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SharePoint 2016 Servicing Policy Announced by Microsoft

Microsoft announced an "updated product servicing policy" for SharePoint Server 2016 this week.

In essence, organizations will need to follow a monthly cumulative update patch model. In addition, they'll have one year of support for a specific SharePoint Server 2016 build before having to upgrade.

Monthly Public Updates
SharePoint Server 2016 currently gets so-called "public updates" each month. Public updates include "functionality, performance and stability improvements," according to an announcement this week by Stefan Gossner, a SharePoint senior escalation engineer at Microsoft.

Organizations will continue to get those functionality improvements throughout SharePoint Server 2016's "mainstream support" phase, which is Microsoft's term for the first five years of product lifecycle support. Mainstream support for SharePoint Server 2016 will end on July 13, 2021.

The public updates delivered to SharePoint Server 2016 are "cumulative," meaning that they contain all previous updates. Consequently, IT pros won't have to have an earlier public update installed before adding the latest one, according to this Microsoft TechNet article on the servicing model.

In the past, Microsoft had made distinctions between SharePoint Server's public updates (PUs) and cumulative updates (CUs), as defined by Gossner in this 2013 blog post. Possibly, there are no distinctions now. Back then, Gossner had advised applying CUs "only to systems that are experiencing the problems" described in Microsoft's bulletins. That advice seems to have shifted when it comes to public updates. Here's Microsoft's advice in the TechNet article, which was last updated in April:

Question: Should I install the monthly Public Updates for SharePoint Server 2016 immediately or should I install them only if they contain a fix for a specific issue I'm having?
Answer: Microsoft recommends that all customers install Public Updates for SharePoint Server 2016 as soon as they become available. Microsoft performs rigorous validation of each Public Update, both internally and with a select set of partners and customers before it is released to ensure it has the highest quality.

One-Year Build Support
Each SharePoint build will have one year of support, starting from the build's initial release date (or "general availability" date). At the end of that year, Microsoft plans to release a "minimum supported build" of SharePoint Server 2016. Organizations have to be running that minimum supported build, or a newer release, to stay supported. Falling out of support typically means that security patches won't arrive.

Organizations that contact Microsoft support will need to have their servers on a current minimum supported build. Otherwise, they'll be "asked to upgrade," Gossner explained.

IT pros waiting for the next service packs for SharePoint Server 2016 just won't see them. Microsoft dispensed with issuing service packs with its latest server product.

"Microsoft has no plan to release service packs for SharePoint Server 2016," Gossner flatly stated.

Gossner's announcement this week possibly is the first formal statement from Microsoft about this new servicing model for SharePoint Server 2016, although it was somewhat implied by Microsoft officials in past discussions. For instance, in February, Bill Baer, senior product marketing manager for SharePoint and OneDrive at Microsoft, said in a Web presentation that SharePoint Server 2016 just gets public updates and feature packs now.

Feature Packs
This week, Microsoft indicated that Feature Pack 2 for SharePoint Server 2016 will be arriving this fall, containing improvements that are mostly expected to aid developers. Feature Pack 1 was released back in November with improvements for IT pros.

Feature packs have been described by Microsoft as bringing some SharePoint Online improvements back down to the server version of the product. They seem to be different from service packs, which were conceived as setting a new product baseline.

Microsoft seems to view feature packs as just another update, based on this TechNet article description. Microsoft's updates terms are formally defined in this KB 824684 article.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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