Windows Server is set to get two releases each year

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.

Comments closed
    • DeadOfKnight
    • 2 years ago

    They should just mirror the Ubuntu release schedule for all versions. Semi-annual updates for those who want to live on the cutting edge and bi-annual updates with longer-term support for those who value rock solid stability over the latest and greatest features.

    • JosiahBradley
    • 2 years ago

    Just move to rolling updates and be done with it. Stop pairing software offerings with kernel patching. Release a software stack that keeps updating and release kernel patches as needed and forget the entire concept of OS version.

    –Posted from a 6 hour old OS

      • synthtel2
      • 2 years ago

      Rolling release is cool (I’m another user of it), but Microsoft trying to do rolling release with server versions of Windows sounds like it would be an immediate and epic disaster.

    • Shinare
    • 2 years ago

    What is this “containers” business?

      • UberGerbil
      • 2 years ago

      The [url=http://www.itworld.com/article/2915530/virtualization/containers-vs-virtual-machines-how-to-tell-which-is-the-right-choice-for-your-enterprise.html<]latest flavor of virtualization[/url<] first made popular by Docker, in which you don't get an entire virtual machine but just the apps you need (and a minimal OS abstraction). Here's the [url=http://www.itworld.com/article/2915530/virtualization/containers-vs-virtual-machines-how-to-tell-which-is-the-right-choice-for-your-enterprise.html<]MS marketing [s<]fluff[/s<] song and dance[/url<] if you're one of the kids that learns everything off Youtube.

      • [+Duracell-]
      • 2 years ago

      Docker, really. From what I can tell, the new Windows Server is going to be better than before in a container (for build environments you can easily stand up and tear down, for example) as well as hosting containers.

    • Peter.Parker
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]... get two releases each year.[/quote<] Oh, what a novel idea. Maybe release them 6 months apart, one in, say, the beginning of the fiscal year, in April, and the second one in October. And why not establish an April release every two years with Long Time Support? You know, to provide a little more stability. Oh, and I also have a genius idea for the naming scheme. Use Windows Server (YEAR).(Month) with the LTS indicator in case of long term support. Do you hear me now?

      • Flying Fox
      • 2 years ago

      You can do LTSC if you like.

      [url<]https://techreport.com/news/32104/windows-server-is-set-to-get-two-releases-each-year?post=1040903[/url<]

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        I think he’s drawing a comparison to Ubuntu, but, uh…I’m not exactly reading the tea leaves well today.

          • Peter.Parker
          • 2 years ago

          Bingo. I am really am tooo subtle with my sarcasm sometimes

            • Flying Fox
            • 2 years ago

            With LTSC and 2 releases per year, they are doing the exact same thing. You know they have to call it a different name. 😛

    • derFunkenstein
    • 2 years ago

    This just seems like a bad idea. How long will MS support security updates on each release? If users “have the ability to skip a release and wait for the next one” does that mean they’ll get security patches during that time? If they skip two releases are they out in the cold? Seems like something most folks don’t want to do every year, let alone every six months.

      • cygnus1
      • 2 years ago

      It’s only required on Nano, and that was already the case, this isn’t something new for Nano. They’re only adding the option for Server Core. And you have to be a Software Assurance customer to even have the option. Full GUI Server still only gets the old update cadence.

      • TheEldest
      • 2 years ago

      It’s not *hugely* difficult to port security updates to all maintained releases while skipping feature updates.

      The linux kernel has been doing this for well over a decade.

      • Flying Fox
      • 2 years ago

      It is the Enterprise, of course they are not that stupid to shove this down everyone’s throat.

      From the blog post:[quote<]For workloads that require longer term stability and predictability, Windows Server 2016 is a great option. This is the latest release from our long-term servicing channel (LTSC) and it is supported for 10 years, or up to 16 years if you purchase Premium Assurance. In the Semi-annual Channel, feature updates are cumulative, so each release builds on the prior one and adds new capabilities, which ultimately culminates in the next LTSC release.[/quote<]

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        Geez, man. Maybe I need to retire from TR commenting.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 2 years ago

    This is going to be ridiculous.

    Once you set a server up, aside from regular maintenance, you’re good. You didn’t buy a server OS in the hope that new features for it would be available in six months. And with Microsoft’s new Server 2016 per-core pricing, this could potentially make licensing and pricing even more convoluted than it already is (and industry-wide, techs agree that Microsoft almost ought to offer a master’s degree in software licensing all by itself, it’s that complicated and confusing).

    As for the enthusiast-PC user side of me, my server at home is still 2012 R2. I could probably obtain licensing for 2016 without much issue, but the fact that when you need updates for Server 2016, it throws an “in your face” window that you can’t get rid of without being redirected to PC Settings->Updates has already turned me off. I get patching, otherwise I wouldn’t have a server. Don’t treat me like an idiot Microsoft –I really wish your customers could find ways like this to treat you in reverse, just so you could see what it’s like for the world not to listen to you and treat all of you there like fools that don’t know your job.

      • TheEldest
      • 2 years ago

      Actually, when discussing virtualization hosts, many customers do want the new features more quickly.

      If a customer is using containers in their environment then getting this update sooner will let them double the number of containers on a set of hardware. That’s a pretty big deal.

      This isn’t intended for everyone, but now customers at least have the option if it’s something they want.

      • curtisb
      • 2 years ago

      I don’t think you realize how many so called “server admins” and “network admins” really don’t get it. Join some of the LinkedIn groups based around those professions. I can’t tell you how many questions pop up with “Hey, I’m new to this so how do I do this whole thing?” or “I’ve been doing this for a while, but how do I do this?” or “I was tasked with this, how do I do it?”. 95% of the questions could be answered if they simply did their own research and read the documentation…of which there is plenty. It would be different if they did do the research and posted something like “I read the documentation and some other postings, and I think this is what I’m supposed to do, but can any of you who have done this share your experiences so I know if there’s anything I should really watch for?”. But no…they’re straight up “do the research for me and tell me how I should do it.”

      Unfortunately, that is becoming more the norm these days than the exception. I can’t really fault Microsoft for going the CYA route so they don’t routinely end up in the news for exploits that could’ve been avoided. They’re in a catch 22 situation where they get blamed for pushing updates in your face, or they get blamed with there’s an exploit that was used even when a patch was available.

    • Mentawl
    • 2 years ago

    Oh boy. Given the difficulty of getting certain customers to agree to uplifts every 4/8 years, or getting a domain in a decent state for an uplift, it’s gonna be interesting cutting that down to 6 months …

    Curious what the support life will be for these more frequent releases, too.

      • Airmantharp
      • 2 years ago

      I see virtualization, and further, containerization, as part of the solution to this, at least for datacenters. They’ve made it even easier to shift workloads around.

      But for desktop users? Windows 10 is probably the best thing to happen. DoD didn’t move to Windows 8/8.1; they took their time getting to 7. But 10 is being force-fed due to the update scheme, and being updated is the first step toward positive cyber security.

      • cygnus1
      • 2 years ago

      Full GUI Server is still on the old cadence. Only Nano and Core are getting the semi-annual updates. For Nano it’s required, but for Core it’s optional, can stick with the old cadence on Core if you want.

      Also, the semi-annual cadence is only available for Software Assurance customers.

      • curtisb
      • 2 years ago

      No, I think they’ve done a lot of things right with Server 2016. One of the first smart moves they made was enabling mixed-mode clustering. I am very happy about that from both a Hyper-V and SQL Server cluster points of view. It means I never have to completely rebuild a cluster again. No more moving SQL databases around? Sign me up…

      They had already made some good moves with Server 2012 R2 with shared-nothing migration for VM’s, but that still required building a new cluster and moving the VM’s into it. Sure, it could be done without shutting down the VM, but it took a while because the VHDX files had to be moved to new storage volumes attached to the new cluster. Now I can just join a new host into the existing cluster, connect my storage to it, and then remove the old hosts when I’m ready, Live Migrating VM’s between hosts as necessary. And finally, upgrade the cluster operating mode to native and it’s done. So much easier.

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