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Resource: Automating Windows as a Service

We have provided a regular stream of resources about Windows as a Service (WaaS) ever since this became Microsoft's new approach to servicing Windows.

It began with Windows 10 more than two years ago and has since been adopted for Windows 7/8.1 plus other Microsoft products/services like Office 365, System Center Configuration Manager, and Azure.

Updates are delivered on a monthly basis in the form of cumulative updates plus features updates, where major new features and other enhancements are introduced, are being provided semi-annually with target availability dates each March and September.

This agile approach, as Microsoft describes it, is the new norm and beyond being tweaked slightly as necessary it is the future of support for the vast majority of Microsoft's products and services.

That means IT Pros and System Admins need to be knowledgeable about the processes surrounding WaaS and have the ability to adapt their own migration and deployment model to this new pace of service. By doing that those organizations will also be able to take advantage of the steady stream of refreshes that are happening on their own terms within the structure of WaaS.

Many of the resources we have pointed you towards includes most anything done by Michael Niehaus who has done Channel 9 videos and presentations online and at events like Ignite about WaaS. His approach really breaks down WaaS and the various ways you can adopt to that process. You can see all of his videos on Channel 9 for a refresher or first time viewing on the subject.

However, today I have come across a new resource for WaaS that thoroughly breaks down the process and shows you how to adopt a similar process within your own organization.

I only just discovered the work of David das Neves, a Premier Field Engineer for EMEA in Germany, and is latest missive about Automating Windows as a Service is actually his third missive about WaaS.

As you might imagine, the reception of his work on this subject since June of this year has received a very strong response from readers. Here is a disclaimer he placed at the beginning of his recent article:

"I´ve received so many negative feedback regarding WaaS after my previous extensive article and I have heard so many times that WaaS is so extremely complex and no one would ever be possible to adopt this in any way. First - nearly all of the topics, which I am speaking about, are mandatory know-how - either regarding to Project Management, ITIL, ALM, Security Management (updates) or obvious technical background. I am actually not explaining something new - I am only explaining how professional IT can and should be adopted. The answer is - professional.

I am also writing this as a private person, who thinks that DevOps is not only a buzzword. I see a huge need to show a theoretical approach or automating WaaS and also to show a technical Proof of Concept - otherwise it seems that no one will ever believe me."

Neves also points out that his work around WaaS is not related to his normal job description but he just feels the need, as described above, to show how it can work. That is the goal of the three key pieces of content he has written about WaaS.

Here are the three articles from Neves along with the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) summaries):

Demystifying Windows as a Service – wake up! please.

The Windows as a Service model has been simplified. Every OS Version is 18 months supported and the releases will be published twice a year in March and September. The naming convention will be changed into "channels" - so we will release in a semi-annual channel. The LTSB will be renamed into Long-Term-Servicing-Channel (LTSC). CB will be simply renamed to the OS release and CBB will be published as ready for broad deployment between 3 to 5 months after the official OS release and it does not have any impact on the supportability times - they will always stay at 18 months for each OS version.

Update to the Windows as a Service Model

This is a recommendation article for Enterprise Customers to adopt WaaS in the most adequate way to benefit from the changes in a long-term scope. I don´t want to discuss on the WaaS topic in general (though I explained the most obvious arguments for it and as a former software development I am really standing behind this transformational movement) and I also left out the consumer area. The article for "only" the mentioned purpose is just extensive as you can see.

WaaS is a transformational change and WaaS comes with Windows 10. I also want to quote Jeffrey Snover - "The easiest way to fail in a transformational change is to treat it as an incremental change." You should get to know, what WaaS means and how you should prepare for it. You need to spend a of lot time in the preparation phase to be ready to adopt it. The better you have prepared the less you will run into surprises. Take a look at the WaaS Adoption Cycle and validate if you and your company really understand what stands behind WaaS. In most of my engagements I see a big gap.

Automating Windows as a Service

Automating the Windows as a Service Model is possible and I actually recommend doing this for EVERY enterprise customer. You will need some time in the preparation phase and setting up the whole process, but in the end you will save a huge upcoming and recurring workload.

By defining well chosen computers into your rings you predefine the possible impact and completely control your testing approach. The best toolset for this task is probably SCCM with Servicing Plans, but it is also possible with WSUS standalone or Windows Update for Business (or even a third-party solution) - you have just to implement the automation steps.

The target must be to set up an technically automated environment where every team and user at every time know, on which phases is currently being worked and what follows.
It needs to become a always recurring adoption cycle where manual tasks should consecutively being replaced by automation / scripts / automatic processes.

The outcome will be to integrate Feature Updates mostly in the operative work. If you ignore this recommendation you might end up struggling a lot.

I recommend putting these on your reading list.

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But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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