Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 splashes down on Win Server 2022

Windows Server 2022 now supports Windows Subsystem for Linux 2, as long as you don't mind installing a preview patch.

The news was emitted by Microsoft Program Manager Craig Loewen last night.

Less than a week after users posted glum comments such as: "I don't think it's going to happen," it did.

Available via KB5014021 (which is likely to form part of the next patch Tuesday), Windows Server 2022 now has support for WSL2 Linux distros.

Principal program manager for Azure Stack HCI and Windows Server, Jeff Woolsey was also keen to promote the change.

"Going forwards," said Loewen, "WSL will be supported both on Windows server and Windows desktop SKUs."

The move ends an odyssey that began with the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2 on Windows 10 several years ago and with users' calls for Windows Server to get the same treatment.

The change is also somewhat of an about-face from Microsoft. In 2021, in response to pleas from users to backport the tech to Windows Server 2019, Woolsey, described WSL in early 2021 as "fantastic for dev" and "perfect for Windows client" but warned: "If we put it in Windows Server, people will use it in production scenarios for which it isn't intended."

The approved path was to spin up a full Linux VM. Quite a bit heftier than the lighter-weight WSL2.

Signs of Microsoft listening to feedback showed up earlier this year, as Loewen "clarified" that WSL2 distros would work on Windows Server version 2004 and 20H2, although the LTSC versions found in many data centers remained free of WSL2.

Until this week, that is.

The update is rather a big deal for users with Linux workloads and Windows Servers. While WSL 1 was a neat bit of translation trickery, it was WSL 2 that took things to a whole new level with what was pretty much a full Linux kernel running in a lightweight virtual machine. The change means much better system call compatibility and far superior performance (although networking and hopping over the VM boundaries could present issues.)

At present, it doesn't appear that Windows Server 2019 will be receiving the same largesse, but for users with WSL2 workloads and not keen on sticking Windows desktop in the data center, WSL2 on Windows Server 2022 is most welcome. ®

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