Windows Server 2022 is out. The release of a new version of Windows Server used to be a pretty big thing. Not as big as the launch of Windows 95, of course, but still pretty important in the eyes of the tech media and IT community. In other words, people didn’t get up and dance when a new version of Windows Server arrived. In fact, the last version of Windows Server that I really got excited about was Windows Server 2012 and the follow-up release of Windows Server 2012 R2. Since then, not much has been happening in the Windows Server world that has interested me personally. Why?
Focus on the cloud
Well, for one thing, the cloud. When Steve Ballmer stepped down from Microsoft leadership in 2014 (miss you, Steve!) and Satya Nadella took control, the Microsoft behemoth began shifting from selling software to selling services from the cloud. This change in focus had an inevitable impact on the direction they would evolve future versions of Windows Server and Windows too if we’re to believe that Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud PC will be the next big thing in client computing.
Specifically, the Windows Server versions after 2012 R2 became tailored more and more toward the needs of the datacenters that provide the underlying foundation for what we call the cloud. For example, version 2016 of Windows Server included an installation option called Nano Server that provided a headless instance of Windows Server that you could only manage remotely, making it ideal for large datacenter deployments. Version 2019 then dived deeper into the cloud with built-in support for Kubernetes and Linux containers to take advantage of the growing popularity of containerization and the DevOps paradigm. And now we have Windows Server 2022, which we’ll see in a moment carries this direction even further.
But are many smaller businesses still happy to run Windows Server on-premises instead of handing over everything to the cloud? Aren’t there still lots of large Active Directory deployments around that can benefit from further improvements and tweaks to the evolving Windows Server platform? Both of these may be true, but the reality is that Redmond doesn’t seem to have much interest in these customers anymore, despite what they say in their messaging about Windows Server. The reality for Redmond is that the cloud is the future of everything — it seems they’ve fully embraced Apple’s walled garden approach. Expect the day to arrive, perhaps not too distant in the future, when Windows Server is only marketed to datacenter customers, or perhaps even evolves into a bare-metal hypervisor solution like VMware that runs mostly Linux — and probably Microsoft’s own version of Linux.
Those of us who run WServerNews are well aware of this evolution. This newsletter (we have others too!), which was started by Stu Sjouwerman way back in 1997, was originally called W2Knews and its purpose was described in the first issue like this:
You read this because you run an NT server and probably many more than just one. In this newsletter, we try to give you an overview of the market with an NT focus, but to a large extent also what is happening in the 3-rd party tools and application area.
For the initial years of its existence, W2Knews focused mostly on the NT/2000 server platform with included coverage of server applications like Exchange Server and SQL Server plus frequent dips into the Windows clients of that time. And in 2005, the newsletter was renamed WServerNews. Its topicality slowly broadened to include a greater focus on cybersecurity and coverage of Microsoft’s early cloud initiatives such as SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. Then in late 2011, the newsletter was acquired by TechGenix, and Ingrid and I became its editors at the start of 2012. We’ve now been at the helm of WServerNews for almost a decade, and as our readers may have noticed, we’ve been focusing less on the Windows Server platform and more on matters of current relevance to IT professionals — security and privacy being two of the biggies in terms of topics frequently dealt with. Not that this is any different from how Stu originally ran the newsletter — his mix of topics covered was pretty much as eclectic as what we cover today in WServerNews.
But if most of our newsletter coverage is not about Windows Server, why do we still call it WServerNews? Shouldn’t we rebrand it, maybe calling it GenericTechStuff or perhaps something more millennial like BlueBubbleBaboon? Nah, we’ll keep it forever named WServerNews even if we only occasionally devote an issue to the Windows Server platform.
Which brings us back to talking about Windows Server 2022. Is there anything new and exciting in this new version as far as businesses are concerned?
What’s new in Windows Server 2022
First and perhaps most important for the IT crowd is that Microsoft has finally decided to stop those annoying Semi-Annual Channel releases of Windows Server that have been unnecessarily consuming the time and energy of sysadmins and IT departments. Windows Server 2022 will instead follow the release pattern of previous versions 2016 and 2019 — Long-Term Servicing Channel releases with five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support. This change also means no more confusing version naming like Windows Server version 2004 (um, was that the successor to Windows Server 2003?) or Windows Server version 20H2 (is that hexadecimal or just a typo?) or other such nonsense. Anyways, kudos to Microsoft for making this change, and also for soon releasing Windows 11 and ditching the silly labeling of biannual Windows 10 versions.
Second, Windows Server 2022 running on select OEM hardware can provide enhanced security under an umbrella concept called “secured-core server,” which could better protect your sensitive business data through a combination of hardware, firmware, and drivers. There’s a short overview of secured-core computing in this ITOps Talk blog post but we’ll probably hear more about it in the upcoming Windows Server Summit on September 16, where Microsoft will provide us with their in-coverage of Windows Server 2022’s new features and capabilities. While this is probably more just marketing than innovation, any improvements in the security of the platform are always appreciated.
Third (and this is no surprise), this new release of Windows Server will be more tightly integrated into the Microsoft cloud than ever before. The built-in Azure hybrid capabilities of the new platform will make it easier than ever before for enterprises to extend their datacenters to Azure — if that’s something they want to do, of course. The new Azure Edition, an offshoot of Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Edition, supports hotpatching, which — if it works as intended — will bring big benefits for maintaining virtualized Windows Server workloads running in the Azure IaaS cloud. Kudos to Microsoft for this as well, since patching has been one of the biggest pain points of companies I’ve talked to.
Fourth, Microsoft has made a number of improvements to container support in Windows Server 2022. I must confess that while these improvements are indeed to be applauded, they may not generate that much interest in the Kubernetes-obsessed DevOps world, simply because the Linux platform still reigns supreme in that part of the devosphere. And another benefit of upgrading to Windows Server 2022 will be 5+5 years of support for all container images.
Fifth, enterprises that utilize Windows Server Failover Clustering to ensure high availability for their mission-critical workloads will be happy about several improvements Microsoft has made to this feature in Windows Server 2022. Two of these improvements that have to do with AutoSites and Clustering Affinity were ported over from Azure Stack HCI version 20H2. But most important in my mind is the creation of an additional key protector for clusters when BitLocker Drive Encryption is utilized. This will allow cluster volumes to be mounted even when a domain controller is unavailable, which ensures continued availability when things go wrong.
Sixth, for those who deploy web services on the Windows Server platform, there is the interesting development of Microsoft adding native support for hosting HTTP/3 services on Windows Server 2022. HTTP/3 is based on a transport layer protocol called QUIC developed by Google to make establishing secure sessions faster and more efficient. While this may be useful for companies hosting streaming services, online games, or VoIP services, I’m not sure if many enterprises currently on Windows Server will be likely to make much use of this improvement.
Besides the above noteworthy improvements and the meager documentation currently online for Windows Server 2022, we’ll have to wait and see what’s announced at the upcoming Windows Server Summit happening later this month. In the meantime, you may want to try out Windows Server 2022 by downloading the eval version in ISO or VHD format or by trying it out for free in Azure. (It’s a free trial but you’ll need to provide a credit card.)
Something to get excited about? Maybe
So, am I excited about Windows Server 2022? Well, yes — a little bit. But we’ll see how things develop once we’ve had some time to play around with it. Stay tuned for more.
This article is an expanded version of a story that previously appeared in WServerNews.
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