Perspectives on the Windows 10 Support Changes

They May Cause Growing Pains, But the Benefits Are Clear

Lane Shelton

Last Friday, Microsoft made a major announcement regarding how they will support the Windows Operating System moving forward. In case you didn’t see it, Microsoft will only be supporting Windows 10 as the OS on all 6th Generation Intel® Core™ processors and later systems. 6th Gen refers primarily to the new Intel Skylake CPU. The change went into effect last Friday, but Microsoft has built in a grace period that will continue Windows 7 and 8.1 support on certain Skylake systems (full list to be forthcoming) until July 2017. At that point, Windows 10 will be the only supported OS on all 6th Gen and later systems.

Why? As you can imagine, the announcement has kicked off some rather spirited debate. On the one hand, you could say that Microsoft is forcing their customers to adopt their new OS platform in a disruptive way that is going to wreak havoc on carefully laid refresh plans of IT departments everywhere. On the other hand, performance tests show order-of-magnitude improvements when you run Windows 10 on Skylake, and, let’s be honest here, Windows 7 is kind of old. It’s a great OS, but Skylake is the next generation, Windows 10 is the next generation. They were designed to be more than the sum of their parts. One might argue that putting Windows 7 on a new Skylake system is like buying a new car, then hooking it up to your horse-drawn carriage and towing it off the lot.

There are merits on both sides of the debate – further complicated by the fact that Windows 10 is more than a version upgrade, it’s the beginning of “Windows-as-a-Service”: no more big giant version upgrades but rather a steady stream of updates that are applied in real or near-real time, just like SaaS. But the OS is not an application, it’s the beating heart of the system, connected to all manner of applications, other systems, processes, etc. – dependencies galore. In many cases, arguably most cases, it’s not that easy to shift the foundation to the new model – any more than it would be to replace a foundation of a house. Things have to be dug up, redone, and other systems get affected.

That’s why Microsoft built in the delay to July 2017 before this change is all-encompassing on all 6th Gen processors. It gives customers time to adapt, or reconfigure refresh plans if they need more time. But it also means that there is now a ticking clock if you’re planning to refresh your hardware and those plans involve 6th Gen. So let’s take a minute to review some of the things you need to think about with Windows 10:

  1. Windows 10 updates are different. There are basically three choices on how you’ll apply updates to Windows 10:
    1. Current Branch (CB): Feature updates are available as soon as they are published by Microsoft.
    2. Current Branch for Business (CBB): Feature updates are deferred for a period of time (approximately 4 months after release). The idea here is that a new feature update rolls out, and it gets used by Current Branch customers for a while so the production state is vetted by active Current Branch use.
    3. Long-Term Service Branch (LTSB): This is a static install of the OS. Features updates are not applied. This is intended for systems that wouldn’t benefit from features updates (e.g. systems tied heavily to legacy apps).
    4. In all three branches, security updates and hotfixes are still applied as they become available.
    5. Check out this great TechNet article that describes the update methodologies in detail.
  2. Windows Pro vs. Enterprise needs to be considered. There are several new enhancements and features (for a great comparison matrix go here). However, when considering how you’re going to set up feature updates in Windows 10, it’s important to note that the Long-Term Service Branch is only available in Windows 10 Enterprise.

Windows 10 is a big change. And it just got bigger with the suspension of 6th Gen processor support on 7/8.1 that’s coming, in part right now and in full by July 2017. Now is a good time to take a hard look at your environment, Windows 10, and your refresh plans. Take a moment and watch,

Support and Windows 10: What You Need to Know

, listen in as myself and Dave Olivier from Connection help you on the path to Windows 10. If you find that you’re not going to be ready by 2017, we can help you understand your options, but we need to do so quickly.