FAQ on Windows Server, version 1709 and Semi-Annual Channel

Last week we made available Windows Server, version 1709, the first release in the Semi-Annual Channel, and we’re already seeing many customers deploying it! We’ve received some questions on how this channel works and how customers should utilize it. The goal of this blog post is to answer questions surrounding the new channel and clarify some important aspects of this release.

Q: What is the Semi-Annual Channel?

A: For Windows Server, the Semi-Annual Channel is a new model that provides opportunity for customers innovating quickly to take advantage of new operating system capabilities at a faster pace. It focuses on two very specific customer scenarios:

  • Customers innovating in the application space – particularly those building with containers and microservices.
  • Customers evolving their infrastructure with software-defined datacenter and hybrid cloud capabilities.

The Semi-Annual Channel releases are supported for 18 months and a new release will be out twice a year. In contrast, the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) continues to have 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support, with a new release planned for every 2-3 years. Windows Server 2016 is the latest LTSC release. You can find more information on end of support dates for the Semi-Annual Channel releases on the Release Information page.

Q: I have Windows Server 2016 running today. Can I upgrade to version 1709?

A: Windows Server, version 1709 is not an update to Windows Server 2016. Instead, it is a new release in a different channel with a different support model. To move from Windows Server 2016 (or previous versions) to Windows Server, version 1709 you’ll need to run a clean install. In-place upgrades are not supported as Windows Server 2016 is a LTSC release and version 1709 is a Semi-Annual Channel release and they have different support models.

Q: Which customers can use the Semi-Annual Channel releases?

A: To use the Semi-Annual Channel releases in production, customers need Software Assurance on their Windows Server licenses. Customers without Software Assurance can use the Semi-Annual Channel releases on Azure or other cloud/hosting environments.

Q: What editions are available in the Semi-Annual Channel?

A: Windows Server 2016 has different editions to support customers with different environments and sizes, such as Standard, Datacenter, and Essentials. However, because the Semi-Annual Channel focuses on very specific scenarios (listed above), the only editions available in the current channel are Standard and Datacenter.

Q: I heard Server Core is the only installation option available. Is this true?

A: Yes. Server Core is the installation option recommended for the two scenarios above. For that reason, we decided to have Server Core as the only installation option for this channel. For customers who want a GUI for administration purposes, we highly recommend checking out Project “Honolulu”, a new management experience for Windows Server.

Q: I heard Storage Spaces Direct is not present in version 1709. Is that true? How should I think about Storage Spaces Direct?

A: Storage Spaces Direct was introduced in Windows Server 2016 and remains the foundation for our hyper-converged story. Following our successful Windows Server 2016 release, we’ve listened to our customers and are already working to deliver the next set of hyper-converged innovation. While, we elected to keep these features in preview for the Windows Server, version 1709 release, there will be another release available very soon. More information can be found on the Release Notes page. Here’s how you should think about Storage Spaces Direct today:

  • If you want to use Storage Spaces Direct in production today, we recommend you begin with Windows Server 2016 and the Windows Server Software Defined program, which offers a validated hyper-converged solution.
  • If you prefer the Semi-Annual Channel, you can join the Windows Insiders program and download the preview builds.

Q: Where can I find more information on Windows Server, version 1709 and the Semi-Annual Channel?

A: You can learn more at the resources below:

We hope this information helps clarify when and how to use the Semi-Annual Channel and Windows Server, version 1709. We’re working hard to deliver innovation and new features to you in a faster cadence, so keep an eye out as we’ll have more news soon! In the meantime, continue to send your feedback and questions.