Best new features in Windows Server 2022

Microsoft has included some notable networking improvements to Windows Server 2022. For starters, the Quick UDP Internet Connection (QUIC) protocol developed by Google has been added and enhances UDP connections in a number of ways including encryption, reduced latency, connection reuse, version control, and extension frames. UDP also gets some love in the form of UDP Segmentation Offload (USO) and UDP Receive Side Coalescing (UDP RSC), each of which moves a lot of the work to assemble UDP packets off CPUs and onto network adapters that support the protocols.

Server Message Block (SMB) over QUIC has several potential benefits for corporate networks, but the most intriguing may be its capability as a secure file-access method. SMB over QUIC is tunneled by TLS 1.3 using port 443 (HTTPS) rather than port 445 (SMB), and all SMB traffic is contained within the tunnel, meaning none of the traffic is exposed to the network. Because of these capabilities, SMB over QUIC is a solid option for mobile users or organizations with heightened security requirements.

TCP connections aren’t left out in the cold by Windows Server 2022. The HyStart++ specification helps reduce packet loss during connection startup, especially in high-speed networks, while RACK detects retry attempts and helps reduce Retry Timeouts (RTO). Both features are enabled by default in Windows Server 2022.

Storage security and performance

Many of Windows Server’s storage improvements focus on security without sacrificing performance. These include AES-256 cryptographic suites for SMB, and encryption for high-performance network-based storage using SMB Direct and RDMA. These enable encrypted traffic for workloads that require incredibly high performance like Storage Spaces Direct, Hyper-V, and Scale-out File Server, among others. Windows Server Datacenter: Azure Edition even supports SMB over QUIC, bringing the trifecta of security, reliability, and performance.

SMB compression is an additional enhancement. It allows a user, admin, or application to request that files being transferred over the network be compressed in transit, making it unnecessary to manually create a Zip file before transfer. Compressing and decompressing the files makes a small hit on the CPU performance at both ends, but it’s well worth it, particularly on networks with bandwidth limitations like Wi-Fi or even 1Gbps Ethernet.

Microsoft Server 2022 includes performance improvements for storage, particularly Storage Spaces Direct. Introduced in Windows Server 2016, it brings flexibility for building out high-performing, highly available network-based storage. One of its key features is synchronization that enables redundancy and performance optimization, but until Windows Server 2022 this synchronization was based on internally calculated priorities. Windows Server 2022 brings the ability to manage the storage-repair speed setting, with five levels that help you choose between prioritizing synchronization or use by active workloads.

The storage-bus cache feature of Storage Spaces allows binding fast storage media like NVMe or SSD drives with slower storage like HDD, greatly improving both read and write performance while keeping costs manageable. Prior to Windows Server 2022 storage-bus cache was limited to domain-joined servers, but now standalone servers can take advantage of these features. Storage-bus cache supports both read and write caching for systems that don’t require resiliency or as a read cache for systems requiring parity.

Hybrid cloud

Microsoft is investing heavily in its Azure cloud services, and a big part of that is enticing customers who have been slow to embrace the cloud with new use cases that are too good to pass up. Two examples of this are Azure Arc and Windows Server Admin Center. While neither is tied directly to a Windows Server version, both provide management capabilities for new Windows Server 2022 features. For example, Windows Server Admin Center version 2110 offers a new security tool that allows you to take advantage of new Secured-core server and Virtualization-based Security feature.

Containers and virtualization

Virtualization and container-based apps are focus areas for Windows Server 2022 including some features that lean heavily toward hybrid capabilities with Azure.

One of these is the HostProcess container type for Kubernetes, which is new in Windows Server 2022 but will also be backported to Windows Server 2019. HostProcess containers run directly at the host layer in the same network namespace as the host, with similar access to the host OS as processes running directly on the server. Because of the level of access that HostProcess containers have to the OS, they can be used for management tasks and DevOps scenarios, taking advantage of both the access and the development and deployment tools inherently offered by containers.