Deploying Windows 10 and Windows Server 1903: Some Caveats for IT Pros

Microsoft recently detailed some changes organizations should make before rolling out version 1903 of Windows 10 and Windows Server, as well as its plans for Windows 10 "targeted" channel releases and new perks for Windows Update for Business users.

IT pros wanting to roll out versions 1903 of either Windows 10 or Windows Server in their computing environments likely will need to make some adjustments, depending on the OS deployment tools they use, according to a Microsoft announcement last week. The announcement just mentioned Microsoft's OS deployment tools. It's unclear if other deployment tools are similarly affected.

The adjustments are simple onetime selections within System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) version 1902 and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). For SCCM users, Microsoft is requiring the use of SCCM version 1902 or later to deploy Windows 10 version 1903.

If organizations use those OS deployment tools, then a checkbox needs to be marked for "Windows 10 version 1903 and later" or "Windows Server version 1903 or later" within the consoles. For SCCM users, the checkbox is located under Software Update Component Properties. For WSUS users, the checkbox can be found under Products and Classifications.

The steps to make those changes are outlined in the announcement by Joe Lurie, a senior product marketing manager for Windows Commercial Marketing. He explained that those changes are needed because Microsoft is in the process of implementing its Unified Update Platform.

Here's the explanation according to Lurie:

With Windows 10, version 1903, we are introducing new product categories to enable future support for the Unified Update Platform (UUP) for on-premises management solutions, which provides improved delivery technologies for Windows updates. A configuration change is, therefore, required for environments running the latest public release of Configuration Manager, as well as for environments using WSUS (without Configuration Manager) for updates.

The Unified Update Platform (UUP) was described about 2.5 years ago as a way of reducing Windows 10 download sizes by about 35 percent. Not much more was said about UUP until last year's Ignite event, when Microsoft promised that UUP would preserve Language Packs and Features on Demand during Windows 10 system upgrades. Microsoft had gone dark again on UUP until the post by Lurie.

The setting changes are a one-time event associated with deploying versions 1903 of Windows 10 and Windows Server. SCCM and WSUS won't require those kinds of changes for subsequent OS releases, according to Lurie in the comments section of his announcement:

Future versions of Windows 10 will not be listed individually. For now 1903 is because we are changing the way updates are delivered. But that change will stick on future versions, so there won't be a need to list each one. For Server, we already list them all individually so this really isn't a change in the way you select to receive updates for server, but the delivery of them is changed in Server as well.

The settings inconvenience for IT pros is just a minor hiccup as UUP gets implemented, it seems. No further UUP details were described.

The End of Semiannual Channel (Targeted)
Semiannual channel (targeted) (SAC-T) releases of Windows 10 will officially be no more, starting with Windows 10 version 1903. With that OS release, there will be a "one-time transition" to a single semiannual channel (SAC) release.

SAC will be the lone deployment target, even for Windows Update for Business users.

"Windows Update for Business will feature a new UI and behavior to reflect this change, eliminating the dual offset milestone dates for SAC and SAC-T, and reinforcing a single SAC release date as the basis for beginning targeted deployment and working toward broad deployment," explained John Wilcox, a principal program manager at Microsoft.

The end of SAC-T was a death foretold. Wilcox had explained back in February that SAC-T would disappear from deployment solutions (Windows Update for Business, SCCM and WSUS) with the spring Windows 10 update release.

The transition mentioned by Wilcox is an additional 60 days that'll be added for organizations that targeted their Windows 10 deployments for the SAC milestone. Organizations that had set their deployment targets on the SAC-T milestone aren't getting the extra 60 days.

Wilcox offered the following caveat for Windows Update for Business users with the wipeout of SAC-T:

Once your devices have been updated to Windows 10, version 1903, please modify your Windows Update for Business deferral values if you wish to proceed with designating an additional delay between your targeted phase and broad deployment phase for the next Windows 10 feature update.

In other words, SAC-T will be gone, so organizations wanting the old approach will have to build it using Windows Update for Business settings.

Windows Update for Business Additions
Microsoft explained what Windows Update for Business was a couple of years ago. It enables OS management using the Windows Update service and Group Policy or mobile device management solutions such as Microsoft Intune.

The Compliance Deadlines feature of Windows Update for Business will get the following enhancements with Windows 10 version 1903:

  • A new notification and reboot scheduling experience for end users
  • Enforcement of update installation and reboot deadlines to achieve velocity goals
  • Ability to provide end user control over reboots for a specific time period
  • Control of the update behavior outside of active hours

IT pros using Windows Update for Business can set update delays ranging between two and 30 days for quality updates and feature updates. There's also a new "grace period" delay addition that can be set from zero to seven days.

Another enhancement of Windows Update for Business with Windows 10 version 1903 is the ability to see devices that are noncompliant with a particular feature update via the Update Compliance service.

Microsoft also lifted a requirement to use the Basic or higher telemetry settings in order to use Windows Update for Business, Wilcox noted.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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