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Microsoft has revealed that it will issue two updates per year for Windows Server, with the new schedule mirroring the one it has adopted for both Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus.

The announcement is seen as a logical step towards Microsoft streamlining its operating system development cycle. In April the company announced that the Office 365 ProPlus suite and Windows client would be on the same feature-release schedule, starting this September. There will be two new feature releases per year for both products. Microsoft will deliver the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update in the Autumn along with a new version of Office Pro Plus.

There are two ways to get access to Windows Server in what Microsoft is terming the ‘Semi-annual Channel’:

  • Windows Server Standard or Datacenter customers who are covered by Software Assurance will automatically have access to Semi-annual Channel releases as they are made available. Servers without Software Assurance do not have rights to the Semi-annual Channel releases
  • Customers can also access these new Windows Server images in Azure or other cloud and hosting environments

Microsoft intends to offer Windows Server previews shortly before each release via its Windows Insider programme. Each semi-annual release will come with a pilot availability period of three to four months, and once the software is deemed stable, Microsoft will lock it down into a ‘broad’ release. Those releases will carry the Windows Server name with no year attached to it, instead using the Windows 10 versioning model.

Microsoft is advising business users who prefer stability and predictability rather than rapid feature updates to stick with Windows Server 2016, which it refers to as its ‘Long Term Servicing Channel’. The Semi-annual Channel feature updates are cumulative and will build on one another to subsequently form the basis of the next Long-Term Servicing Channel release.

Erin Chapple, general manager for Windows Server explained the benefits of the new development cycle, saying: “The ‘Semi-annual Channel’ option provides opportunity for customers who are innovating quickly to take advantage of new operating system capabilities at a faster pace, both in applications – particularly those built on containers and micro-services, as well as in the software-defined hybrid data centre.”

Global Knowledge

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