Microsoft has released Windows Server 2022, an LTS edition that has five years mainstream support and 10 years extended support.
Windows Server 2022 is available only as an LTS release, since Microsoft has now abandoned the semi-annual channel in which releases were only supported for 18 months.
The operating system reports itself as version 21H2, which aligns with the next feature update for Windows 10, rather than with Windows 11 for which the build numbers begin 22000.
Those who install the Desktop Experience (against official advice) will therefore find it has the old Windows 10 style Start menu rather than a Windows 11 dock. The Chromium-based Edge browser replaces Internet Explorer.
New features in Windows Server include secure DNS-over-HTTPS, stronger encryption (up to AES-256-GCM and AES-256-CCM) for SMB (Server Message Block), used for Windows file shares, and nested virtualization on AMD processors (previously only available for Intel CPUs).
Nested virtualization enables the Hyper-V platform, also used by Windows Subsystem for Linux, to run in a virtual machine. Container features have been revamped, in part to improve Windows Server for running Azure Kubernetes Service.
Some of the most interesting new features are reserved for special Azure editions of Windows Server 2022, or for Azure Stack HCI, a subscription version of the operating system. Exclusive features include Hotpatch, which lets admins apply patches without rebooting, and SMB over QUIC, for secure access to shared files over the internet.
You have the infra in a modern subscription offering and then licensing of the guests in a traditional perpetual license... we are looking at how to improve that to offer the guest licenses in a subscription model as well
In an online presentation, Microsoft identified Azure Stack HCI as "our strategic direction for all virtualization host innovation." In June, Microsoft Principal Program Manager Elden Christensen said when asked about whether Windows Server would get feature parity with Azure Stack HCI: "We will not be taking any HCI features away from Windows Server which are there today.
"However, Azure Stack HCI is our strategic direction for our HCI platform. Foundational improvements (such as quality, diagnosability, supportability) accrue to both, but new feature innovation (such as Stretch Clustering) are being exclusive to Azure Stack HCI."
It appears that Microsoft is keen to drive even its on-premises customers to a subscription model. Responding to a customer complaint that Azure Stack HCI works out as more expensive than a perpetual licence for Windows Server Datacenter Edition (which allows unlimited Windows Server VMs), Christensen offered no comfort, saying: "Today unfortunately the model is not all the way there yet, you have the infra in a modern subscription offering and then licensing of the guests in a traditional perpetual license... we are looking at how to improve that to offer the guest licenses in a subscription model as well."
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The push towards Azure is also evident in the web-based Admin Center, which is the recommended user interface for administering Windows Server. The Admin Center includes menu items for Azure Hybrid Center, Azure Kubernetes Services, Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, Azure Monitor and Azure Security Center.
Leaving that aside, Windows Server 2022 works much as before, and Admin Center, first made generally available in April 2018, removes much of the pain from administering a desktop-free installation. It is now a smooth experience and includes a browser-based PowerShell console.
The browser-based Admin Center is excellent, but does feel at times like a series of ads for Azure services
Those keen to try Microsoft's latest server OS can find an evaluation version and other resources here. ®