Windows 10 Pro for Workstations: If You Wanna Play, You Gotta Pay

Posted on August 11, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 47 Comments

Microsoft Announces Windows 10 for Workstations

Confirming earlier rumors, Microsoft has announced Windows 10 for Workstations, a new product version aimed at power users with high-performance PCs.

As I’ve noted many times, however—most recently in There Should Be Only One Windows 10 Product Edition—there, um, should be only one Windows 10 product edition. And this kind of money grab, because that’s all it is, just obscures the fact that Windows is technologically advanced enough to adapt to many different form factors and use cases. All Microsoft really needs to do is license it differently to different customer types. Which, by the way, it already does too.

Also, and seriously, this is the third new SKU (product edition) announced this year alone, alongside Windows 10 S and Windows 10 Business (part of Microsoft 365). We’re hitting at some real subtle shades here.

Obligation fulfilled, I will step off the soapbox. Well, I’ll keep one foot on it just in case.

“Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is a high-end edition of Windows 10 Pro, comes with unique support for server grade PC hardware and is designed to meet demanding needs of mission critical and compute intensive workloads,” Microsoft’s Klaus Diaconu explains. “Windows 10 Pro designed to meet the needs of our advanced users deploying their Workstation PCs in demanding and mission-critical scenarios.”

Here’s what we know about Windows 10 Pro for Workstations.

It has a great name. He says sarcastically.

It will become available with the Fall Creators Update, or Windows 10 version 1709.

It was created in response to feedback from the Windows Insider Program, which I find to be incredible. (Not the good kind.) There has to be a mountain of feedback about broken and out of date technologies in Windows 10 (File Explorer as an obvious example), and what bubbled up was the need for yet another product edition? Really?

The value proposition is to increase the performance and reliability of high-end PCs. Which one might argue should simply be the goal of Windows 10, generally, on all PCs, generally.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations utilizes ReFS (the Resilient file system) for what Microsoft calls “cloud-grade resiliency for data on fault-tolerant storage spaces.” It also uses persistent memory, so that the contents of RAM are retained during power-downs. And it utilizes SMB Direct for faster file sharing when used with specialty network controllers.

It will support higher-end PC configurations than other Windows 10 product editions, including “server grade” Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors with up to 4 CPUs (normally limited to 2 CPUs) and up to 6 TB of RAM (normally limited to 2 TB).

There is no word on pricing. Because if you have to ask, well, you know the drill.

What I see here, honestly, is a set of features that should simply be included in Windows 10 Pro. And that the only reason to break them out into a new SKU is to charge customers more for the privilege of using them. It reminds me of the luxury car market, and maybe, as there, some of these high-end features will filter down to the underclass over time.


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Comments (47)

47 responses to “Windows 10 Pro for Workstations: If You Wanna Play, You Gotta Pay”

  1. colin79666

    Normal Windows 10 Pro lets you format as ReFS so I'm not sure that is a selling point for workstation.

  2. Waethorn

    "Windows 10 Pro for Workstations utilizes ReFS (the Resilient file system) for what Microsoft calls “cloud-grade resiliency for data on fault-tolerant storage spaces"

    Can you even use Azure Backup with ReFS? Last time I looked, Microsoft's own business cloud backup service doesn't support backing up anything but NTFS file systems. Same for OneDrive for Business, as it is for OneDrive for consumers.

  3. MikeGalos

    Fantastic news. The people doing serious scientific and engineering computing have been screaming for this for a while now and the OEMs serving that market will be building high-end boxes for that market and competing on performance and reliability and enjoying the higher profits those machines bring in.

    Now, granted, it's not of much use to those who debate "Should I get an iPad or PC to read Facebook and watch movies on plane trips?" but seeing that it isn't meant for them, who cares?

    As to the horrible confusion of there being <gasp> multiple versions of Windows 10 on the market, what a horror. Why I remember the equivalent screaming from Ford dealers who knew their customers would be horribly confused about their Ford Fiestas and stop buying them when the Ford GT was announced.

    And seeing how virtually NOBODY buys an operating system at retail (aside from a few system builders who, hopefully, have figured out which components they want) and seeing how most Windows versions aren't even sold to consumers, more snide comments about how computer purchasers are too stupid to understand how to choose among a handful of products really adds nothing to the discussion.

    I'd really have preferred an article or series of articles discussing the pros and cons of ReFS and SMBDirect and Persistent Memory including things like how much extra the relevant network controllers and RAM mean in pricing to a high end system and when those features are advantageous and when they're just overhead. You know, something useful for the people who actually DO care about technology rather than just snark about an issue that really makes no difference in a product that is designed to, sell to people who read specs and know advanced technology and don't buy their high-end workstation like they buy breakfast cereal.

  4. Narg

    I'm sure there is a LOT of development time in some of these high end features. So why wouldn't they charge more for this version if it has those features?

  5. MikeGalos

    A note about hardware

    To really take advantage of Windows 10 Pro for Workstations you likely need new hardware since its features support hardware that's not generally seen or even available in general consumer PCs.

    To use ReFS effectively you need an array of multiple hard drives

    To use Persistent Memory at all you need a system that uses NVDIMM-N as its RAM

    To use SMB Direct at all you need network adapters that support RDMA

    To get a benefit from the improved processor support you need 3 or 4 CPUs

    To get a benefit from the improved memory support you need more than 2TB of RAM (ideally NVDIMM-N)

    This is not a product you'll buy at Best Buy. It's a product that will be pre-installed on your $10,000 engineering workstation. Which is kind of why the pricing is "If you have to ask, you're an OEM building high-end systems".

  6. Waethorn

    Funny how this isn't set up for per-core licensing. I expect that to be a thing coming soon.

  7. StephenCWLL

    This came in response to feedback from the Insider Program????? That just about sums up how worthless submitting feedback is becoming.

  8. jrswarr

    "There is no such thing as a free lunch" - all things get paid for one way or another. Since Microsoft doesn't have the luxury of making its margin on it's hardware like Apple - it has to figure out how to make money selling software. Having them roll this functionality into Pro is like saying a sports franchise should be selling their tickets for one flat price regardless of the location of the seat. Hey - that ain't gonna happen.

  9. bsd107

    I don't get the complaints about this. How many people have more than 2 CPUs or 2TB of RAM? Supporting such rare hardware must add to their development and support costs. I do agree that this is just a way to get more money from the few folks who need these features. But this is not a hit on the general public, or even general business.

    Hopefully they won't remove ReFS from Win 10 Pro. Although I've been afraid to use it myself on the desktop so far...

  10. ndwilder

    Wait...MS really just resurrected the name Windows for Workgroups/Workstations? Just when you thought they had the dumpster fire under control, they add more gas. This reminds me of the BS 32Gb limit on Windows Server Standard 2008/2012...locked solely by software...because in the System Panel, it recognizes the extra memory. All that's in the way is the code. Meanwhile, Windows 7/8 would take 192gb of memory out of the box... Further reminds me of Windows 7 Ultimate, which was a huge slap in the face.

  11. PeteB

    Hope they added a telemetry off switch and opt out. Otherwise they don't really value power users and this new hundredth new 10 SKU is just a marketing fart.

  12. hrlngrv

    Free market. What the market will bear. There's one born every minute.

    Since Windows XP, MSFT has wanted to adopt airline pricing, eliminating as much consumer surplus as possible. This is just MSFT's step in extracting as much money from arguably willing customers as possible. What's the big deal?

    Is there going to be a new version of OneDrive for Business to go along with Windows Pro Workstation which works well with ReFS drive partitions? Perhaps OneDrive for Workstations?

  13. hrlngrv

    Tangent: software companies stating that their customers requested curios or bizarre products or features is their particular variant of the check is in the mail or I look just like my <name an online dating site> photo. Best just to accept it as sarcasm rather than agonize over the falsity.

  14. Tony Barrett

    I'm sure most ultra high end workstations would be running Linux anyway - an OS so much more geared for this MS wouldn't even know where to start.

  15. Minok

    Microsoft: There will only be Windows 10 going forward.


    Microsoft: here is the 18th variation of Windows 10....

  16. DWAnderson

    If ReFS is its file system, does that mean OneDrive will not work with Windows 10 Pro Workstation?

    • IanYates82

      In reply to DWAnderson:

      I don't know if you can boot from ReFS yet, so there would still be at least one NTFS partition. Besides, on a workstation like this, you're likely to have many drives mounted, some raided, and probably using mount points rather than yet another drive letter for each one. Onedrive will have a home on there somewhere.

  17. yaddamaster

    Microsoft maintains an army of sales and marketing people just to think up crap like this. As a developer, I remember in the late 90's sitting in meetings being astounded at the level of obfuscation being thought up by Microsoft sales people.

  18. madthinus

    The only real gain here is the amount of physical processors you can now run under Pro SKU, which we can argue is moot, considering chips like Skylake X and AMD Threadripper.

  19. Matthew Steeples

    "It also uses persistent memory, so that the contents of RAM are retained during power-downs" - Not quite. It 'supports' persistent memory, so the contents of specially purchased devices will be retained during power-downs. RAM will still get wiped when you switch the computer off, and no software patch will fix that

  20. matsan

    The USP for this SKU would be of they disable the automatic driver update that is the worst part of Windows 10 1703 currently. Professional software is in many cases certified with a very specific version of drivers (display adapter drivers is what I know and work with in CAD applications). If support is required this is the first thing they will require you to fix and - lo and behold - this fixes 90% of the problems. However, a roll-back now a days is not that easy.

    • Narg

      In reply to matsan:

      Considering that drivers are often targets of viruses, your concern is not very well thought out. Plus, if you keep your drivers updated where they need to be, then WU will never send you one anyway. This driver argument is getting old and quite stupid.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to Narg:

        The driver argument is NOT stupid. When you talk to Independent Software Vendors ("ISV's") that certify hardware to work with their professional software, (you know, companies like Autodesk and Adobe that rule their market) they certify the hardware with specific driver versions, which is exactly what Microsoft does when they certify OEM hardware for the Windows logo. If you run their software with uncertified driver versions for hardware that is certified, you won't get support from them. And companies pay HUUUUGE money for support contracts from these types of ISV's because it can be critical for the operation of their business. Imagine if the THOUSANDS of dollars for a support contract is nullified because Microsoft pushed a driver update that isn't certified. THAT's why it's not stupid!

      • CompUser

        In reply to Narg: "... f you keep your drivers updated where they need to be, then WU will never send you one ..."
        That is absolutely not a true statement, especially with video cards. I've had many occasions when I've installed the latest video card driver from AMD, only to have Microsoft remove it and reinstall its own Microsoft driver.

      • matsan

        In reply to Narg:

        I am personally fighting a constant battle of Intel display drivers that are not compatible with my java runtime. Rollback and reinstall galore after every windows update. I couldn't care less of being on the latest Intel 5000 driver - I want a computer that works with my applications. I am so sorry for that!

      • matsan

        In reply to Narg:

        If you are a gamer you may be correct - I don't know and I don't care. Gamers probably run beta versions of the drivers anyway, downloaded from some bittorrent.

        Professionals are still using Windows 10 but they are migrating to Windows 7 I have noticed lately.

        • Waethorn

          In reply to matsan:

          I would bet dollars to dognuts that Microsoft just wants to confuse and aggravate people so badly that they would have to move to Azure to simplify their application deployment.

          I mean, they certainly aren't doing much to keep consumers on the platform.

          This is what happens when you have a logical engineer running the show. They have no "vision guy" anymore. I would bet money that if they had Nadella running Microsoft since 2000, nobody would be using Windows by now.

  21. Darren.Jones

    windows 10 can already utilizes ReFS, but you can't use it with the new one drive software, go figure

  22. nightmare99

    Can we have ReFS as a boot volume yet?

  23. david e

    I have a workstation-class computer at home and would like to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations for better its supposely improved reliability and performance, but good luck finding a way to get it. I find it ridiculous for them to even have this product as its featured should be in all Windows version.