SharePoint Server Cumulative Updates Will Arrive Monthly

Microsoft announced that its cumulative updates (CU) for SharePoint Server will now arrive every month.

The stepped-up release cycle was announced this week in conjunction with the July CU releases for SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010. Those releases likely were unexpected by IT pros since they typically expect to see SharePoint Server CU releases only on the even months of the year. That shift in policy was noted this week by Microsoft MVP Todd Klindt, in a blog post.

The shift also was confirmed by Stefan Gossner, a Microsoft senior escalation engineer for SharePoint.

"The bi-monthly CU release cycle is gone," he wrote. "The product group is now releasing CUs every month rather than every other month."

Klindt advised IT pros to only install CUs when they fix a problem that's actually disrupting a computing environment. He also recommended testing CUs before applying them to a production environment, since CUs can break existing functionality. Klindt tracks those so-called "SharePoint regressions" at this page.

Gossner noted that installing the latest CU for SharePoint 2013 requires first installing "SharePoint Server 2013 SP1 or March 2013 PU for SharePoint 2013."

For those organizations updating SharePoint 2010, Microsoft recommends having Service Pack 2 installed first before applying the July CU.

Microsoft makes nuanced distinctions between its service packs, cumulative updates, public updates and critical on demand fixes, as explained here. In general, service packs contains previously released fixes. Cumulative updates are issued to address problems specified by Microsoft's customers during support cases. Public updates mostly deliver security fixes. Critical on demand fixes are the rarest of the updates as they are delivered to just "a small number of customers."

Last year, Microsoft gave notice that it was accelerating its software release cycle. At the time, Microsoft just talked about product releases happening on an annual basis. However, its Windows 8 release cycle has been more frequent than just once a year.

Microsoft's Online Services releases are already at a monthly release pace. To keep its Online Service customers better informed of the release pace, Microsoft recently announced an Office 365 for business public roadmap. Under this scheme, Microsoft plans to inform Online Services customers of the new software releases via a Message Center portal. Microsoft claims that these releases will get extensive testing internally before getting released to customers.

Microsoft hasn't talked much about its on-premises software release strategy, even though IT pros may be tasked with having to follow up on the faster release cycles. The company still issues service packs, which have been important markers in the past for IT pros in terms of when to update Microsoft's server software. However, on the Exchange side, Microsoft has suggested that its service pack releases may be the equivalent to cumulative updates in terms of their relevance. At least that was the case with Service Pack 1 for Exchange Server 2013, which Microsoft said was equivalent to CU4. Microsoft announced last year that Exchange Server CUs would arrive on a quarterly basis.

In a letter to Microsoft's employees published today, Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, explained the faster pace as an effort to better address customer needs.

"In order to deliver the experiences our customers need for the mobile-first and cloud-first world, we will modernize our engineering processes to be customer-obsessed, data-driven, speed-oriented and quality-focused," Nadella wrote in the letter. "We will streamline the engineering process and reduce the amount of time and energy it takes to get things done," he added.

That seems to be a goal at this point. For instance, some of the faster CU updates released for Exchange Server have caused problems for the IT pros who applied them early.

About the Author

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

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