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Why Support Win10 2-Year Support Cycle

Saw a fascinating story in ComputerWorld a couple of days ago. Entitled “Gartner: Enterprises should demand 2 full years of Windows 10 support,” it explains why MS needs to extend the current 18-month lifespan for Feature Updates to 24 months instead. Let me lay out the logic involved. We’re now on a twice-a-year feature upgrade schedule for Windows 10. MS promises to support each such upgrade for 18 months. Thus, the 1803 version will be supported with security patches, bug fixes, and so forth until 1909 (September, 2019). Why is 18 months too short a time, and 24 months just right? Therein lies the nub of Gregg Keizer’s excellent afore-linked story. Let me explain…

What Enterprises Really Want

Based on temporary six-month extensions granted to Windows 10 versions 1511, 1609, 1703 and 1709, there’s some history and experience to back this request up. However, MS has announced that for the 1803 version, support would continue for 18 months, not 24. Among other sources, this information appears on the Windows 10 lifecycle fact sheet. Going forward if companies want to extend the time window for support, they must contract with MS for “paid supplemental servicing” in the words of John Wilcox, Principal Program Manager for Windows Servicing and Delivery.

Companies like the 24-month window because it gives them more time to evaluate and prepare for migration from one version to the next. If they want to lag six months behind (as does the former Current Branch for Business, now called the Semi-Annual Channel), that gives them an additional 3-6 months for pilot and production roll-outs behind that time window. Microsoft’s decision to limit Version support to 18 months gives big operations little or no time to migrate if they choose to lag behind the Production (or Current Branch) release. That’s why the Gartner analysts with whom Keizer engaged for the story asserted that big customers should push back on Microsoft and DEMAND that the support window be extended to 24 months.

Here’s the key paragraph on that topic from Keizer’s ComputerWorld story:

The difference between 18 and 24 months is more than just six, the analysts asserted. The longer support cycle was much more understanding of the difficulties enterprises currently have keeping up with Microsoft’s every-six-months feature upgrade releases. With an 18-month support span, it has proven very tough to migrate all PCs to a supported version before the one currently powering the machines stops receiving patches. But on a 24-month support schedule, it’s feasible for IT to skip one feature upgrade in any given year.

Bottom line: a 24-month suppport cycle is much more workable and in line with what big companies can both handle and afford than is an 18-month cycle. That’s why corporate users should appeal to their Microsoft sales reps, especially when license deals come up for renewal, to extend the cycle from 18 to 24 months. I agree wholeheartedly, and suggest that potentially affected business users (and licensees) percolate this perspective up to management (the folks who authorize payment for those licenses and subscriptions).

Note: the featured image for this blog post comes from the Windows IT Pro Center in an article entitled “Overview of Windows as a service” dated 2/9/2018. The image shows the release rings for Windows 10, which start with engineering builds at the left (distributed to thousands of users), moving to MS internal validation (tens of thousands of users), to Insider Preview (millions of users), and Production (hundreds of millions of users).

[Image © Microsoft, 2018; reproduced under fair use doctrine.]

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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