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Much has been made of the changes to Windows servicing that were announced earlier this year, and the focus within RM Education’s products and services has, rightly, been on what that means to keeping clients (specifically Windows 10) up to date.

Comparatively speaking, Windows Server servicing has slipped under the radar. To the majority of you this is okay - at the moment. In this first blog we’ll establish the baseline of what the Windows Server servicing options are, and in the second blog we’ll try to clear up why what you currently do is okay, and why in some circumstances that may change in the future. But first, the background:

Windows Server Release Channels

Windows Server now supports two release channels: Long-term Servicing Channel (a.k.a. LTSC) and the newer Semi-Annual Channel.

Long-term Servicing Channel

Under LTSC (formerly known as LTSB, or Long-term Servicing Branch) there will be a new major version release every 2-3 years. Each release comes with 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support from Microsoft. The LTSC product will receive security and non-security patches regularly (otherwise known as Quality updates), but will not receive Feature updates (previously known as Feature upgrades).

To anyone who has dealt with Windows Server through 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, and 2012 R2, this probably sounds very familiar.

The current LTSC product is Windows Server 2016.

Semi-Annual Channel

The Semi-Annual Channel will receive Quality updates regularly, as with LTSC. However, it will also receive Feature updates – new functionality – twice per year, in Spring and Autumn. Features released into the Semi-Annual Channel are likely to find their way into the next LTSC product, but of course that could mean a lengthy wait before they become available.

The current Semi-Annual Channel release is Windows Server, version 1709. There’s a subtle, but important distinction here – note the absence of ‘2016’ from the release title. Semi-annually serviced Windows Server is not Windows Server 2016.

The First Semi-Annual Channel Release, Windows Server v1709

Windows Server v1709 was released on 17th October 2017 and gets the ball rolling with the Semi-Annual release channel. There is a brief summary here, to illustrate the early reality of the new servicing option. Remember that none of these features are currently available to Windows Server 2016.

There is a full list of new and updated features here, but to highlight a few:

  • Nano Server infrastructure roles deprecated, meaning for example that Nano can no longer be used as a Hyper-V platform
  • Updates to Windows Server security baseline
  • Data deduplication support for ReFS volumes
  • RDS integration with Azure AD
  • Core network stack improvements
Great, I like getting new stuff. Let’s do it!

Well, hang on a minute – there are some criteria to meet and some things to think about first, to make sure that change is right for you. We’ll discuss those in part 2.

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