Windows 10 isn't just a new version of the operating system, Microsoft's Stella Chernyak told TechRadar. "With Windows 10 we have a new generation that's Windows as a Service." Part of being a service is getting updated often, but businesses have asked Microsoft to make that easier and cheaper.
"Windows Update for Business is an update delivery mechanism that we expect will help customers adopt the Windows as a Service model," she explained – that's because it doesn't just keep devices up-to-date with the latest features and the latest security updates. "We expect it will also reduce the cost of device management. For the classic enteprise with classic IT tools, the cost of managing devices is pretty high. Windows Update for Business will reduce costs for IT admins and for the organisation."
"If you look at the Windows installed base today," she admits, "it's pretty fragmented. Over many years what selective patching has created in the marketplace is an insane amount of permutations of Windows versions and updates and service packs that creates a matrix for our business customers to support. That makes it very difficult for them to keep their environment reliable and up-to-date and secure.
"Today's landscape is changing in terms of security threats and customers need to be agile and fast in adopting the latest security fixes. As soon as they're out, they should be able to deploy them but it's hard for them because of the fragmented nature of their environment. And of course it's not just security fixes – they want to take advantage of the latest technologies, their users want that. For that we want to help them take fragmentation out of their environment and get them to the latest known state and the most innovative thing."
Importance of control
For consumers, she says, Windows Update does "a pretty good job of keeping them up-to-date" – that's a different approach from WSUS, the Windows Server Update Services businesses use today. "WSUS is a very functional, heavy-duty mechanism for businesses to get updates and select patches and then roll out. It's good but it's not necessarily enough to help them get into the new Windows as a Service world or just respond to their business requirements. Windows Update Services continues to be available and customers can continue to use it but they will also have this new option."
Using Windows Update at work is something businesses have asked for, Chernyak says, but on their own terms. "When we went to businesses and said we wanted them to be on Windows Update because it would help them be more agile, they said to go on Windows Update they need certain features that give them some level of control of what updates are offered to the organisation, but not necessarily as heavy-duty as WSUS.
"So we're bringing capabilities to Windows Update that essentially give businesses that comfort level, that level of control, while automating the process for them and making it predictable, giving them structure for the updates that come from Windows Update for Business."
The control businesses get works much like the Windows Insider preview program, where some groups of users get new releases as soon as they're available and others wait until they've been tested and proven stable.
"You can decide how quickly you want certain groups of users to get the updates," she explains. "You can say there are some internal groups that will get them first and then the general users that will get them next and then the finance department, for example, you want to get them last. It's up to each organisation how many distribution rings they want – whether they want three or five or ten, to stagger updates in a way that works for their business. For every specific set of functionality they can also stagger it inside their environment to make it truly incremental."
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