Managing Windows 10 Update Traffic

Ok, so we’ve talked the basics, and I’ve covered update channels, but there’s something else I need to talk to you about – something that may trip you up! 

What about all this update traffic?

So we know there’ll be at least two Windows 10 Feature Updates a year, and don’t forget those monthly Quality Updates. The thing is, these updates come in various sizes, and the size of the update will depend on the target Windows 10 version

If the target OS is reasonably up to date, the update will be smaller than if the target OS is older. As an example,  Feature Update 20H2 can be as small as 100MB if the target OS is Windows 10 20H1 but if the target OS is running Windows 10 1909 the update could be as large as 3GB!

Consider the scenario – all your Windows 10 1909 machines downloading 3GB each from the Internet – not fun!

Where is the update source?

The content for the update, whether it be Feature or Quality, needs to be acquired from somewhere, and if the source is the Windows Update Servers on the Internet, consider the impact of all your Windows 10 devices downloading 3GB across your Internet link.

Of course, there are ways to reduce the amount of data downloaded from the internet,  a local content source would be a good solution and one we will look at later in this blog series, but there are other options. Windows 10 offers two peer-to-peer options for update content distribution:

  • Delivery Optimisation
  • Branch Cache

These technologies can be used in combination with servicing tools, such as ConfigMgr, WSUS and Intune, to make further reductions in bandwidth utilisation

Delivery Optimisation

Delivery Optimisation is a cloud-managed solution that allows clients to source update content from other devices on the local network that have already downloaded the update, or from peers over the Internet.

Access to the Delivery Optimisation cloud services is a requirement, devices must have access to the internet to use the peer-to-peer functionality of Delivery Optimisation.

Delivery Optimisation can be enabled and controlled in Windows 10 settings by Group Policy or by an MDM solution such as Intune. Delivery Optimisation significantly reduces the amount of network traffic to external Windows Update sources and reduce time taken for clients to retrieve the updates.

The following link details how to setup Delivery Optimisation: Setting Up Delivery Optimisation

BranchCache

BranchCache is a bandwidth optimisation technology that is included in some editions of Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 operating systems, as well as in some editions of Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows 7.

BranchCache has two operating modes:

  • Distributed Cache mode is similar to Delivery Optimisation. Each client contains a cached version of the BranchCache-enabled files it requests and acts as a distributed cache for other clients requesting that same file.

This mode is recommended for peer caching between Windows 10 devices.

  • With Hosted Cache mode, designated servers at specific locations act as a cache for files requested by clients in its area. Then, rather than clients retrieving files from a latent source, the hosted cache server provides the content on its behalf.

BranchCache can be enabled and configured by Group Policy or and MDM such as Intune. 

The following link details how to setup BranchCache: Setting up BranchCache

Summary

Updates can be huge, around 4GB would not be out of the ordinary for a Feature Update. We need to ensure that available bandwidth is used efficiently and that update traffic will not cause network saturation. Delivery Optimisation and BranchCache are two ways of achieving this.

If you’re working to manage Windows 10 upgrades and updates, make sure you check out our webinar next month – I’ll be running through the design decisions you need to make to create a tailored Windows 10 deployment and servicing strategy for your organisation. 

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