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On Concurrent Client and Server OS Releases

On Concurrent Client and Server OS Releases

Back when the first technical preview of Windows 10 came out, we got a technical preview of Windows Server vNext. This made sense because most of us anticipated that as had been the case with Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, and other versions of Windows Server, that the release of the next version of Windows Server would occur at the same time as the release of the next version of Windows Client.

Recently it’s been announced that the release of Windows Server vNext will trail the release of Windows 10 client. By some reports there will be at least 6 months between the two releases. The delay between client and server OS releases may even be greater.

Whether it makes sense or not to release server and client OS concurrently in terms of the Enterprise story is open for debate.

Consider the following:

Windows Vista was released in Jan 2007. Windows Server 2008 was released a year later. Windows Vista in a Windows Server 2008 environment had a much better enterprise story than Windows Vista in a Windows Server 2003 environment. Windows Vista faced a number of challenges, especially around it’s improved security model which caused compatibility issues with a large number of applications that did dumb things from a security perspective, but still ran on Windows XP. But one wonders if Vista would have received a slightly warmer reception if all the features that became available with the release of Windows Server 2008 were present when the client OS released in Jan 2007.

Consider Windows 7 which had a much better reception even though it wasn’t radically different from Vista in the way that Vista was from XP. Windows 7 RTM’d in July 2009. Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM’d the same day. This meant you could light up all the Windows 7 functionality when the OS came out if you were deploying Windows Server 2008 R2 at the same time.

Of course having said that, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 were released concurrently as were Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2. While there are benefits to releasing the client and server OS concurrently, there’s more to the acceptance of an OS than providing new and improved features. Especially if you’re following one as well received as Windows 7.

The scuttlebutt around Windows 10 suggests that it’s on track for a better public reception than that which was received by Windows Vista and Windows 8. The scuttlebutt is that there are significant features in Windows 10 that you’ll only be able to light up in a Windows Server vNext environment. The reality might be that the case for Windows 10 is already pretty solid, and the scales don’t need to be tipped any further in terms of driving initial adoption.

The other stark reality is that even when server OS are released concurrently with clients, organizations aren’t updating their server infrastructure as often as they are updating their clients. The majority of organizations with Windows Server deployed still haven’t updated to Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2. Even if it was released concurrently with Windows 10, it’s unlikely that the stats around adoption of Windows Server vNext in 2015 in enterprise environments would be particularly overwhelming.

There’s a nice symmetry around concurrent client and server OS releases – but unless there’s a whole lot that Windows 10 can’t do without a Server vNext backend (which I suspect there will be, but any prediction I make is guesswork) – concurrent releases aren’t really all that necessary.



Orin Thomas is an MVP, an MCT, a Microsoft Regional Director, and has a string of Microsoft MCSE and MCITP certifications. He has written more than 30 books for Microsoft Press on IT Pro topics including Windows Server, Windows Client, SQL Server, Exchange, and System Center. He is an author at PluralSight and is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro. You can follow him on twitter @orinthomas

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