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What's new for RDS/TS in Windows 2008 R2

With the release of Windows 2003 R2 now new functionality was added to the platform. Fortunately Windows 2008 offered a lot of new features related to the Terminal Server platform. At this moment Windows 2008 R2 is in the finalizing phase and in contrast to Windows 2003 R2 Windows 2008 R2 offers a lot of new functionality on the Terminal Server part. In this article I will describe the new features available in Windows 2008 R2 for Terminal Servers.

64 bit only




Although this is not a real Terminal Server feature it is definitely a big change. Although 64bit is wonderful new technique it is not used much, because the practical performance gain is not reachting the expectation. Mainly this is caused by using 32 bit applications on a 64 bit platform, which is using much more memory than on a 32 bit platform. The adoption of the 64 bit platform for client application is still very low. Finally Microsoft is delivery applications to the 64 bit platform with the upcoming releases of Office 2010 and App-V 4.6.

Name Change

Probably the most visible change is the changed name of the Terminal Platform. With the release of Windows 2008 R2 the new name will be Remote Desktop Services. The name is changed because Microsoft is adding a VDI solution to W2008R2 using the Terminal Server technology. With this the new name all components have been renamed using the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) name as a starting point. In the following table the old and new names are

Previous name

Name in Windows Server 2008 R2

Terminal Services

Remote Desktop Services

Terminal Server

Remote Desktop Session Host (RD Session Host)

Terminal Services Licensing (TS Licensing)

Remote Desktop Licensing (RD Licensing)

Terminal Services Gateway (TS Gateway)

Remote Desktop Gateway (RD Gateway)

Terminal Services Session Broker (TS Session Broker)

Remote Desktop Connection Broker (RD Connection Broker)

Terminal Services Web Access (TS Web Access)

Remote Desktop Web Access (RD Web Access)

Terminal Services Manager

Remote Desktop Services Manager

Terminal Services Configuration

Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration

TS Gateway Manager

Remote Desktop Gateway Manager

TS Licensing Manager

Remote Desktop Licensing Manager

TS RemoteApp Manager

RemoteApp Manager

VDI Solution

This is the biggest change on the Terminal Server platform within this new Windows version. Microsoft is adding a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution into their product. The Remote Desktop Virtualization host is the new role responsible for the VDI part. The role need to be installed on the same server as Hyper-V is installed, because logically Hyper-V is using as the virtualization platform the host the (pool of) virtual desktops. It goes too much into detail to complete describes this feature in this article, but it's worth mentioning that changes are made to several roles (like the formerly Session Broker, now called RD Connection Broker) for this component (which I won't will mention separately).

Client Experience (Multimonitor support, audio recording redirection, Aero support, improved audio/video playback)

Microsoft performed a lot of effort improving the client experience. Lots of improvements are made to the performance of multimedia components like audio and video playback. One of the big improvements is multiple monitor support. This feature is really cool and is probably the best multiple monitor solution available in the Server Based Computing product at this moment. In this new version also audio recording devices like microphones are now supported. For the RemoteApp (and also Desktop Connections) can also be placed within the Start Menu of the users on their workstations. The last additions are Aero support and language bar redirection (the languages settings on the server can be easily changed).

User based filtering of application within RD Web Access (TS Web Access)

One of the biggest disappointments with the release of TS Web Access in Windows 2008 was the absence of the possibility to assign RemoteApps to users or groups on the Web Access portal. Every user could start every application displayed using the Web Access. With the new RD Web Access applications can be filtered on a user account basis. 

RD Gateway improvements

On the Gateway component several smaller, but useful improvements have  been made, mainly based on maintenance and management of this component. The updates are Configurable idle and session timeouts, Background session authentication and authorization, System and logon messages, Device redirection enforcement , Network Access Protection (NAP) remediation  and Pluggable authentication and authorization.
 
Fair Share CPU Scheduling

Fair Share CPU Scheduling distributes processor time dynamically across sessions based on the number of active sessions and load on those sessions by using a scheduling mechanism (which is available within Windows 2008 R2). Using this mechanism performance of the user won't be affected by another user. This technique is comparable with the Citrix solution (OEM licensed from RTOSoft).

Windows Installer RDS Compatability

This is a brand new feature special for Remote Desktop Services. With Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008 R2, per user application installations are queued by the Terminal Server (now called a RD Session Host server) and then handled by the Windows Installer.

With this feature you can install a program on the Terminal Server just like you would install the program on a local desktop. Ensure, however, that you install the program for all users and that all components of the program are installed locally on the RD Session Host server.

Roaming User Profile Cache

This feature is actually a group policy setting which configures a maximum size for the profile directory on each Terminal Server. If the size is reached the profile, which is used least. Personally I found this not really astonishing, but more a kind of bad workaround.  Actually all profiles should be removed when the user logs off and if this is not the case I always delete such profiles when the server starts-up.

IP Virtualization

Some applications use the IP address as their unique identification to the back-end environment. In current Terminal Server environment users on the same Terminal will use (logically) the same IP address, so such a application cannot be offered using a Terminal Server. With IP virtualization different IP addresses can be assigned to remote desktop connections on a per session or per program basis creating the possibility to add such an application to your farm. This feature is comparable to similar solutions available in several Server Based Computing solutions like Citrix XenApp.

Automatic discovery of License Servers not supported anymore

Microsoft removed the automatically discovery of the Terminal Server RD License Server is not available anymore. You will need to specify the license server manually or using the Group Policy option to configure the license server for your Terminal Servers.

Single RDS CAL can be purchased

Before Windows 2008 R2 Terminal Server CAL's needed to be purchased in a bundle of five or twenty licenses.  Now a single RDS CAL can be purchased and installed. There are also rumors that the RDS Per User call will be enforce in this version (current versions do not actual check if enough TS Per User Calls are available).

Conclusion

In this article I summarized the new features and improvements Microsoft made to the formerly known Terminal Server platform. We all definite need to get used to the new names of the roles (I wonder when nobody talks about a Terminal Server anymore. Looking at the features an improvements Microsoft added lots of new and useful functionalities, which will definitely hurt some smaller Server Based Computing manufacturers. Also the addition of VDI within the default Microsoft platform is big step for the adoption of the VDI methodology, although it is (just as other VDI solutions) not easy to implement as I understood (did not try that option yet). In an upcoming review I will show the new features in practice soon.

Note: Some improvements are only available with RDP 7 Client or only when using Windows 7 as the client system.

Note 2: I still use the name Terminal Server a lot to emphasize where the features jump in, but the new name for a Terminal Server is Remote Desktop (RD) Session Host.