In a video presentation, Microsoft outlined its plans for Windows 10 as a service to business customers. We had already learned that Microsoft will give more flexibility to IT managers, giving them the ability to place their users on different branches to receive Windows updates, and now we have more details on the update process and how updates will become available to enterprise customers.
The three options available to Windows 10 enterprise customers are Current Branch (CB), Current Branch for Business (CBB), and Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), with each branch receiving updates differently. Customers will be profiled and placed into the appropriate branch by their IT managers. CB will be available to both enterprise and consumer users, while CBB and LTSB are are strictly for enterprise.
The update process
Once updates are ready, they’ll be pushed out to CB users first to ensure that the rollout is smooth before Microsoft makes them available to CBB and LTSB users. At the enterprise level, CBB users will have up to eight months to install the update through Windows Update or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), while LTSB users can delay the update for up to 10 years.
This update process means that CB users will have access to new features and patches sooner than customers on LTSB and CBB. The downside is that they’ll also be part of a late-stage testing process to ensure that the update doesn’t break any apps or existing functionality and that the process goes smoothly.
If something goes wrong, Microsoft will learn from the experiences of CB users to make the appropriate fixes or changes before rolling the update out to CBB or LTSB customers. This helps to ensure that enterprise customers won’t get a faulty update that disrupts their workflow, resulting in lost productivity or revenue.
The update process begins, according to Helen Harmetz, Microsoft Senior Product Manager, with Microsoft building or creating the OS update.
The update goes through internal validation, and then gets pushed out to limited and broad test flights. If all goes well, the update will be available to Current Branch users. Once the update is declared business-ready, it will be available to IT managers to push out to their users on CBB or LTSB.
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it
Enterprise users on LTSB will likely get the least amount of updates or new features. In fact, Microsoft encourages IT managers to place most of their users on CB or CBB, with LTSB reserved for mission critical work.
Describing the update experience from one LTSB branch to the next, Harmetz says that it is very similar to Windows 7 SP1. Windows 10 LTSB customers will have an in-place upgrade experience to move from one release to the next version, and IT managers can choose to skip an update if they want to.
From a prior leak, we also know that IT managers can delay the deployment of new features to LTSB users for up to ten years, and that the new Microsoft Edge browser will not be available to enterprise users on this branch.
Because of the absence of Edge, Harmetz says that Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) investments for enterprise is ongoing, but she did not provide additional information in her presentation.
LTSB should be reserved for customers working in areas where stability is valued. Interestingly, Microsoft will also make a refreshed LTSB image every few years with new features baked in. Users can install the new image if their administrators permit them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from LTSB is Current Branch, or CB. This branch is probably the largest update branch for Windows 10 customers as it’s available to all consumers running Microsoft’s OS, which will debut on July 29 as Windows Home and Windows Professional.
CB users will get their updates first as part of Microsoft’s defined update strategy. They’ll receive security patches, new features and bug fixes before LTSB and CBB users. However, the cost to being early is that if the update isn’t stable, CB users will have to go through the growing pains with Microsoft.
In effect, CB users are late-stage beta testers. If something goes wrong, Microsoft will learn from the experience and fix the problems before the updates are deployed for business customers.
The middle ground
Somewhere in the middle of immediate updates available to CB customers and delays of up to 10 years for LTSB customers is CBB. CBB customers will have about eight months to deploy Windows Update after Microsoft makes it available to business branches.
Professional, Education and Enterprise customers on Windows 10 in CBB will get new features on Windows Update four months after they’re declared business-ready. Enterprise customers on Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) will have eight months to install the updates.
If IT managers cannot deploy the update within the timeframe, they won’t be able to install future updates or security patches. In this event, IT managers will have to switch to LTSB and perform an in-place upgrade. Likely, the enforcement will help Microsoft defragment the Windows 10 ecosystem and ensure that users are protected from attacks with the most up-to-date security fixes.
Windows 10 requirements for enterprise
Microsoft promises that Windows 10 will work on systems that are compatible with Windows 7, and that’s the minimum hardware requirement needed to upgrade.
To upgrade, there will be two paths provided to IT managers. A full wipe and load will allow systems to start fresh with a clean install of Windows 10. There will also be in-place upgrades available to migrate Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 customers to Windows 10 in the event that a full wipe is not needed or desired.
Additionally, for customers who rely on Windows Store apps – also referred to as Metro apps or Modern UI apps for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users – Microsoft guarantees app compatibility moving forward to Windows 10.
When we learned that Edge won’t arrive for LTSB customers, there was speculation that fragmentation may occur with compatibility of Store apps on Windows 10, but it looks like Microsoft is laying to rest those concerns.
Even though Windows 10 Home and Pro versions will be available on July 29, Microsoft has not announced when Windows 10 Enterprise will be available