How Microsoft deployed Windows 10 within its own company

Reading time icon 4 min. read

Readers help support Windows Report. We may get a commission if you buy through our links. Tooltip Icon

Read our disclosure page to find out how can you help Windows Report sustain the editorial team Read more

When it comes to Windows 10 and Microsoft, it appears the company has had success in dogfooding its most recent crown jewel.

Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to test and promote the product. Dogfooding can be a way for a company to demonstrate confidence in its own products and a way to test it in real-world usage. Hence, dogfooding can act as both quality control and a kind of testimonial advertising.

According to a report from ZDNet’s resident Microsoft expert Mary Jo Foley, the company has deployed Windows 10 to more than 95% of its employees. Microsoft’s IT department methods for the upgrade dealt less with armed gunmen in Steve Ballmer masks, as some might have wagered, but rather the use of a less invasive in-place upgrade.
Microsoft IT’s successful use of in-place upgrades was built on years of case studies within the company that led to the distribution of Windows 10 to more than 96,000 users within the company. Similar to the Windows 10 Insider previews, Microsoft has a “First and Best” (F&B) program that it runs within the confines of its own business. The company’s F&B program helped Microsoft’s IT deploy Windows 10 to most of its remote and corporate network connected users in roughly nine weeks. The result of its F&B program netted Microsoft 38,000 users before the widespread release of Windows 10 in July, meaning the company already had 40 percent of its employees using its new operating system with limited- to no-hassle upgrading.
Using in-place upgrades for Windows 10 cut Microsoft’s deployment overhead by using the company’s own System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager SP1, and that resulted in fewer desk calls to field. For Microsoft employees, the in-place upgrades represented a reduction in time reacquiring licenses, logins, application data, files and settings, which for the most part kept employee productivity relatively unscathed.
Learning from previous upgrade cycles such as Windows 7 to Windows 8 and Windows 8 to 8.1, Microsoft’s IT department enlisted ring-like upgrading processes for upgrades. Rather than an avalanche of untested change, Microsoft selected employees to be a part of the company’s Canary, Operating Systems Group (OSG) and Microsoft rings. In the order of Canary to Microsoft, employees would test anywhere from daily builds to slower monthly released and validated builds.
According to the report filed by Microsoft’s IT department, the company came away from the widespread release of Windows 10 with these notes:

  • Building an early adopter community was a good IT investment. Early adopters’ participation in installing, validating user scenarios, providing feedback, and sharing information in the moderated forums has been vital to the success of this and other product releases.
  • The in-place upgrade method worked really well. All of the applications, data, and settings were processed across the migration. Microsoft users really didn’t have to do anything. Click, click, install, and they were up and running.
  • The graceful return to the previous operating system in the event of a failure provided a better user experience. With Windows 10, Windows setup automatically creates a Windows.old folder containing the original operating system, applications, data, and settings. The Windows.old file copied the entire operating system, data, and settings. During a catastrophic failure, the Windows.old file allowed users to recover files and keys.
  • Use targeted communication, Microsoft IT deployed an application to notify users that they would receive the upgrade installation at a defined point in the future. The app notified users on the desktop to avoid being overlooked in the inbox.
  • Schedule mandatory updates to minimize user impact. Microsoft IT ensured that mandatory updates were pushed out during days and times that the most computers would be connected to the corporate network. There was less impact on the help desk, and it helped reduce support costs by roughly 50 percent.

As Windows 10 marks the transition of software deployment for Microsoft, it seems safe to assume the company will continue to internally tweak its methods for both consumers and business adoption of its products. With the relative success of Windows 10 releasing to the public, it looks as though Microsoft and its Canary testers, Fast & Best program, Windows 10 Insider previews and in-place upgrades are helping to guide the company in an excellent direction.