Microsoft Highlights Windows Server 2022 Integration with Azure Services in Summit Talk

Microsoft had a lot to say about Windows Server 2022 in its 1.5-hour Windows Server Summit online event, held on Sept. 16.

Many of Windows Server 2022's features are associated with security enhancements, although there are some performance improvements, such as SMB compression, which speeds up file transfers. A new Security Baseline release for Windows Server 2022 was announced earlier this month.

A broad outline of the product's features can be found in this June Microsoft discussion on Windows Server 2022. Microsoft's experts have also more recently described specific Windows Server 2022 capabilities, including containers support, failover clustering, file services, enabling HTTP/3 and storage innovations.

Some of the more interesting features are just associated with the Datacenter Azure edition of the product, which is still at the preview stage.

The Windows Server Summit talk typically focused on all of the other products and services that will work with Windows Server 2022. There was lots of discussion about Microsoft's services, particularly Azure Arc for multicloud management and the Azure Kubernetes Service for container orchestration. Demos showed off these capabilities.

This article just briefly touches on some of the services integrations that were discussed. The talk is currently available on demand to get more details.

Learning Help
Microsoft is helping IT pros get up to speed on the new server product by introducing seven new Windows Server learning paths.

Microsoft also created a new Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate certification. It will be released in "early December 2021."

General Availability and Editions
Windows Server 2022 reached "general availability" commercial-release product status on Sept. 1. It's available in three editions: Datacenter, Standard and Essentials.

Microsoft also has a "Datacenter Azure" edition of Windows Server 2022 that's still at the preview stage. The Datacenter Azure edition is just for using Windows Server 2022 on Azure virtual machines or on the Azure Stack HCI on-premises product. Microsoft's Azure Automanage feature with a Hotpatch capability is currently only available when using the Datacenter Azure edition of Windows Server 2022.

A trial version of the server can be downloaded at Microsoft's Evaluation Center page.

Windows Server 2022 and Customer Needs
Microsoft developed Windows Server 2022 to address customer needs, according to Bernardo Caldas, vice president of program management of Azure Core OS and edge infrastructure, during the talk.

Caldas outlined those needs as follows:

  • Modernize apps in a consistent way, leveraging existing tools and skill sets.
  • Manage apps at scale across distributed environments, while ensuring security and compliance.
  • Modernize on-premises Windows server infrastructure with Azure services.
  • Migrate to the cloud and take advantage of elastic compute in a cost-effective way.

Caldas contended that Windows Server 2022 adds improvements in all of these areas, along with providing advanced security and "hybrid" capabilities that integrate with Azure services.

Windows Server 2022 Features
New Windows Server 2022 features, such as its default use of TLS 1.3, SMB encryption (via AES-256) and SMB compression for faster file transfers, plus its use with the Storage Migration service and Azure File Sync, were all described during the talk by Jeff Woolsey, principal program manager of Windows Server.

Woolsey suggested that Windows Server 2022 would meet the needs of organizations running SQL Server on bare metal.

"Windows Server 2022 supports up to 48 terabytes of memory -- that's not a typo -- 48 terabytes of memory, and up to 2,048 logical processors per physical host," Woolsey said. "I surely hope that's enough for you guys."

Other advancements mentioned by Woolsey included:

  • A longer support lifecycle for Kubernetes containers, from 18 months to five years.
  • Windows Server Core container image size reduced by a gigabyte.
  • A Nano Server "ultralight" offering for new app development on Server Core.
  • Windows Server base image support for building apps that use GPUs for machine learning.
  • A new Azure Migrate containerization app to containerize existing Windows Server apps.

Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Azure Edition Features
Woolsey also outlined the features associated with the Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Azure edition product. This product contains "all the Datacenter edition features," plus "Azure and Windows Server combined innovation," Woolsey said.

Windows Server 2022 Datacenter Azure edition features include:

  • Hot-patching, an in-memory process that dispenses with restarts and reboots. It's an Azure Automanage feature that requires using Server Core, Woolsey indicated.
  • SMB over QUIC, described as a secure "alternative to the TCP network transport" providing VPN support for telecommuters and mobile users.
  • Azure Extended Networking for moving apps to the cloud that need to maintain the same IP addresses. It preserves "on-premises private IP addresses, when migrating into Azure."

Azure Stack HCI
There was a heavy focus during the talk on the use of Azure Stack HCI, which is Microsoft's "Azure in a box" appliance for running Azure services on customer-premises infrastructure. The hardware used with Azure Stack HCI has to be certified by Microsoft's hardware partners.

Microsoft is planning to release "a major feature update coming later this year called Azure Stack HCI version 21H2" that will let organizations "attach GPUs to highly available virtual machines," explained Cosmos Darwin, principal program manager for Core OS engineering at Microsoft, during the talk.

"To be clear, that means that a VM, even when it has a GPU attached can still fail over between nodes within a cluster," Darwin said. "This is a big deal for hyper converged infrastructure."

Azure Stack HCI version 21H2 also is bringing a "kernel soft reboot" feature that will let organizations perform a "software-only restart on a server," which "makes it a lot quicker to restart the physical server host."

Azure Automanage
The Azure Automanage feature, available for use with Windows Server 2022 Azure Datacenter edition and Azure Stack HCI, was further characterized by Meagan McCrory, a senior program manager on the Azure Automanage team.

Azure Automanage can automate best practices for Windows Server 2022, she contended.

"Azure Automanage will automatically onboard you to best-practice services and monitor the services throughout the lifetime of your machine," McCrory said. It'll keep guest operating systems in a desired state, she added:

Automanage configures the guest operating system with its corresponding baseline. This means if you're running Windows Server, we have a Windows Server Security Baseline that Automanage will apply within the guest operating system. Not only that but Automanage will actually monitor that baseline, as well as all of the other Azure services, to make sure that they stay configured to the desired state.

Azure Automanage will configure "Azure Backup, monitoring, update management, and more," she added. Organizations needing exceptions can use a "preferences" capability that "allows you to actually tweak some settings that are related to the best-practice services."

Windows Admin Center and System Center 2022
The talk touted the use of the free browser-based Windows Admin Center for managing Windows Server 2022. It's currently at version 2103.2 and can be used for "managing servers, clusters, hyperconverged infrastructure, Kubernetes, Windows 10 PCs" and more.

"Windows Admin Center is designed to be that lightweight browser-based management tool that is an alternative to RDP MMC tools, or even Remote PowerShell," said Prasidh Arora, a program manager for Windows Server, during the talk.

However, System Center is the tool to address more complex management needs, according to Srividya Varanasi, a Microsoft senior program manager on the System Center team.

"At your datacenter scale, you may want to standardize deployment production infrastructure at scale, and be able to monitor and backup multiple workloads and automate all of these processes," Varanasi said. "System Center suite helps in meeting all at-scale datacenter management requirements."

Microsoft is planning a release of its forthcoming new System Center 2022 product in Q1 2022, according to Arora:

We are excited about System Centers' next big release, System Center 2022. System Center 2022 is planned for release in quarter one of next calendar year. Key areas of focus for System Center 2022 would be around adding capabilities to support heterogeneous infrastructure. We will be adding support for Windows Server 2022 and Azure Stack HCI 21H2. Using System Center Virtual Machine Manager, you can manage Azure Stack HCI clusters, and the upcoming release will also have Azure registration experience built into VMM to register Azure stack HCI clusters to Azure.

Other System Center 2022 perks mentioned during the talk included:

  • System Center Operations Manager will have integration with Microsoft Teams to receive alerts and mitigate issues.
  • System Center Operations Manager will get custom roles to be defined by users.
  • Data Protection Manager users will have a folder-level restore for VM backups with recovery points.
  • Parallel restoring will be available for multiple VMware VMs managed by a vCenter instance.

A "private preview release" of System Center 2022 is planned and is expected to be available in the next couple of months, Arora indicated.

Windows Server 2008 Extended Security Updates
Some organizations, though, may have trouble migrating from unsupported Windows Server technologies.

Microsoft has extended its Extended Security Updates (ESUs) program to users of older Windows Server products, namely Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. It's also offering a one-year free discount to cloud ESU migrators.

Here's how Caldas summed up that ESU offer:

I also wanted to share with you news regarding Extended Security Updates. If you still need more time on Windows Server 2008 and R2, we will now provide one additional year of free extended security updates that is available only on Azure and Azure Stack HCI. For Windows Server 2012 and R2, we are about two years from the end of support date which is October 2023. After that, we offer paid Extended Security Updates for Windows Server and SQL Server 2012 and R2, like we did for Windows Server 2008. Once again, you can receive the ESUs at no additional charge for three years when you migrate your apps to Azure or Azure Stack HCI.

ESU is reputed to be a costly option for organizations, with prices increasing each year. The one year of free support is just for ESU participants that switch to using cloud-hosted Windows Server 2008 instances or instances that run on Azure Stack HCI, per Caldas' description.


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