Microsoft is changing the release schedule for the Server versions of its Windows operating system to more closely match those of the OS's desktop version and the Office suite. The roughly-every-leap-year cycle seen in the Windows Server 2008, Server 2012, and Server 2016 versions is giving way to semi-annual releases. New versions of Windows Server will come each spring and fall. The company says the more frequent updates will allow the OS to better keep pace with the ever-changing requirements of datacenter environments.
The Windows Server Core headless version of the OS will also move to the more frequent update cycle. Microsoft's blog post touts the usage of Server Core in the company's Azure and Azure Stack platforms, meaning that the updates the company makes to its own servers will be able to be rolled out to customer datacenters more quickly. Furthermore, Server Core will be Microsoft's recommended platform for virtualization hosts going forward.
Only customers that are covered by Microsoft's Software Assurance plans will be granted access to semi-annual releases as they become available. Those customers will also have the ability to skip a release and wait for the next one.
The other big news for Windows Server is improved compatibility with containers. The disk space requirements for a Nano Server container image will shrink by 50%, allowing for shorter startup times and increased container density. Windows Server has been able to host virtualized Linux guests for some time, but now the OS will be able to natively support Linux containers. Datacenters will be able to use the same servers to host both Windows and Linux containers, potentially reducing the number of discrete machines necessary.
The new semi-annual release preview versions will be available through the Windows Insider Program, similar to the way that desktop Windows releases are first made available to users. The complete blog post is available here.