IT Connect
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20150817: Nebula Windows 10 Readiness

Nebula has been hard at work getting ready for Windows 10 for many months. Since this is a popular topic of interest, here’s a status update.

Basic Readiness

If you want to deploy a computer with Windows 10 enterprise, you can do that now. Contact us if you need help with that. The most basic of our processes are ready for that, but at this time, there are significant limitations to our support capabilities (see Full Support below), so we’d suggest you hold off a month.

If you wait a month, the story will improve significantly, and if you wait a couple months, we hope to manage the upgrade for you (see Special New Capabilities below).

Looking further out, we’ll be adjusting the specific operating systems we support (see Consequences of a New Windows OS below).

We plan to have more detailed messaging about Windows 10 support in the future, covering expectations and actions to take if you are ready to upgrade.

Full Support

There are several missing support capabilities which might lead you to delay a little longer:

  1. We do not yet have a Windows 10 image. We plan to have one ready within the next couple of months.
  2. There is not yet a Sophos version (the anti-virus software supported by Nebula ) released in Nebula that is compatible with Windows 10. The vendor has released a compatible version, but Nebula has a policy of not deploying the latest version to avoid “broken” versions (which have happened often enough in the past to justify this). If a newer Sophos version doesn’t come out by 8/30/2015, we’ll manually override our policy to address this.
  3. We have not yet had a chance to evaluate and implement the configuration settings needed to support Windows 10 in a managed environment like ours.
  4. We do not yet support basic computer inventory or software distribution to Windows 10. This capability is blocked by a project to update our software delivery and management system. With the Nebula file service design change complete and more engineering resources available in September, we plan to complete this in September.

With respect to #3, we expect that some of these settings will represent major changes to the status quo. For some of these settings, we are still waiting on information from Microsoft while for others, we simply need time to figure out what’s new and plan our desired design. For example, with Windows 10 Microsoft plans to change how updates work. We know this means our existing mechanism that allows customers to defer IE upgrades has reached its end (Microsoft’s stated end of life for IE8-10 on 1/12/2016 is another reason that mechanism has reached end of life) . But Microsoft hasn’t fully shared the details of the update options it imagines for enterprise customers, so we still need time to evaluate what our approach will be.

If you do choose to deploy Windows 10 in Nebula at this time, you should expect that we will implement settings that will affect you later.

Special New Capabilities

Nebula plans to build a new operating system deployment mechanism. We’re hoping to provide an automated upgrade in place experience as part of this new mechanism, which would save you time and money, cut down on our overall costs, and improve our future agility to new operating system releases. We do not have an estimate for when this capability will be ready–it partially depends on the project to update our software deliver and management system, but also will require additional work. We’re hoping to have this ready in the Fall timeframe.

Consequences of a New Windows OS

Nebula has long had a policy of supporting the most recent OS, plus one prior OS, with a grace period for previous OSes, but hasn’t been especially clear which OSes were specifically supported. That’s been addressed in a new document:

The short version with respect to Windows 10 is that it’s supported, but with limited capabilities (see above). We’ll continue to consider Windows 7 supported as the prior OS we will continue to support. After we’ve addressed #1-4 noted above, we’ll consider Windows 8.1 to be in a grace status for a year–in other words, we’d like anyone running Windows 8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10. We’re choosing to drop support for Windows 8.1 instead of Windows 7, following Microsoft’s lead in terms of the support it is providing.

The intention here is not to inconvenience anyone, but to encourage everyone to move to a well-supported operating system, so we’ll tweak our plans as needed to follow that intention. So if for some reason, we don’t provide the automated upgrade capability for quite a long time, we’ll extend the grace period for Windows 8.1.