Windows 10 Migration
What You Need to Consider

Windows 10 Migration: What You Need to Consider

  • Simon Mangeng
  • Managed Cloud, User Productivity
  • Windows 10, WaaS, Patch Management, Migration

Windows 7 is quickly reaching its end of support. So many companies are currently facing the challenge of migrating to Windows 10. But do remember: The Windows as a service concept transforms deployment and maintenance into a continuous process. This will require a rethink and sufficient preparation.

What does Windows as a service mean?

The most fundamental change associated with Windows 10 and the concept of Windows as a service (WaaS) relates to Windows Release and Update Management. It entails, according to Microsoft, that Windows 10 will be the final version of the operating system. New functions and security features for Windows 10 will be added as feature updates. As usual, security-relevant updates will be deployed on a monthly basis. Compared to Windows versions like XP or 7, these so-called quality updates are cumulative, which prevents differing patch levels and hence facilitates bug fixing.

Windows as a service: What you need to know about software update management in Windows 10

Microsoft will continue to carry an internal Version Number so as to avoid any confusion about the current update level. This number comprises the current year and the month in which the release was published. These version numbers are shown in the following diagram, a release schedule for Windows 10.

Windows 10 Update Schedule
Fig. 1: Windows 10 update schedule (source: Microsoft)

Attentive readers will notice that the Release Frequency for new versions is significantly shorter than in the past. As of February 2018, a feature update is scheduled twice yearly, in spring and fall. It is therefore called a Semi-Annual Channel [1]. These updates are comparable with a new version of Windows. 18 months of Support is provided for each feature update.

The main reason informing this shorter release cycle is a necessity to respond faster to current security risks. Besides new Edge, management and distribution functions, the features focus strongly on (further) developing Security Functions. What’s more, the company is able to ensure faster implementation of customer feedback and the integration of new functions.

When used correctly, this form of agile software development puts an end to major migration projects in companies (necessary around every 3 to 5 years in the past) by relocating migration activities to ongoing operations. For this to work, though, meticulous planning of processes and responsibilities will be necessary.

Traditional waterfall model vs. agile software development

Broadly speaking, the traditional release approach for Windows deployments was organized as a linear process (see Figure 2) along the lines of a waterfall model. The process began with a new Windows version, for instance Windows 7. Following an evaluation phase, a client concept was prepared that specified the design and the group policy configurations. Then the client images were prepared and task sequences created. A pilot phase included extensive testing with pilot users and the implementation of any necessary corrections. Rollout then started after this phase was completed. Without exception, this model involves a succession of individual phases. Moreover, the start and end points of the projects are always clearly defined.

Waterfall vs. Agile SW development
Fig. 2: Traditional deployment approach for previous Windows versions, compared to Windows as a service (Source: COMPAREX)

Unlike in the traditional approach, Windows as a service adheres to an agile model of software development. Windows 10, i.e. Windows as a service, cannot work as a one-time project with a clear start and end date, and instead – for the reasons set out above – assumes Continuous Deployment and Maintenance during ongoing operations. Moreover, the shorter release cycles and support periods mean that several Windows versions will be in circulation, instead of just one. As a result, the testing process of operating systems and applications will no longer be completed in one go like in project business, and will instead require a continuous test cycle during ongoing operations.

Summary

What do companies need to consider in regard to the Windows 10 dynamic release model?

The shorter release periods mean that Windows 10 cannot be treated like a traditional version. The biggest challenge involves shifting project business to operations. To make sure this works smoothly, you will need to design New Roles and Responsibilities for the Windows as a service cycle, or alternatively adapt your current ones.

Amendment of the release model is another success-critical factor. In future, it will no longer be possible to use test cases to test 100 percent of the application landscape on the new feature release before you roll it out. Hence, it will be imperative to possess a Current (!) Application List with Criticality Analyses and Primary Contacts in order to decide what will be tested in a test environment and which parts will undergo reactive testing during ongoing operations.

As soon as you have assigned new roles and responsibilities, defined new processes and developed the new release model, you will benefit from the steady stream of fresh security features and will also avoid major, elaborate projects that tie down significant resources.

Additional important information

Microsoft has extended the support period for the Enterprise and Education editions 1607, 1703 and 1709 by an additional six months in order to facilitate transition to the Windows as a service concept.

[1] Besides the Semi-Annual Channel, there is also a Long-Term Servicing Channel that addresses the needs of special systems like medical devices and ATM machines. All of the recommendations in this article refer to classic office devices and hence to the Semi-Annual Channel.

  • Friday 27 April 2018

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Author

Simon Mangeng

Simon Mangeng IT Consultant at SoftwareONE

Project Management, Windows as a Service, Process Design

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