With the announcement of a rapid release cycle coming to Microsoft product lifecycle, I.T. professionals and developers alike have to rethink their processes and strategies of planning and deployment. Developers are going to have to develop faster and satisfy platform requirements at a high-level; no more digging deep into the OS to get some obscure feature since it might not exist in 8-14 months when the new OS is released. However, I.T. is going to be feeling the pressure in a way that is brand new to the department. For the first time, I.T. department cannot rely on the old wise saying, “wait until the first Service Pack.”
Service Packs may be gone for good. Microsoft pushed a Service Pack for SQL Server 2012 last year. However, there is no indicator if we will see any others, and that could mean we have seen the last Service Packs from Microsoft for any of its products.
This changes the game entirely. I.T. will be required to evaluate OS updates and upgrades, as well as software updates and upgrades in record time. To add additional pressure, I.T. will have to deploy the new OS and software packages shortly after release, with minimal testing, just to stay current. This means less time for you to get used to the quirks and oddities of an OS or software distribution before giving it to users. Hopefully, Microsoft will keep things similar between these release cycles to help ease the transition, yet not flipping it all on its head and taking away the start button again. In addition, the move to this rapid release cycle means that patches will become more important than ever. Since I.T. is not waiting for the major bugs to be worked out by the first Service Pack like in the days of old, instead I.T. departments will be deploying fresh, minimally tested software to a minimally tested and vulnerable OS. Patches will be imperative to keep things secure and stable. As a result, companies should reinvest in their patch management solutions. Whether that is Microsoft WSUS with Group Policy management, or a third-party solution, I.T. will be making its patch management a cornerstone of their daily workflow.
This seems concerning and a nightmare to plan for – and it is – but there are some good things coming from this lifecycle change. I.T. will no longer have to hobble along with a major OS bug for 4-6 years. Instead, the next iteration of the OS could be less than a year away. Security will also continue to tighten as new versions of Windows and other software comes through this cycle. Each iteration will contain the newest security improvements, best practices and feature implementations – with patches to follow though. There will be less time for black hats to find and exploit vulnerabilities.
Of course, the biggest issue that will hurt every company the most is the lack of training on each release. Organizational and I.T. training will become a new focus for businesses that need to stay current and informed on the newest systems and software. Remember, knowledge is essential to plan for massive game changers like rapid release.
How will you deal with coming tsunami of changes?