In his recent post on “Making IT simpler with a modern workplace,” Brad Anderson talked about a vision for helping IT better manage devices and data that would lower costs while providing productive, secure experiences for users. That vision is the modern desktop: a device powered by Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus that is always up to date with real-time analytics and intelligent security powered by the cloud. In the spirit of staying always up to date, and with today’s release of Windows 10, version 1803 to WSUS and Windows Update for Business, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the role that readiness plays in the vision of the modern desktop.
Historically, when it came time to deploy a new version of Windows, many IT managers adopted the widely-used strategy, “waiting for it to become enterprise-ready.” As a Windows as a service evangelist, I am often asked how our Windows 10 servicing model and update cadence can be possible for the commercial customer relying on this time-honored approach.
Fortunately, Microsoft 365 has a great answer, which I’ll explain below. Before we get to that; however, let’s take a quick look at the history of what “enterprise ready” has meant for Windows.
The history of enterprise ready
Windows XP and Windows 7 were released under a traditional model of large-scale, multi-year software development cycles. We incorporated many changes—in addition to new functionality, new application models and APIs, and UI improvements. The scope of changes in each release often necessitated the need for new or updated versions of the applications used by our customers to maintain compatibility.
The deployment and rollout of a new Windows release was a slow process. It would begin with consumers and then extend to organizations. It would take several months for IT departments to test their devices and applications, and work with their software providers to develop, test, and deploy new or updated versions of the applications and drivers they needed. The combination of a long Windows development cycle and application/driver changes introduced new bugs and issues both in Windows and the applications. Bugs would be reported through support calls, logs would be collected and then triaged. This was the telemetry and data collection system we had at the time.
The debugging and remediation processes were complex for both Microsoft and our independent software vendor (ISV) partners. Once a fix was developed, it was sent to the customer, who would then test and validate the fix. It was not uncommon to have multiple attempts before achieving the final fix.
This servicing model for Windows made for a slow maturation process, and was often further complicated by the variations in patching approaches used by organizations. It also took a good deal of time to cover all the many possible combinations of hardware, language packs, and regions/markets. Eventually, after an extended period, bugs in both Windows and customer applications would be discovered and fixed, coverage would be achieved, and deployments would accelerate. IT administrators would then be comfortable that Windows and its application ecosystem had become “enterprise ready.”
How do I know when a Windows 10 update is enterprise-ready?
I love getting this question/challenge when talking with IT pros about Windows 10 and Windows as a service. By embracing a modern software-as-a-service approach, we have eliminated many of the factors responsible for the creation of the "enterprise-ready” concept, enabling our Windows ecosystem to be significantly more agile and responsive. By integrating a new approach to developing Windows with real-time, data-driven analytics on the user experience, Windows 10 is enterprise-ready far faster and, more importantly, with much better validation than was possible before.
Windows 10 is ready by design
When we developed our Windows 10 servicing model, we focused on three elements that would impact enterprise readiness velocity for each release:
Application compatibility with Windows 7: Your existing Windows-compatible applications just work. This was a key design goal and requirement for Windows 10. We wanted all existing customers to be able to quickly move their devices to Windows 10 and experience its improvements in security and usability. Requiring a user to get new applications would not work. When you visit the Ready for Windows website, you can see that the Windows team delivered on this goal.
Defragmentation of the Windows ecosystem: Windows 10 moved to cumulative servicing and a regular update cadence to simplify servicing for our customers and defragment the ecosystem. As a result, all devices are running Windows as we tested it before we shipped. so that Microsoft and ISVs can test their applications against the exact version of Windows that customers are running. This translates to better quality and an improved end user experience, while decreasing the cost and complexity of debugging issues.
Rich telemetry collection and analysis built in: Windows 10 includes built-in telemetry that allows Microsoft to quickly analyze and validate the quality of a release, or identify issues and validate a fix, in days instead of months.
The telemetry and data we receive from devices after updating, starting within hours of a new release, is used to validate a release on almost all hardware combinations, languages, and geographies, providing coverage of thousands of commercial off-the-shelf and line-of-business applications starting just days after a release.
Putting the numbers in perspective
Since our initial release of Windows 10 in 2015, there are now nearly 700 million active Windows 10 devices. Microsoft now feature updates over 1,000 devices every minute of every day, each providing us data on the status and health of these updates through the Windows 10 telemetry system.
We use this process to quickly identify any issues with either specific hardware components or applications and, if necessary, pause updates to any new impacted devices while generating a validated fix. This is exponentially faster than what we saw with Windows 7.
Not only is the telemetry and data generated from these devices, albeit “consumer” or “business,” 100% applicable to enterprise-level devices, the learnings gleaned from it are available to our commercial customers through Windows Analytics. That means Microsoft 365 customers can get validation data for a new release, applicable to their devices and applications, far faster than they could before, but, more importantly, with far more coverage and depth than any one customer could do on their own.