Microsoft leak reveals new Windows 10 Workstation edition for power users

It’s been more than 20 years since Microsoft used the Workstation branding in its Windows 4.0 Workstation edition, but it appears the company is ready to bring it back. Twitter users @AndItsTito and @GrandMofongo have discovered references to a new edition of Windows 10 in a build Microsoft accidentally released to testers last week. Described as “Windows 10 Pro for Advanced PCs,” the new version appears to cater for significant hardware demands.

In a leaked slide, Microsoft describes the edition as “Windows 10 Pro for Workstation” with four main capabilities:

Microsoft is clearly targeting this new edition of Windows 10 to power users who are processing mass amounts of data each day. This will likely be used mostly in enterprise scenarios, and the software giant appears to still be working on the exact feature set and naming.

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Isn’t there the Windows 10 Enterprise version for this?

Not really the same. Majority of enterprise users won’t need 6TB of RAM and 4 CPU support or ReFS enabled. Makes sense this is a separate SKU focused on really high-end compute.

they might not need it but doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be available.

Seems silly to have another SKU. There is too many versions floating about now.

Enterprise, pro, LTSB, that new version for surface that only runs store apps.

Making it available means more cost baked into the enterprise SKU for no reason. It’s not as simple as making specialized features available to all, otherwise who pays for them?

Restrictive CPU counts and memory capacity isn’t a "specialized feature". It’s market segmentation intended to maximize revenue and as such is obviously and blatantly anti-consumer. Microsoft is a master at crippling their products to segment the market. It isn’t disingenuous for us to complain about it.

Workstation mode, ReFS, and SMBDirect are real features, assuming workstation mode isn’t useless cruft like "game mode".

Complain all you want, it doesn’t make it less dumb. Nobody is forcing you to buy this new OS version. Feel free to continue using what you already have.

Aren’t we entitled to complain, at least?

An improved file system and network standards are the kind of innovation that should be available to all the users base, not a few.

Maybe but remember that most people won’t go out of their way to use the new filesystem, they’ll buy a new Windows laptop with it preinstalled or upgrade in place but they won’t be formatting disks and clean installing Windows on their own. Microsoft does have to make sure that ReFS won’t screw things up for their large consumer base when they do upgrade to a new system. Remember that a new filesystem is not so easy as a simple add-in, after all, btrfs on Linux can cause problems, apfs on MacOS can cause problems, etc. The workstation and server crowd can figure out how to resolve problems like inability to boot but the average consumer won’t.

But if the new file system has such advantages, it should be expected that it comes preinstalled in new computers or, at the very least, give the option to savvy users. I’m not saying all computers should be upgraded on the fly to the new system, à la iOS 10.3, although it would be nice.

What’s sure, it doesn’t make sense for a company to develop a new file system only to be used by <0.5% of their user base. And if it is a beta, why make it only available to that segment where, for many, stability is critical?

RAM and processor count support might make sense for segmentation and revenue management, though.

I found this: https://ctrl.blog/entry/adventures-in-refs

Apparently, it is present in W10 Professional so I think "savvy users" have access to it anyway (if you’re using Home then I don’t think you’ll go out of your way to use a brand new somewhat experimental filesystem).

But here’s a few points from the article to keep in mind:

  • You can format a drive with ReFS using Disk Management or PowerShell in Windows 10 Professional. The option is unavailable in Windows 10 Home edition.
  • There is no support for NTFS features like per-file compression nor encryption. Full disk encryption with BitLocker seems to be supported, but I haven’t verified that.
  • Windows Search worked fine even with advanced queries.
  • Windows Backup (a.k.a. File History) will let you backup to and from a ReFS formatted disk. This is probably a bad idea, however, as File History relies on a lot of NTFS features.
  • Windows Store can’t install any Windows Apps to an ReFS formatted disk. It’s listed as an available installation destination, but the Store app will thrown an exception if you try to install to it. ReFS doesn’t implement the necessary parts of NTFS’ access control entries required to enforce Windows Store’s app licensing technology.
  • I installed a couple of programs to an ReFS formatted disk, and most failed to start.
  • All programs I tried could open and save changes to existing files to an ReFS formatted disk. However, about half of them had problems creating new files.
  • I got a steady 70 MB/s when copying a large number of small files onto a ReFS formatted disk. I got speeds varying from 150–180 MB/s with the same file set when copying it to the same disk formatted as NTFS.

Yeah, it’s still not there for "home" users or even for install for most apps, especially without Store support. It’s mostly a server data back-end type of infrastructure, also I don’t think booting from ReFS is available yet. Might not even make sense for most of the heavy data workloads where reliability isn’t required but higher performance is (a lot of copy-on-write filesystems (like APFS or BTRFS) aren’t as fast in raw performance as other architectures especially with data error checking (checksumming) enabled).

What’s sure, it doesn’t make sense for a company to develop a new file system only to be used by <0.5% of their user base

Sure but there’s a difference between client and server workloads, and like it or not Microsoft kept NTFS off of most Windows Home PCs as well while they made 3.1/95/98/98SE/ME.

why make it only available to that segment where, for many, stability is critical?

Right now, because it’s so new, it only has certain uses. Maybe you might use it for storing VM images, or a large filesystem repository. Stability is critical indeed, though, so that’s why most enterprise customers are moving cautiously or not moving yet to this filesystem for their Windows Server products.

Ok thanks. I had the impression it was more polished than it is.

Yeah! On the other hand, I can post on the internet without insulting everybody in sight. So at least I’ve got that.

Funny thing is, I actually remember MS making a concerted effort to reduce the amount of SKU bloat post Win 7, and now here we go back again.

Perhaps it’s indicative of them needing the added sku’s, but I think it’s just bloat creeping in again. Microsoft makes progress like dance moves. One step forward, one step back, do si do.

Heck, I’m expecting a mobile ‘reboot’ about any day now.

ReFS was also baked into 2012 R2 and 2016 server products.
It’s already been developed and paid for, i see no reason for the technology to be restricted from enterprise.

"Anti-consumer" is a weird term to throw at a version of Windows that consumers won’t be running. I don’t see this as market segmentation at all, do you think there should only be one version of Samsung’s Galaxy phones too? Windows Server has Active Directory, web application proxy, nano server images, and fail over clusters… do you want those features in your consumer version of Windows too? ReFS is already in Windows 10 Pro, and no normal consumers will be using Workstation mode or SMBDirect.

Samsung segments their market too. You don’t hear much about them much on enthusiast sites like the Verge, but they don’t just sell $600+ phones like the Galaxy S and Note series. They also sell much cheaper phones like the C7 and J7. The difference is that consumers aren’t offended by market segmentation in the hardware space, because a Samsung Galaxy C7 isn’t just a Samsung Galaxy S7 with restricted features, it’s a legitimately different product in the real world.

Last I heard, ReFS on normal Windows 10 is limited to mirroring disks. You can’t do any of the cool stuff with it.

We don’t know what workstation mode is, so I can’t speak to it.

SMBdirect requires hardware clearly not targeting consumers, but there’s no particular reason to restrict it to a separate SKU other than market segmentation. If you want that feature, you pay more.

This is a textbook example of market segmentation. Not to say it’s intrinsically a bad thing, though.

It’s market segmentation intended to maximize revenue and as such is obviously and blatantly anti-consumer.

It’s definitely market segmentation but it’s not anti-consumer, it’s necessary to not eliminate their server license business. They’re taking Windows Server and offering it at a lower price with fewer features.

I believe market segmentation in this manner, crippling features in software, is inherently anti-consumer.

What is the basis for labelling this "anti-consumer"?
Software is a good, as real as any phone Samsung ever made, it takes highly skilled human beings to develop code, to maintain the code, and to service it should there be problems, just the very same way it takes resources to make any Samsung phone. Why then, can a provider of software not segment out the cost of portions of that code that are useful to some segment, and offer it to them for a price? Or conversely, "cripple" the software and offer simpler versions at lower price to the many, who don’t need more power, and the fully powered version at higher price to the few?

For example, I am a plebian consumer, and I will never use any of these features listed for this new version. If Microsoft were forced to offer the same code to all, and they had the very same revenue requirement, then they are forced to charge me a higher price, so that this power user can pay the same rate, then I subsidized the power user. How does this benefit me? If by some magic you could force Microsoft to offer all these features and charge the same as what they are charging now, then the benefit goes to only the power user, at Microsoft’s expense (but more bloat, and more crashes for all other windows users, or Microsoft, to manage, perhaps). So, in practice this just turns into a campaign by people who want highly specialized software developed at great cost either for free incremental cost to themselves, or subsidized by others for themselves. So you would be right if you said it is "anti-small group of consumers" in the sense that hey, its a dog eat dog world, if I can force the software provider to work for free then, good for me, bad for them, and vice versa. But trying to claim the mantle for all consumers seems like force multiplication.

What am I getting wrong here?

Imagine Tesla made a car in two versions, the Y1 and Z1, with the exact same hardware. The Z1 costs $200k and can accelerate 0-60 in 3 seconds, the Y1 costs $175k and takes 4 seconds. But the only difference is the software. That is anti-consumer.

You do realize they did exactly this, right?

Why should a Windows Home user pay for (and therefore fund) advanced features he will never use?

It’s not just market segmentation for the sake of revenue – it’s also segmentation to isolate ongoing R&D and support costs.

I think you’ve confused anti-consumer with anti-communist

I’m doubtful this sku will ever be known/marketed to the general consumer at all. Few outside of the power user techie / enterprise circles will ever even know this exists.

This SKU runs quad socket monster workstations. Microsoft limits socket count to ensure people don’t use Windows 10 Pro as a datacenter server. A quad socket Windows Server SKU will cost like $8,000. That $8,000 though lets you run infinite copies of Windows virtualized on itself. Virtualized copies of Windows aren’t that useful to a Workstation so this will be a middle ground that probably offers 0 Virtual Machine licenses but lets you run on Server Class hardware.

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