Microsoft is dropping 'Semi Annual Channel' feature releases for System Center

After it makes available System Center 2019 in March this year, Microsoft plans to cease rolling out Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) twice-yearly feature updates due to customer feedback
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is continuing to make adjustments to its feature-update release cadence on the server side of the house. This week, company officials announced that Microsoft is phasing out its Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) feature releases for its System Center product family

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System Center 2019, which Microsoft expects to roll out starting later this month (March 2019) in its VOlume Licensing Service Center will be a Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release and will be followed up by another LTSC System Center release instead of a SAC. In the interim, Microsoft will add new System Center features between LTSC releases through Update Rollups, according to a March 7 blog post.

The one piece of System Center that isn't impacted by the change in cadence is System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), which Microsoft will continue to update three times per year.

Microsoft officials attributed the change in cadence plans to customer feedback.

"From talking to customers, we learned that LTSC works better for most System Center deployments as the update cycles are longer and more stable," according to Microsoft's blog post.

Microsoft has received similar feedback about the need for slower update cycles and more stability in Windows updates but continues to push ahead with its twice-yearly feature update schedule there. Recently, Microsoft officials dropped the company's SAC-T (Targeted) designation for Windows feature releases, but so far are continuing to insist that twice-yearly feature updates for Windows client and Windows Server are best for users. 

LTSC and SAC are servicing terms introduced by Microsoft starting several years ago. LTSC releases, (formerly known as Long Term Servicing Branch, or LTSB releases) are meant for mission-critical systems that are not suited for regular updates. They provide five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support. SAC releases happen twice a year and are supported for either 18 or 30 months, depending on which Windows variant a customer is using.

The first SAC release of System Center was version 1801 (meaning it was completed in January 2018, using Microsoft's SAC year/month naming convention). 

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System Center 2019 will include updates for Data Protection Manager 2019, Orchestrator 2019 and Service Manager 2019, along with new integrations with management services like System Center Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and more. System Center 2019 won't cost more than System Center 2016, officials said.

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