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Microsoft swings security patch stick to keep customers up-to-date on Windows 10

Gregg Keizer | June 15, 2015
Microsoft has confirmed that it will use security updates — or more accurately, the refusal to serve them to customers — as the stick to keep businesses in line with Windows 10's accelerated tempo of feature and functionality upgrades.

Because of that consumer testing — which in turn will be preceded by testing by the adventurous Windows Insider participants — the CBB release should be of better quality, "validated" in Harmetz's terminology. Devices that draw updates using the new Windows Update for Business (WUB) will automatically receive the CBB after Microsoft declares it.

Some devices on CBB will immediately get the latest feature update; those will be the ones businesses tag as on the fast "ring" — another Microsoft term indicating a subset of a branch. Other devices may be on a "slow" ring that delays the update's roll-out for a still-unspecified length of time.

Harmetz's slide deck, however, showed that all rings would deliver the updates via WUB within a four-month span.

Companies and organizations that continue to rely on WSUS (Windows Server Update Service) and other update/patch management software will be able to delay the CBB even more than a slow ring: Up to eight months from when that update was declared "business ready," or suitable for CBB.

"If customers are using their infrastructure to deploy feature updates, they actually have a total of eight months to validate and deploy that feature set after it's been declared business ready," said Harmetz.

But not any longer. If companies don't apply a CCB within the maximum of eight months, the devices will no longer receive security patches and bug fixes. Since most businesses loath the idea of running unpatched devices, the security stick Microsoft wields will be a big, big club.

Notable, too, is that CBB does not appear to allow for skipping any individual CBB; each will be required to receive further patches. The only option is when the CBB lands.

According to Harmetz's slides, Microsoft will issue a branch about every four months, or three times in one year. The company had hinted at that interval earlier this year when it said enterprise subscribers to Office 365 would be able to limit the number of Office 2016 updates to three a year.

Much of what Harmetz disclosed in her partner presentation had been pegged by analysts in the months since Microsoft began talking about Windows 10 last fall. In October 2014, for instance, Gartner's Microsoft experts — Michael Silver and Stephen Kleynhans — called the four-month span between feature updates, as well as the update-delay rights.

But Harmetz's outline was the first from Microsoft that went public to confirm that educated speculation.

Small victories.


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