Should I Use Windows 10 Enterprise With or Without Software Assurance?

During Windows migration projects or license negotiations, companies repeatedly face the question of exactly how they will benefit from extending Software Assurance (SA) for Windows 10. So what are the actual advantages and what consequences may there be in the event that SA for Windows 10 is discontinued?

An article by Thino Ullmann , Senior Technical Presales Executive at COMPAREX

Thino Ullmann, Sales Executive at COMPAREX

Thino Ullmann

Windows 10 – Versions for Enterprise customers

Microsoft made a few changes to the licensing of available versions when it rolled out Windows 10 . The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) became an integral part of the Windows Enterprise SA benefits and is therefore no longer available as an add-on to purchase from this version on. The classic Enterprise version was turned into Windows 10 Enterprise E3 . The company also launched Windows 10 Enterprise E5 , Windows 10 LTSB  and other versions. I’ll use this article to take a look at Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB without active Software Assurance.

Windows 10 Enterprise offers at a glance

Source: Microsoft

What sets Windows 10 LTSB apart from the other Enterprise versions?

First up, let’s define a term: Microsoft introduced three ways of releasing updates during the rollout of Windows 10: Current Branch (CB), Current Branch for Business (CBB) and LTSB. LTSB stands for “Long Term Servicing Branch” and is equivalent to the LTS versions of Linux.

Microsoft describes the types of releases as follows:

  • Current Branch (CB) for private and business users: feature updates are available and installed immediately by Windows Update (every two to three months) once the user has tested and validated them with Windows Insider Preview Branch. Security updates and hotfixes are released regularly.
  • Current Branch for Business (CBB) for business users: it gives companies the option to test new features in the individual business environment for around eight months, before implementing them in a productive environment. In contrast, security updates and hotfixes are made available immediately. CBB customers can use Windows Update for Business or Windows Server Update Service (WSUS) to install the features and hence to control the provision of updates within their companies.
  • Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) for business users: LTSB was primarily designed for business-critical systems (e.g. air traffic control). Unlike CB and CBB, Microsoft defines an LTSB with all new features every two to three years only. It is up to you to install new features in this rhythm or to skip an LTSB update with feature upgrades. As with CBB, current security updates and hotfixes are delivered immediately. Besides mainstream support, LTSB customers receive the additional option for five more years. WSUS is always used to update LTSB.

In this regard, Microsoft announced on April 20, 2017 that larger upgrades with new features like the “Creators Update” will be rolled out twice a year in March and September. This procedure applies also to Office 365 ProPlus version. Click here  for further information.

Windows 10 Enterprise without Software Assurance

Cases in which Windows 10 Enterprise with Software Assurance was purchased as part of a Microsoft Agreement, but the SA was not extended, will impact the deployed Windows 10 Enterprise version as well. When SA is discontinued, customers are only entitled to use Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB. The implications are as follows:

a) Companies wishing to migrate from a lower version to Windows 10

If Software Assurance (SA) is not extended, companies that acquired the right during the contract term to install Windows 10 will only be entitled to roll out Windows 10 LTSB.

b) Companies that already use Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5

Once Software Assurance for Windows 10 Enterprise (E3/E5) comes to an end, customers have a 90-day grace period to switch their current installation to Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB. To do this, they need to uninstall their Windows 10 Enterprise (E3/ E5) version and then deploy Windows 10 LTSB. This procedure is necessitated by the very significant differences between this version and Windows E3/ E5, which make reinstallation unavoidable.

Windows 10 Enterprise 10 LTSB: the range of features

A distinction is made between Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB with or without active Software Assurance. Only the current Windows 10 LTSB version may be used if there is no SA. This has the following consequences:

Hardware

Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB supports only the hardware available upon release. This means that a new LTSB version must be deployed, i.e. purchased, for later hardware generations in the event that Software Assurance was not agreed.

Windows 10 Enterprise hardware notes

Source: Microsoft 

Software features

Compared to E3/E5 versions, Microsoft 10 Enterprise LTSB provides only a basic set of features. For instance, it doesn’t come with functions that may be important to quite a few companies:

  • Microsoft BitLocker administration and monitoring (MBAM)
  • Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM)
  • Virtualization rights
  • Access to future Long Term Servicing Branches (10 years of support)
  • (..)

The following table illustrates the differences to Windows 10 E3/E5 in terms of the scope of features:

Differences Windows 10 Enterprise E3 / E5

Source: Microsoft

Companies using Windows 10 with Software Assurance have the option to deploy Windows 10 LTSB with the latest LTSB version, instead of being stuck with just one version.

Summary

Using Windows 10 LTSB as the standard client may seem worthwhile to companies at first glance, as Microsoft does not provide this version with a steady stream of feature updates. Initially this may seem like a good thing. But if one considers the restricted scope of features compared to the E3 and E5 versions, choosing this path may already be a dead end at this point. What’s more, companies tend to replace their hardware in rolling cycles and have defined a particular standard client. The aim is to implement plannable rollouts over a timeframe of years. In this case, though, Windows 10 LTSB (without SA) will not support future hardware. But if the hardware is not supported, companies will be forced to purchase more recent versions. So depending on the term of the current Windows version, discontinuing SA would not be justifiable from an economic perspective alone.

Apart from this, adopting and then abandoning Windows 10 LTSB will always necessitate reinstallation of the Windows version and the associated workload. It is therefore easy to understand why Microsoft recommends using Windows 10 LTSB only for special systems, and not deploying it in the elevated role of a standard client.

Winodws 10 Enterprise LTSB summary and note

Source: Microsoft 

Would you like to know more about Windows 10 Enterprise?

Do you have additional questions about Windows 10 Enterprise E3, E5 or LTSB? Visit our overview page, where you will find all the relevant information. You are welcome to contact us as well. We will be glad to help.

Microsoft Windows 10 for Business in detail

If you prefer personal assistance, we will answer all your questions and provide you with insight information. Contact us now:

 Get in touch with us

Leipzig, 26.07.2017

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