Microsoft has just announced an enterprise update path for existing Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise customers. Enterprises will be part of the Windows Software Assurance program, bringing more flexibility to how Windows 10 is managed and deployed as Windows becomes a service.
Unfortunately, participation in the Window Software Assurance (SA) program means that businesses will not be offered the same free upgrade path to Windows 10 for the first year of release that's part of the consumer release.
With the SA program, Microsoft is allowing enterprise customers and partners more flexibility and control on how updates are applied and deployed. While consumers expect the latest software updates automatically pushed to their devices, businesses require more control to see how the updates impact their software, systems, and networks.
Long Term Servicing branch
Microsoft will provide Long Term Servicing branches "at the appropriate time intervals" for mission critical environments that require strict change management policies, like hospital emergency rooms, air traffic control towers, and financial trading centers.
Through Long Term Servicing branches, Microsoft is able to deliver security and critical updates while minimizing changes to customers devices by not delivering new features for the duration of mainstream or extended support periods.
Enterprises can choose to deploy security updates and fixes through Windows Server Update Services, giving them full control using management solutions like System Center Configuration Manager, or to push these updates automatically to devices using Windows Update.
Organizations will be able to easily move between different Long Term Servicing branches or skip a branch by using in-place upgrade technology in Windows 10. New features will be available at appropriate time intervals to add new functionality.
Current branch for Business
While some enterprise devices need strict management in mission critical environments, there are also many end user devices that do not need the complexity of Long Term Servicing.
"Many IT organizations have told us they would like to get out of the business of managing end-user devices," Microsoft says. "They are looking for ways to keep devices up to-date with more discretion than simply treating them the same way they treat consumer devices."
To meet these needs, Microsoft is creating a Current branch for Business. Devices marked for the Current branch for Business will receive updates for new features "after their quality and application compatibility has been assessed in the consumer market, while continuing to receive security updates on a regular basis."
IT administrators could choose to automatically push these updates through Windows update or through WSUS. Administrators can also move devices between Current branch for Business and the Long Term Servicing branch.
Compatibility and availability
Microsoft says that its goal is ensure that apps will just work and that the company is working to ensure that there will be compatibility between Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 apps.
Microsoft is also incorporating compatibility at the hardware level to make upgrading easier. The company says that Windows 10 will have the minimum hardware requirements as Windows 7 and Windows 8, meaning that your enterprise can upgrade to the latest edition of Windows on existing hardware.
Microsoft will be making its enterprise Long Term Service branch available in the same time frame as when Windows 10 arrives for the consumer market.
- Check out our hands-on review of Windows 10.