By: Alberto Jimenez, Sr. Systems Administrator
The Microsoft Windows operating system has been a ubiquitous part of the home and business computing space since version 3.11 released back in 1990. Over the years, Microsoft has made sweeping changes to its cash cow to improve the user interface, add personal and business-oriented features, and improve performance, reliability, security, and scalability. Its latest addition to the Windows family of products, Windows Server 2022, comes equipped with a few noteworthy upgrades, some of which may easily be overlooked.
Starting with their different versions, Microsoft has released Windows Server 2022 in Essentials (selected as Standard during install, but with a different license), Standard, Datacenter, and Azure Datacenter editions. All editions allow you to select from either a Server Core installation or a Desktop Experience installation. The Server Core installation omits a graphical interface (GUI) and enforces management locally via PowerShell or remotely using tools such as the Windows Admin Center, while the Desktop Experience installation includes the GUI which looks identical to Windows Server 2019.
As usual, the lower-level editions (i.e., Essentials) include less features than the higher-level editions (i.e., Datacenter). The differences between Windows Server editions from Essentials to Datacenter remain relatively unchanged, so we will go over only the top, entirely new features in Windows Server 2022.
To start with, Microsoft has added a new edition called Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Azure Edition, which supports hybrid cloud installations. This premium edition includes all the features of Standard and Datacenter, but is also supported on Azure IaaS or Azure Stack HCI – 21H2 and provides features exclusive to those environments, including the new Hotpatching (patching without restarting), SMB over QUIC (secure access to files over the internet, without a VPN), and Azure Extended Networking (extends an on-premises network to Azure with private connectivity).
Apart from edition differences, Windows Server 2022 introduces some core innovations on the storage front. Storage bus cache with Storage Spaces is a new technology ideal for standalone servers that improves read/write performance by binding faster media (SSD) with slower media (HDD) to create storage tiers. The advanced caching logic automatically places the most frequently accessed data on the fastest volumes while placing the less accessed data on slower, higher capacity volumes. Also, ReFS now supports file level snapshots via a method called fast metadata operations which allows snapshots at a constant time, regardless of size.
Noteworthy improvements to security include DNS-over-HTTPS, SMB AES-256 and SMB East-West encryption, TLS 1.3, Azure Arc, and Azure Automanage. There are also enhancements in hardware trust, firmware protection, and virtual environment security.
Networking services have also gained a boost from significant improvements to the UDP and TCP protocols. UDP Segmentation Offload (USO) and UDP Receive Side Coalescing (UDP RSC) reduce CPU load. TCP HyStart++ and RACK can also improve performance when there is packet loss. Lastly, virtual switches have been enhanced in Windows Server 2022 to improve network traffic performance from an external host or between virtual NICs on the same host.
While most improvements are under the hood, Windows Server 2022 aims to bridge on-premises Windows environments with Azure cloud environments while adding a healthy dose of speed, security, and flexibility.