In recent times I have become a bit of an expert (I use that word loosely) with Office 2016 ProPlus and Channel Management. If you don’t know what a channel is you might remember it being called a branch back in Office 2013 ProPlus. So now let dive a bit deep into ProPlus starting with the magic deployment tool.
Chapter 1. Understanding the Deployment Tool.
So lets understand what the deployment tools is in a quick fire question and answer session.
So what is the deployment tool for Office Pro Plus?
Its a 2mb download from Microsoft which contains the base configuration.xml and setup.exe files. In the past we would of used OCT to customize Office installation.
Who remember setup.exe /admin?
In the new world we just use a configuration.xml which contains all the basic information required to achieve a simple deployment of Office.
Why is the Deployment Tool only 2mb?
All the installation deltas for Office 2016 are stored in some fancy Microsoft Datacentre and depending on the channel you download, we will define the version of Office you receive.
Chapter 2. Understanding the Channels Process.
As mentioned previously Channels in the new name Branches, if you have been out of the loop for a while. Channels are used to define what version of Office you receive and when you will receive Feature Updates. So which channels are available?
Microsoft today (28th June 2017) have 5 different channels which can be selected for public consumption. Microsoft do have their own internal channel names as well.
As of September 2017 Microsoft will be renaming the Current, Deferred and First Release Deferred Channels to Monthly, Semi Annual (Pilot) and Semi Annual (Broad). The First Broad Channel release will be in January 2018, as Microsoft moves away from rolling out 3 Features a year to 2 Features a year. This moves Office ProPlus into the same feature cycles at Windows 10.
Defining a Channel?
There are multiple ways of define a channel for your Office 2016 client
Section 1. Office 365 Portal
Within the Office 365 Admin Portal a tenant wide setting can be defined by default it will be “Deferred Channel” but can be changed to Current Channel. In this scenario you can only select 2 of the 5 channels.
Section 2. Registry
Within the registry on the client machine you can define the Current Name, for more information head to https://flamingkeys.com/change-office-proplus-channel-registry/
Section 3. Group Policy
Section 4. Configuration.xml
Within the configuration.xml you have downloaded in the Deployment Tool you can define all different channel versions available to you.
The easist way to understand Channel releases is by visiting the following url it covers off Current, Deferred and First Release Deferred.
As InsiderFast and Slow are weekly/monthly builds its not guaranteed new features will be pushed to Current or FRDC. So theres no documented information from Microsoft
Chapter 3. Recap future changes to ProPlus
Targeting September 2017, we will make the following changes to the Office 365 ProPlus update model:
Two updates a year. We will reduce the Office 365 ProPlus update cadence from three to two times a year, with semi-annual feature updates to Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus targeted for March and September.
18 months of support. We will extend the support period for Office 365 ProPlus semi-annual updates from 12 to 18 months (starting from first release) so IT professionals can choose to update once or twice a year.
System Center Configuration Manager support. System Center Configuration Manager will support this new aligned update model for Office 365 ProPlus and Windows 10, making it easier to deploy and update the two products together.
Understanding the above will put in you good stand for future ProPlus deployments and understanding versioning of this product. I hope this quick guide has helped you on your way to become a ProPlus Jedi Master.
Andrew J. Price