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Window Server 2012 RDS

Microsoft has just released Windows 2012. Microsoft has made a lot of improvements to both the RDS as VDI components. Several articles are already published describing those enhancements, but I did not see a complete overview of the whole suite. In this review I will go through all steps for the Session Host (SBC) component. I will start with the installation.

Installation

Microsoft improved the whole installation procedure a lot. It’s now possible to add roles and features via Server Manager to remote servers. This enables a much easier deployment of RDS infrastructures. This can already been seen when starting the add roles and features component. Besides the Role based or Feature based option a new option is displayed called Remote Desktop Services Installation. RDS can still be installed and configured via the Role based option; this will show the same set-up as Windows 2008R2 for example. The specific RDS option makes it easier to set-up a RDS infrastructure, because it is based on scenarios (and therefore adding the necessary components).



 

Within the Remote Desktop Services installation you have two options; Standard Deployment and Quick Start. Standard Deployment should be used for building production environment, because the wizard will have the option to divide the roles over several servers. The Quick Start will install all components on one server. This can be used for demo environments or real small deployments (but not advisable). For both options you will need to choose if you would like to do virtual machine-based desktop deployment (VDI) or session-based deployment (SBC). In this review I will only focus on the Session Host part. To accomplish this review I have chosen session-based deployment via the Quick Start option, so all components will be installed on the same server. When you would have chosen the Standard Deployment you need to specify per role on which server this role should be added. Add the end of the wizard you should check the option to restart the chosen server(s). During the installation progress of each role is shown.

RDS Configuration

After adding the roles the initial configuration is performed. The configuration is nowadays mostly done out of the Server Manager. Via the deployment overview additional required components can be set-up like the RD Gateway and RD Licensing. Also additional servers can be added to components like the RD Web Access, RD Session Hosts and so on. If you already used RDS consoles in the past the new interface is pretty different, so you definitely need to get used to it. The starting point is to create a collection. When you used the Quick Start option a collection is created by default with some basic applications.

For the whole overview I also describe the creation collection set. In the collection you specify which servers are parts of the collection, which users will have access to the collection, if you would like to enable the user profile disk (I will go into more detail about the user profile disk in another article). To a collection a Published Desktop or Published Applications can be assigned, in other words a Collection Set can be seen as a silo because the applications are assigned to the collection set.

A collection set can host or a Remote Desktop or Remote Applications. So a combination of both is not possible. By creation of the Collection Set a Remote Desktop is assigned to the users, as soon as RemoteApp will be added the Remote Desktop will be removed. That is different than with previous versions where the Remote Desktop was always available. It is actually logical that this is build-in (so users can access only the Remote Apps and not bypass rights by using the Remote Desktop), but it would be nice if you could choose to combine those are or remove the Remote Desktop.

Adding a RemoteApp are just a few steps. A list of application is prepopulated, but you can logically also browse to a specific executable. Out of the populated list more applications can be chosen, so you can publish more RemoteApps. In this view no other options are available, so by default the user assigned to the collection set will be assigned to the RemoteApp. When the RemoteApp is published you can change the assigned users and change other settings. Settings which were configured previous within the Protocol part are now available as properties of the collection set.

The most important tabs are at the session tab where you will find the session time-outs, within Load Balancing you can configure the values that should be used for determine the load (memory, relative weight and session limit) and within client settings you can configure the client mappings.

Management

Within the same console all connections are shown, so this replaces the previous RD Services Manager. The big advantage is that all connections are shown of the servers in the connection set, so management is getting more centrally without additional configuration steps. Within this part not much has changed; the same columns are available and the same options are available (Disconnect, Send Messsage and Log Off).

RD Connection Broker

Within Window Server 2012 the possibility to set-up a real High Available Connection Broker is finally available. By using the Overview part of Remote Desktop Services in Server Manager you can configure the High Availability of the RD Connection Broker based on an Active/Active scenario. Therefore you need to have at least a SQL server database, SQL Server Native Client on all RD Connection Broker servers and fixed IP addresses configured at the RD Connection Brokers. Configuration is actually not that difficult. Freek Berson has written down all the steps in this article.

User Experience

Although if you take a look at the way the RemoteApps or Remote Desktop are visualized and offered nothing much is changes, Microsoft improved the User Experience a lot.

First discuss what is not changed a lot. For example the RD WebAccess is looking the same and is used in the same way.

Also the RemoteApp and Desktop Connections part is working in the same way, although Microsoft improved the client configuration by using e-mail discovery (so users don’t have to type the whole URL anymore). Also the look and feel is working the same, except it’s logically Windows Server 2012, so if you enable the Desktop Experience component you will get a Windows 8 look and feel. It’s good to know that the Desktop Experience option is a bit hidden within the roles and features. It’s a feature within the User Interfaces and Infrastructures.

As mentioned under the hood Microsoft did a tremendous job on the user experience part. First RDP was working fine on a LAN connection, but not optimized for WAN connections. Within RemoteFX for WAN Microsoft combined several techniques to improve the performance and user experience on WAN. Some examples are Adaptive Graphics, Intelligent Transports, Optimized Media Streaming and DirectX Support (with vGPU enabled).

Other Improvements

Also real cool is the support of Multitouch, so working from a (Windows 8) tablet with a RemoteApp or Remote Desktop the user will have the same experience. Another nice improvement is the addition of FairShare of resources in a RD Session Host so a single user cannot consume all resources.

The last thing I would like to mention are the enhancements made to the SSO (Single Sign On) component. In Windows 2008 R2 this was a terrible job mainly caused by the requirement of several certificates.

Conclusion

First Microsoft did again a tremendous job by adding so much enhancements and new features to the RD Session Host in this Windows Server 2012 release. Especially the improvements made both at the User Experience as the (Central) Management possibilities are worth mentioning. I must say that if you have worked with previous Window Server versions it requires some time to get used to the new management interface within Server Manager. The only real regression is that when RemoteApps are published on a Collection Set a Remote Desktop cannot be provided anymore. I preferred the method that you can choose if you would like to disable or enable the Remote Desktop option if RemoteApps are also available on a server. I will be working shortly to some detailed articles about new features or enhancement and an overview of the Virtual Machine based deployment.