Earlier this year, Microsoft announced Windows Server 2022, the successor to Windows Server 2019 and its latest update to the server counterparts of Windows. Today, via an official blog post over on the Microsoft GitHub, it was revealed that starting from Server 2022, Microsoft will drop support for the Semi-Annual Channel servicing option for its server releases.
Let’s dial back a bit. In 2017, Microsoft switched over Windows Server to its “Windows-as-a-service” model that we first saw introduced with Windows 10. Now, we’re seeing the first substantial change in the servicing model since the significant initial shift in 2017.
A Little Refresher
Windows Server is Microsoft’s line of operating systems specifically curated for servers. The aptly named OS is used mainly in large data centers or businesses where servers play an essential role in daily sustainability. While sharing some similarities, Windows Server is starkly different from the standard Windows editions that’re developed for consumers.
Updates Are Not The Same
Windows Server can be updated in two ways: “Semi-Annual Channel” and “Long-Term Servicing Channel.” The former is the one that allows users to update Windows Server twice a year to experience new features and test the latest functions packed into the OS. Updates in this channel are supported for only 18 months.
The Long-Term Servicing Channel instead focuses on stability. In this channel, you only get a single update every two to three years. Users that want to upgrade and utilize the innovations made over the past few years without any testing often go for this channel. This channel receives ten years of extended support.
This way, Microsoft was able to cater to two crowds at the same time. Most features introduced in Semi-Annual Channel updates over the years were rolled into the next LTSC release. But, now, that’s all changing with the upcoming release of Windows Server 2022.
The Big Change
According to Microsoft’s documentation, Windows Server version 20H2 will be the last version of Server that supports the Semi-Annual Channel. Server 20H2 was released in October of 2020 and was a mid-year update in the Semi-Annual Channel.
Windows Server 2022, which will make its public debut later this year, will be the first Server edition of Windows that comes without the option for Semi-Annual Channel updates. Server 2022 is designated as an LTSC release as it’s a major revision and a proper successor to Windows Server 2019.
LTSC, or Long-Term Servicing Channel, will become the primary and only update option from now on. Microsoft will now only release new major versions of Windows Server every two to three years, instead of the half-year updates like before, falling in line with LTSC’s update structure.
What Happens To Current Server Versions?
Existing Server versions that operate on the Semi-Annual Channel will keep receiving updates, but only until their mainstream support ends. Windows Server version 20H2, 2004, and 1909 are all Semi-Annual Channel updates and thus won’t receive any extended support in the future.
Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019 are both LTSC releases. Hence, they will remain officially supported by Microsoft until their extended support ends. That means 2027 for Windows Server 2016 and 2029 for Windows Server 2019.
Being the most recent version of Windows Server released via the Semi-Annual Channel, Windows Server version 20H2 will end its mainstream support next year. This makes it so that 10th May 2022 is the day Semi-Annual Channel releases officially get buried.
Now exclusive to only the LTSC, all future versions of Windows Server will be released every two to three years, and they will get ten years of official support from Microsoft.; 5 years mainstream and the next five extended. The first five years will offer security and non-security updates, and the rest will offer only non-security updates, aka mostly bug fixes.
Users turned to the Semi-Annual Channel for cutting-edge functionality that was only possible via half-year updates. To make up for its future unavailability, Microsoft has stated that Azure Stack HCI will supposedly carry on the legacy left behind by the Semi-Annual Channel.
The Semi-Annual Channel in previous versions of Windows Server focused on containers and microservices, and that innovation will continue with Azure Stack HCI.
For an in-depth look at the end-of-service dates for contemporary Windows Server versions, you can check out the servicing update from Microsoft here.