsibilities. Microsoft needs to sell these PSTN features in the right way so whilst the Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN ConferencingSKU is available worldwide and through all licensing channels, currently Office 365 Skype for Business PSTN Conferencingis only available through direct channels: the Microsoft Online Subscription Program (MOSP) and direct Enterprise Agreements.
How can customers licence the new features as standalone subscriptions?
Table 2 lists the new standalone licences along with the relevant pre-requisite.
Table 2: Office 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans with new or enhanced features highlighted in orange
How can customers licence the PSTN Calling Plans?
These are not available as of December in the UK. In fact they are only available in the US but the UK should be able to enjoy this in the first half of 2016.
There are two PSTN Calling Plans: Domestic and International. Domestic will have a set price per user/per month for 3,000 minutes of national calls. The International Plan will include the domestic quota and add 600 minutes of international calls. These quotas will be allocated to the organisation as a whole, rather than each user so a customer with 10 USLs for the International PSTN Calling Plan will have 30,000 national minutes and 6,000 international minutes.
What do the PSTN features include?
At launch, PSTN Conferencing includes the ability to advertise a national, non-freephone number (e.g. 0118 for Reading, 020 for London, etc.). The person dialling into the conference will pay for the call charges. Customers can also dial-out to a phone using a national phone number in order to bring someone into the Skype conference.
In 2016, there will be a consumption billing model, similar to Azure consumption billing, where customers can maintain a balance of monetary credit. This can then be used to advertise Freephone numbers to conferences and dial-out to international phone numbers to bring people into the conference. The call charges will be met using the consumption balance.
The same goes for the PSTN Calling plans. If a customer exceeds their quota of minutes, or a customer subscribing to the Domestic plan wants to make international calls, the charges will be drawn from their consumption balance.
E5 and the PSTN features mark a very exciting chapter in Microsoft’s online capabilities. Keep a close eye out for the release of UK PSTN Calling plans and the consumption billing in 2016. We’ll continue to keep you up to date with blog posts.
We should be used to Microsoft announcing new capabilities and investments in Office 365 but December 1st marked two extraordinary launches.
Firstly, a brand new Office 365 plan called E5. This joins the current enterprise plan line up of E1, E3 and E4 and becomes Microsoft’s new ‘hero’ plan. We’ll cover what it contains in a moment.
The second extraordinary launch is Microsoft is becoming a telecommunications provider (or simply telco in modern syntax). Microsoft has extraordinary capacity in its global data network and is putting it to good use by offering PSTN conferencing and PSTN calling plans for Skype for Business.
Before you worry that Microsoft will start making adverts starring Maureen Lipman about ‘ologies, these PSTN capabilities are aimed squarely at organisations rather than consumers at this point.
What do I need to know from the December launch?
The key new features and capabilities are below. There’s a post on Microsoft’s Volume Licensing site covering how to licence Office 365 E5 and the standalone features.
PSTN Conferencing (Public Switch Telephone Network) offers audio conferencing within Skype for Business web conferences. If people can’t connect to a conference over the internet, it’s nice to give them a phone number so they can dial-in and listen to the audio. Currently you need to set up an account with one of the audio conferencing providers in the Office 365 Marketplace, or have on-premises Mediation Servers and PSTN gateways.
Dial-in conferencing allows meeting attendees to dial into Skype meetings through a local phone number and in the near-future, a Freephone number (when consumption billing is released for Office 365).
Dial-out conferencing enables presenters in the web conference to add others to the meeting by dialling their phone number. It also allows attendees to join the audio portion of the meeting by asking Skype for Business to call them on a specified phone number.
PBX stands for private branch exchange and is the internal phone system an organisation uses. Cloud PBX can offload that requirement entirely to the cloud, or connect cloud PBX to an on-premises PBX in hybrid configurations.
It includes all the features you’d expect including calling by name & number from Softphones, IP Phones and mobile devices, Call History & Redial, Call Hold/Retrieve, Transfer, Forwarding, Call Waiting, Simultaneous Ring, Team Calling, and so on.
Like the rest of Office 365, updates are delivered over the cloud so customers can avoid the headache of upgrading their on-premises PBX. A notable update in the pipeline will be PBX features for call centres.
Cloud PBX can be connected to the PSTN through two different capabilities. First, a customer can purchase a PSTN calling service add-on to Office 365, available initially in the US only. Alternatively, a customer can use Skype for Business software on-premises to provide PSTN connectivity.
Which brings us nicely onto PSTN Calling. This is an add-on to Cloud PBX that provides national and international calling services directly from Office 365. Instead of a customer contracting with a traditional telco and using an on-premises IP-PBX, they can purchase the Cloud PBX from Microsoft and add on PSTN Calling for a complete enterprise telephony experience for end-users.
So Microsoft is becoming a regulated carrier in each geography that this will be available. Customers can get new phone numbers for users or have phone numbers ported to the PSTN Calling service. Number provisioning will be done directly through the Office 365 admin portal or of course, via PowerShell.
Power BI Pro
Power BI Pro is a business analytics service that enables information workers to visualize and analyse data with greater speed, efficiency and understanding. Users are connected to live data through dashboards, interactive reports and visualizations that bring data to life and make it meaningful to their role. And don’t underestimate the live data here; this could come from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, wearables for example and be up to the second. Power BI provides a Power BI Desktop tool and Power BI mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows. Excel also has Power BI enhancements such as being able to merge and use queries from multiple data sources, including public sources like Twitter alongside corporate data.
You may have heard or perhaps used Delve. Delve allows an individual to see and search the documents and sites that are important to people connected to you. It surfaces knowledge according to what and who you’re working with.
Delve Analytics on the other hand, allows managers to discover how their team or organisation works. It provides insights into important business problems like organization collaboration, who’s talking to whom, siloed team detection, identification of most connected employees, types of meetings taking place across the organization and work-life balance; which teams are consistently working beyond their shifts. Individuals can gain a fresh perspective about the way they work including time management, network analysis and influence and reach indicators.
Both Delve and Delve Analytics use Office Graph and sophisticated machine learning to map the relationships between people, content and activity that occurs across Office 365.
One of the common cloud topics is that organisations want to have full control over their content stored in cloud services. Office 365 has evolved so nearly all service operations performed by Microsoft are fully automated and any human interaction is highly controlled and kept away from customer content. Only in very rare cases does a Microsoft engineer have any reason to access customer content. Microsoft employees do not have automatic access to service operations. All access is obtained through a rigorous access control technology called Lockbox. An extension to this is Customer Lockbox and if an organisation has Customer Lockbox, they have the keys to that engineer access. The customer is notified when their content needs to be accessed by service administrators and the have total control to approve or deny such access. They can set up Just-In-Time access to specific scopes of data and all access control activities are logged and audited. So access currently goes through a secure workflow process but Lockbox makes the customer part of that process.
Customer Lockbox will be available for Exchange Online first and for SharePoint Online in Q1 of 2016.
Advanced Threat Protection
Advanced threat protection has been available for a few months now. It combats unknown & sophisticated threats in email. Let’s say you get an email with a short link, a Bit.ly link for example. When you first receive the email, the link is fine and directs you to the Sugababes fan club site as expected. However, sometime in the future that shortlink redirects you to a malware site and before you know it you’ve downloaded a One Direction virus. Safe Links provide time-of-click protection against such malicious URLs by wrapping external links in special URLs that check the destination link for threats before opening them. There’s also Safe Attachments which opens email attachments sandboxed virtual environments to detect malicious behaviour. And Click Trace keeps a record of every user who has clicked on a URL for additional protection so if you do need to take remedial action, it’s easier to know exactly where.
Equivio Analytics for eDiscovery
Back in January, Microsoft acquired Equivio, a provider of machine learning technologies for eDiscovery and information governance. If an organisation goes through a law suit, it’s extremely expensive and time consuming. Data on a given topic needs to be found and collected and once it’s harvested, typically lawyers are paid lots of money to go through that data and determine relevance. Equivio simplifies the eDiscovery process by using machine learning, tagging and predictive coding to identify relevant email and documents and reduce the amount of data that’s returned.
All of these new capabilities form part of Office 365 E5 and with the exception of the PSTN Calling plans are available as standalones licences.
In the next blog post, we’ll go deeper into the PSTN features and what they include.
Office 2016 is released on 22nd September 2015 and hits the volume licensing pricelist on the 1st October. What’s new? Some will be disappointed it’s not radically different from Office 2013. Others will breathe a sigh of relief and appreciate the consistency between the versions whilst having a good level of improvement over Office 2013 which was a fantastic suite of applications. We’ll be running a series of hints and tips blog posts over the next month detailing the main changes.
For now, if you’re a Microsoft partner you can visit the Microsoft Drumbeat site, packed full of sales training events and resources to help you start, grow and accelerate your Office 365 practice (registration required).
If you love videos of Americans waving their hands around too much and generally being very excited with words like ‘super’ and ‘cool’ then take a look at the 400 second-long Vimeo video.
Q – Is this going to be an automatic upgrade from 2013 to 2016 if I’m on Office 365?
A – No. If you want to deploy Office 2016 you’ll need to do that using your usual deployment processes, e.g. via the Office 365 portal. There will be automatic upgrades in the future but there aren’t any full details on that yet, for example how to accept or prevent the automatic upgrade to 2016.
Q – Will Office 2016 still be available as a perpetual, on-premises product?
A – Yes, Office 2016 is available on-premises and through Office 365 subscriptions. Unless you have Software Assurance on Office 2013 on-premises, you’ll need to buy the licence to Office 2016 as it’s a completely new version. Office 365 includes new version rights so if you’re on an Office 365 which includes the Office apps (e.g. E3, E4, Business, Business Premium, ProPlus) you have the rights to 2016 immediately.
Q – I’m on Office 365; how long can I stay on the 2013 release?
A – For 12 months after the release of Office 2016.
Q – InfoPath is no longer included in the 2016 release, where can I get this?
A – InfoPath 2013 is the last version and can be downloaded from Microsoft’s download centre. Your Office 365 ProPlus licence allows use of InfoPath 2013 and it will still be supported
There’s lots of chatter about Windows 10 so we’ve posted a licensing call that we recorded for Microsoft which sets out the fundamentals of how Windows as a service will work, the editions of Windows 10, licensing Windows per-user instead of per-device and how customers can get the Windows 10 upgrade.
1 – Windows will be an evergreen service and devices on Windows Home and Pro will have Windows updated at no ongoing cost.
2 – Windows Home will be on what’s known as Current Branch which means those machines will get feature updates as soon as they’re released.
3 – Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise with Software Assurance (SA) will default to Current Branch but can be set to Current Branch for Business which allows them to defer feature updates for up to eight months. If updates are not deployed within that time, the OS will become unsupported.
4 – Windows Enterprise is the only edition where customers can fix on a specific release(known as a Long Term Servicing Branch).
5 – Windows Enterprise without Software Assurance (SA) will NOT BE UPDATED. The update facility (Current Branch or Current Branch for Business) is a Software Assurance benefit for Enterprise edition, not part of the Windows licence. So Windows will only be kept up to date for Enterprise edition customers if they maintain their SA annuity.
6 – Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 devices can be upgraded at no cost for 1 year after the release of Windows 10. Windows Enterprise is not eligible for this free upgrade.
7 – The upgrade licence is tied to the specific device and is not transferable. For example if you bought Windows 8 retail, that can be transferred to another pc but the Windows 10 upgrade cannot be transferred. Within the first year, you would need to transfer the Windows 8 licence to the new machine and then kick off the free upgrade again. After the first year, if the new machine didn’t come with an OEM Window 10 then you would need to buy Windows 10 in order to install it on that device.
8- There will be downgrade rights so if you buy a device with Windows 10 you will be able to deploy Windows 8 or 7 in its place. This varies according to the channel you purchase through.
9- We’d love to get some more questions so please contact us if you have any that you’d like us to answer.
What do you notice from this eligibility list? Windows Enterprise editions and Windows RT are specifically excluded.
Windows RT is likely being replaced with Windows 10 mobile edition anyway so more will become known on that in the next few months. Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 Enterprise edition are not eligible for the free upgrade offer so how would those customers acquire Windows 10?
Customers with Software Assurance (SA) on their Windows licences have rights to Windows 10 Enterprise through the software assurance new version rights benefit.
In the days when you acquired Windows Enterprise by buying Windows Pro + SA, your underlying licence was Pro but even if you stopped SA you could retain perpetual rights to enterprise. In this case you could revert to Pro edition and go for the free upgrade. That does involve a reinstall though so not a nice option.
Or you could buy Windows 10 Enterprise + SA all over again. Possibly not an option which will be greeted by cheers.
The Windows 10 licence created during the upgrade is a consumer licence that is tied to the device. The licence will continue to work for reinstalling Windows 10 after the free upgrade period ends but only on that specific device. so if you need to replace the hard drive or do a reinstall for any reason other than replacing the motherboard, it will work.
For volume licensing customers, the licence created is not a Volume Licence (VL) and will not be in VLSC (Volume Licensing Service Centre). Whilst there won’t be any differences in the end-user experience between the free upgrade and a new VL purchase of Windows 10, the licence is different. If you buy Windows 10 Pro through VL, you could not use the image or keys from the VLSC to apply the upgrade for free to other, unlicenced machines. At present the Windows 10 Pro Upgrade licenses will be priced the same as the existing Windows 8.1 Pro Upgrade licences in case you do want to buy the full edition.
A couple of last points; even though customers on Windows 8 will get a lot of nudges to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will not force people to upgrade. They can remain on Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 and the support lifecycle for those remains in place.
Education customers have the same criteria. Upgrade goes by the eligibility of the device and installed operating system; nothing special or limited for education.
Will Windows 10 be the last ever version? Is Windows 10 going to be free? Can you plan a surprise birthday party for a psychic? Well, let’s tackle the first question here and the second question in our how to upgrade to Windows 10 blog post.
Never Pay for Windows Again
Currently, you might buy a pc and it will come with Windows preinstalled. You’ve paid for the OEM (original Equipment Manufacturer) licence of Windows. You’ll get feature updates and security patches from time to time and you can choose to install them or hide them. It’s up to you (or you organisation’s IT policy).
With Windows 10, you won’t have a choice. Windows updates will be applied when they’re ready. So in a way, Windows 10 will be the last version because you will never have to pay for the next version of the client OS on the same pc; new features will just be installed. If you need to buy a new machine, you’ll pay for the OEM licence as part of the pc’s purchase price and then Windows will just be kept up to date for the lifetime of the device.
You may be concentrating on the negative here that you won’t get a choice and must install new features. Think about two huge positives though:
you never need to pay for Windows again on the same machine and you’ll always have the latest version
Software vendors and developers can almost guarantee that 90% of Windows users will have the same build
The second point there should make you smile if your pc has ever crashed or you’ve needed to phone support because an application isn’t working. There are so many combinations of OS, patches, drivers, runtime files and versions around that reliability and consistency are devilishly hard to achieve. Applications and peripherals should work far better if the manufacturers and developers can work to a stable and single platform. Sounds a bit Apple-like doesn’t it?
Why is Windows Becoming a Service?
The world of software is changing to cloud aka software as a service. With that change comes different release cadences. If you’ve been in IT for a while you’ll be familiar with the terms 3.5 inch floppy, modem and three-year release cycles. Office 365 has a monthly release cadence. Azure enjoys weekly updates. This is the way of the world; goodbye versions and hello evergreen services. Innovation has become faster and users expect new features quicker.
What if I Don’t Want to Automatically Install Updates?
Microsoft thinks Windows 10 is going to have three demarcations of users: consumers, business users and mission-critical business systems. For each type there is something known as a ‘branch’.
Consumers will be subject to the Current Branch and will receive Windows updates as they are released. Of course, they will have gone through extensive testing via engineering builds, internal testing, early adopters and the Windows Insider program beforehand so several millions of users will already have installed these updates.
Business Users will default to Current Branch but have the option to select Current Branch for Business (CBB). This allows them to defer feature updates for up to eight months after they’re released to the Current Branch. This provides ample time for testing, compatibility work and fixes and just to wait and see how the hundreds of millions of Current Branch users get on with the updates. The updates can be deferred but they will need to be installed within that eight-month timeframe. Organisations will be able to control and manage how updates (including critical and security updates) are deployed using tools such as System Centre Configuration Manager, Windows Server Update Services or a new Windows 10 service called Windows Update for Business.
Mission-critical systems such as medical, aviation, etc. have the option to deploy point-in-time releases known as Long Term Service Branch (LTSB). These will not be updated with new features but will have security and critical updates although the organisation can manage and control the distribution of these updates. LTSB releases will be supported for at least 5 years (10 years if the customers has software assurance). New LTSB releases will be made available every two-three years and customers will have the option whether to install them or not.
In short, if you don’t want to receive Windows OS updates, you will need to be on the LTSB and that requires certain Windows editions.
Long Term Service Branch is only Available for Windows Enterprise edition
Windows Home edition must be on Current Branch. Windows Pro can be on either Current Branch or Current Branch for Business. This means that both of these editions will be updated (CBB allows the updates to be deferred but only for up to 8 months).
Windows Enterprise edition is available with or without software assurance. Windows Enterprise without SA allows the customer to deploy a point-in-time LTSB release, or previous ones (downgrade rights in other words) and for that release to still be supported for 5 years. Windows Enterprise edition with SA also gives customers the rights to new LTSB release when they become available (every 2-3 years). They can choose whether to install new releases or not. SA also means the customer gains extended support so their chosen release will be supported for 10 years.
One important point to note is that Enterprise edition without SA will not enjoy updates on Current Branch either. Customers with Home and Pro editions will always get the latest features for the life of the device. Enterprise edition without SA will not. The release that’s installed will eventually become out of date and the customer will need to buy a licence again to update.
Windows 10 Enterprise Edition with SA is available through all Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs (Open, Open Value, Select+, MPSA, EA, etc.)