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Microsoft Readies Next Windows Server 'Semiannual Channel' Release

The next semiannual channel release for Windows Server, version 1803, is set to arrive by midyear, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's channel-release products typically get major feature updates in the spring and fall. The company released the first Windows Server semiannual channel release product, dubbed version 1709, last October.

The announcement by Jeff Woolsey, a principal program manager for Windows Server and Hybrid Cloud, updated an earlier one about the projected arrival of the Windows Server 2019 product, which is expected to be available in the second half of this year. The two products are similar, except that the semiannual channel release version gets major feature updates more frequently (twice per year) and is restricted to the Server Core or Nano Server installation options. Windows Server channel release users also must have Software Assurance on top of the server licensing.

It's possible to elect to use a long-term servicing channel (LTSB) option, instead of the semiannual channel, when using the channel-release version of Windows Server. The LTSB channel option follows Microsoft's traditional update and support model, where major updates arrive every two to three years, and there are five years of mainstream support plus five years of extended support. The LTSB channel option additionally permits "Server with Desktop" types of deployments, which add a graphical user interface onto the server for management purposes. Users can switch between the semiannual channel and LTSB channel, if wanted, according to this Microsoft overview document.

The current Windows Server 2016 product might be thought as being kind of like an LTSB product, except that the major updates must be installed by IT pros using .MSI files, which are released by Microsoft every two to three years. Windows Server LTSB, in contrast, delivers major updates from Microsoft's content servers.

Semiannual vs. LTSB Use Cases
On the channel product side of Windows Server, Woolsey explained that Microsoft has learned from the Windows Insider program and "telemetry" information sent back to Microsoft how its customers use the semiannual channel and the LTSB channel options. As a consequence, Microsoft has refined the use-case scenarios for the two channel options, as follows:

  • Semiannual channel: Used for "containerized applications, container hosts, and application scenarios benefiting from faster innovation."
  • LTSB channel: Used for "general purpose file servers, first and third-party workloads, traditional apps, infrastructure roles, software-defined datacenter, and hyperconverged infrastructure."

Organizations could elect to use the semiannual channel if they depend on using rapid software innovations. Examples offered by Woolsey included the use of "Docker, Kubernetes and Service Fabric."

Improvements
Along those lines, Woolsey called out a few other improvements, not previously described, that will be seen when Windows Server version 1803 gets released.

The Server Core base image will be reduced 30 percent more from its Windows Server version 1709 size, which is seen as being a benefit for running containerized applications. Windows Server version 1803 also will get support for SSH, Curl.exe and Tar.exe Linux tools. Additional command-line tools, such as DriveFS and WSLPath, will be enabled in the release via its Windows Subsystem for Linux component.

Kubernetes cluster management support will continue in the new server. There will be mixed Linux and Windows management support enabled via a Tigera partnership on Project Calico. There also will be support for "Hyper-V isolated Pods" and Windows container storage support when using Kubernetes.

About the Author

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

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