My series on Microsoft Windows 10 starts with an article about Windows 10 builds. When designing a VDI environment these days you need to decide whether to use Microsoft Windows 7, 8.x or 10. This is hard as the customer wants a new version to make sure they are ready for the future. you as a consultant want to use a proven one.
Since Microsoft released Windows 10 they vowed to never release a new Windows version again. This might sound like a great promise but in reality, we notice that under the hood things change quite a lot. The premise of never releasing another Windows version is causing more trouble than it should be. When you change that much of the working under the hood you have created a new Windows version. Other vendors, that deliver services on top of Windows 10, are working hard to support all the changes.
This series consists of a couple of articles
- Microsoft Windows builds, versions, you are reading it.
- Creating the virtual machine – Click here,
- Installing Windows 10 – Click here.
- Tuning Windows services and scheduled tasks – Click here.
- Deploying the golden image (coming soon…. )
- Resource usage of Windows 10 in a VDI environment – Click here
Build and versions
When we take a look at Microsoft Windows 10 see that they use a version and a build number. in the old days, versions would be a new Windows version but that is not the case here according to Microsoft. Build numbers are the hot-fixes or service packs of the past and yes also in the future it seems. So When we talk about Build 14393.693 we are talking about Windows 10 1607 with certain hot-fixes or service packs installed.
If you look at the table, borrowed from Microsoft, below you see for each servicing option the timeline of how Windows 10 evolved.
If someone says Windows 10 is just Windows 10 you can tell them they are wrong. Windows 10 says nothing you need to know the version of Windows 10 they are talking about. Windows 10 is a container in which several versions are applicable. So the premise that they would never release a new version is a hoax. They started with the unofficial 1507 version Windows 1507, moved on to Windows 1511 and today we are at Windows 1607. All in the container Windows 10. All of these versions operate differently and are not inter-exchangeable.
So beside this version battle, there is the OS build but that is more like an add-on pack combined with a service pack. They add new functionality with these add-ons and of course fix things that went wrong in earlier releases. If you look at the table below you see the build updates of the last 6 months.
This is just general updating of a product like we see at any vendor. Just what we notice with Microsoft Windows 10 is that some new features cause issues with other products. With the introduction of new features, the add-on hot-fixes, your neatly tuned environment might suddenly show shortcuts or features you didn’t expect. watch out for deploying a hot-fix just like that.
We took a look at the builds and versions but there is more. As you noted the build and versions are delivered to services options. So let’s zoom in on them for a bit as they are very interesting and the key to your design. Servicing options are different Windows 10 tracks each with a specific feature set and support. There are three tracks you can follow but mostly we only talk about two of them.
CB – Current Branch
Ahead the Current Branch is the inside program. Each Windows 10 version and build is released to the inside program. Once the code is fine the version is released to the Current Branch.
The Current Branch is the current Windows 10 version, 1607, that is deployed by Microsoft at this moment. If you buy a Windows 10 desktop, laptop at home, this is the version you will get. This is called the current branch or CB. The Current Branch is updated with new features. Mind you this servicing option is the one deployed to the home user, they are the first line of testers. Real life testers.
CBB – Current Branch of Business
Once the code is reliable, tested in the Current Branch, it is shipped to the Current Branch of Business. This is the one that most laptops and desktops in offices are using. If a bit behind the Current Branch but still has all the “rich” features of Windows 10 just a bit later than you see them at home.
The installations at home send the telemetry to Microsoft so they know if features are working or causing headaches. It is Interesting to see that they use this approach. It’s like you sell cars to the public and once they are safe you sell them the companies.
So this is the servicing option you would aim for when you design a deployment with Microsoft SCCM for your FAT client environment. You could use this servicing option also for the VDI environment but be sure you understand what you start with. This version is the rich Windows 10 version with all the whistles and bells.
LTSB – Long Term Service Branch
Microsoft thinks of this service branch as the solution for mission-critical scenarios. So we might have to sit down and decide what they define as mission critical. I don’t think we’d get far with it, let’s focus on our design scenarios. The Long-term branch won’t get feature updates. It is a stable version that will get security updates and hot-fixes but will not get new features.
This might sound weird but actually is a good idea, for companies do not have the resources to dive into new features every time. new features mean testing and adjusting the delivery of services to cope with them. What companies what is a stable version of an operating system one that they can rely on. Most VDI environments run on this servicing option. It, of course, lacks the features but gains the stability and the latter one is more important to companies.
This servicing option lacks the following features or applications:
- Mail (of course you can use any mail application)
- Weather, sports, camera, money, etc etc.. all the apps you normally see
What to use where?
Now that you got a good idea of what is out there you might wonder what to use in which scenario. It’s not that easy to say as it depends on the requirements they gave you. If you are shopping with blank requirements my advice would be to use the CBB servicing option for the FAT clients only. Use the LTSB servicing option for the VDI environment as it stable and without certain features.
In most environments we use the LTSB version, that one is taking enough resource already. We will do testing soon with different Windows servicing options to see the differences in performance. For now, it is like, do you want a rich environment with the store apps then go to CBB. Do you want a clean Windows 10 desktop where you control the applications then go for LTSB.
So this sounds very simple but what if we make it a bit more complex. Microsoft announced Windows 10 E3 and E5 last year September. They are named Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Enterprise with threat prevention. Both offerings are designed to take customers to the cloud. both offering, however, is only for CB and CBB servicing options. If you are on LTSB you are not compliant according to Microsoft. There are a lot of differences between Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise to many to get into in this article. The E3 and E5 offerings are meant to take your FAT clients in to work with e.g. Office365 which might make sense.
If however you have an on-premises VDI environment and you are looking at Windows 10 please take a good look at the offerings. If you want to integrate you VDI with a cloud offering you might have to rethink your design first.
This was just a small portion of what you can write about Windows 10, reading about it on Microsoft.com and several other sites I found a great deal of new information. Mostly regarding cloud offerings and so on but still things to consider design. That was one reason to add the last paragraph about E3/E5. This article was not meant to deep dive into that but I think you should look at it and see if it impacts your design.
If you just wonder whether to use LTSB or CBB you have to look at your requirements. What do you want to offer your users, stability versus a rich environment? There is so much more to write about, things didn’t get simpler with Windows 10. I’m at Microsoft Tech summit in Amsterdam, perhaps we can talk about your thoughts on Windows 10 over a coffee…
p.s. All screenshots are copied from Microsoft.com