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Windows Server Datacenter: Azure Edition is a version of Windows Server that is optimised to run on Azure. Microsoft has listed the differences in their handy comparison guide. Notably, the Azure edition has many features exclusive to Azure users only. As a key solution in Microsoft’s portfolio, there are many planned updates coming this year.

Windows Server Azure Edition receives Microsoft updates faster as it runs in the cloud. New releases of the Azure edition will be released every year, as promised by Microsoft. Users can expect these releases to roll out in fall of each year.

Diagram of Windows Server Azure's hybrid infrastructure

Windows Server Azure Edition: New features

Access to Azure networking features

Azure Edition virtual machines that use Core or Desktop experience GUI can take use Azure networking features such as SMB over QUIC. This new feature ensures users’ cloud file shares are as secure as they would be on their own networks. SMB over QUIC works on Azure Stack HCI as well as in Azure, meaning a move away from VPNs to support remote workers on Windows 11, Windows Server 2022 or third-party clients on other platforms.


Microsoft hotpatches Azure servers, eliminating the need to shut down and reboots entire systems. This means less time wasted and servers don’t stop responding on the network during updates. Using Azure Automanage, users can apply security patches to Azure Edition VMs without rebooting.

Preview images not necessary

As mentioned above, Azure Edition updates come through Windows Update so users don’t need a preview image for the next release.

Upcoming 2023 changes

Expanded certificate-based security

Starting in Q2 2023, users can add additional client certificates to secure SMB over QUIC. SMB over QUIC currently already uses certificates on the file server that the SMB client must trust. This update will allow users to require clients to deploy a certificate as well before they can connect. This will go a long way to improve security in this process.

Hotpatching access

Hotpatching is currently available for VMs using the Azure Edition Core image, though this is set to be available for hotpatching VMs with Desktop experience. Hence, users can expect to no longer require rebooting for monthly security updates. VMs will have to restart a few times each year to get a new baseline with a cumulative update, however, Microsoft estimates this could bring down annual reboots to just four.

SMB compression

At the moment, documentation on SMB compression setup in Storage Replica is scarce. Soon, users will be able to use the Windows Admin center GUI to configure in the same way you can turn on SMB compression for regular file shares.

Interested in Windows Server Azure Edition?

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