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Microsoft Talks Up Windows Server 2022's Azure Integrations

Windows Server became broadly available on Sept. 1; last week, Microsoft gave the product its official unveiling event.

The Windows Server Summit talk, which is currently available on demand, focused on all of the other products and services that will work with Windows Server 2022. There were 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.

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 that will be released in "early December 2021."

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
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.

Woolsey 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 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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