With Windows 10, Microsoft has moved to a SaaS-style update strategy, meaning updates will be issued on a more frequent basis. This is good news for some customers, yet could force them to update their System Center Configuration Manager environment to support new Windows 10 features.
Since the Windows 10 launch in July 2015, Microsoft has only issued a handful of updates (although the intervals between updates has shortened since February). Currently, there are three strategies for Windows updates– “current branch,” “current branch for business,” and “long-term servicing branch.” The current branch will see monthly updates, current branch for business will see updates every four months, and the long-term branch will see traditional service-pack style updates. Often these updates will include new capabilities, requiring an updated System Center infrastructure.
For example, SCCM 2007 supports Windows 10 client management, but not deployment. SCCM 2012 supports both client management and deployment. To support Windows 10 current branch (monthly) updates, SCCM 2012 R2 users should have updated SCCM in February. Failing to update SCCM requires them to move to the long-term branch update schedule for Windows 10 – meaning they won’t be able to push out these monthly updates to Windows 10 clients.
More info on how updates will affect SCCM can be found here on Microsoft’s blog.
Will this result in a license cost increase? Perhaps. Many customers do enroll their server products under Microsoft’s Software Assurance, so there will be no direct price increase for those customers. Customers who have elected not to renew Software Assurance for System Center will see price increases as Microsoft’s plan is to release a new version of SCCM every time new capabilities are rolled into the Windows operating system – meaning you will need to upgrade SCCM in order to maintain a current branch (monthly) update strategy for Windows 10.
The days of Software Assurance simply giving you the right to go from Version 1 to Version 2 and perhaps receive some training vouchers are long gone. Microsoft has significantly expanded the impact of Software Assurance by creating scenarios where you must purchase it for enhanced or enterprise functionality in the company’s products (license mobility for servers, roaming use rights for applications, etc.), and this latest change to SaaS-style upgrades essentially requires SA for System Center. See this blog post on the Future of Configuration Manager from Microsoft for more detail.