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Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services : What is New in Remote Desktop Services

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1/26/2014 8:28:08 PM

1. Overview of Remote Desktop Services

Remote Desktop Services is another key component of Microsoft’s virtualization strategy. While Hyper-V delivers server virtualization, Remote Desktop Services delivers presentation virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technologies. Remote Desktop Services provides server-hosted access to Windows-based applications and desktops. This removes the need for applications to be installed and run locally on individual workstations. Remote Desktop Services allows organizations to centrally manage and control access to applications as well as allows access from low-end PCs or thin clients.

Remote Desktop Services, which was first introduced as Terminal Services in Windows NT 4.0, allows organizations to provide better management of applications and access in unique situations where a user might not have access to a corporate PC. For example, many organizations, such as hospitals, may deploy thin clients in patient rooms. These machines are light weight, inexpensive, and easy to maintain. Remote Desktop Services can provide doctors and nurses with access to important applications or even fully featured Windows-based desktops from these thin clients. Since all the application processing is done centrally on a server, the thin clients need very little resources to provide adequate computing power to the end user. There are several situations where Terminal Services make sense such as providing access to applications from branch offices with slow connectivity, or give users secure access to corporate applications from their home PCs.

2. What is New in Remote Desktop Services

With the release of Windows Server 2008 R2, Terminal Services has been renamed Remote Desktop Services. If you have experience administering Terminal Server in previous operating systems, you should be aware of the new Windows Server 2008 R2 names of various Terminal Server technologies. Table 1 lists the old versus new name for common Remote Desktop Services and admin tools.

Table 1. Remote Desktop Services Name Changes
Windows Server 2008 and Prior NameWindows Server 2008 R2 Name
Terminal ServicesRemote Desktop Services
Terminal Services ManagerRemote Desktop Services Manager
Terminal ServerRemote Desktop Session Host
Terminal Services ConfigurationRemote Desktop Session Host Configuration
Terminal Services LicensingRemote Desktop Licensing
Terminal Services Licensing ManagerRemote Desktop Licensing Manager
Terminal Services GatewayRemote Desktop Gateway
Terminal Services Gateway ManagerRemote Desktop Gateway Manager
Terminal Services Session BrokerRemote Desktop Connection Broker
Terminal Services RemoteApp ManagerRemoteApp Manager
Terminal Services Web AccessRemote Desktop Web Access

Along with a new name, Microsoft has also added several new features to further enhance Remote Desktop Services. In this section we will explore some of the feature changes to the various components of Remote Desktop Services.

Remote Desktop Session Host

The Remote Desktop Session Host role includes several new features to provide a better administration experience as well as increased security for Remote Desktop Services deployments. Changes to Remote Desktop Session Host include:

  • Client experience configuration —You can now centrally manage Remote Desktop audio/video redirection and Windows Aero interface options for Remote Desktop clients. These client experience features can be configured when adding the Remote Desktop Session Host role.

  • Roaming user profile cache management —Larger Remote Desktop Services deployments may have hundreds or even thousands of users logging into Remote Desktop Servers. It is common to see cached copies of profiles using a lot of storage space on Remote Desktop Servers. To help control the disk space usage of cached profiles, a GPO can be applied to Remote Desktop Servers placing a quota on the amount of disk space that can be used by cached profiles. If the quota is reached, the server will delete profiles of users with the oldest last logon until the profile cache falls below the quota.

  • Remote Desktop IP Virtualization —Remote Desktop IP Virtualization allows administrators to create a pool of IP addresses allowing each Remote Desktop Session to have a unique IP address. This feature is useful for applications that may require each instance to have a unique IP or when troubleshooting and you need to track the IP of a particular session on a Remote Desktop Server.

  • Enhanced CPU scheduling —Remote Desktop Services now includes a processor scheduling feature known as Fair Share Scheduling. This feature distributes CPU resources evenly across each Remote Desktop Session, ensuring that one user session does not impact on the performance of another user’s session. This scheduling is done automatically by the Remote Desktop Server and does not require configuration.

Remote Desktop Virtualization Host

The Remote Desktop Virtualization Host is a new role included in Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services and provides a fully featured VDI solution for Windows. Remote Desktop Virtualization Host allows administrators to set up pools of Hyper-V virtual machines that can be logged onto by users. Users can be assigned unique machines or assigned the next available machine in the pool. This gives users fully featured desktop computers accessible via a remote connection.

RemoteApp and Desktop Connection

Windows Server 2008 R2 further extends the features of RemoteApp to VDI-based virtual desktops. Windows Server 2008 R1 allows administrators to use RemoteApp to make access to Terminal Services-based applications seamless to end users. Users can launch an application shortcut from their local computer or terminal, and that application appears to launch locally instead of displaying a Remote Desktop Session to the Terminal Server.

Windows Server 2008 R2 in conjunction with Windows 7 publishes available RemoteApp applications and Desktop Virtualization Host-based VMs to the Start Menu of Windows 7 clients. This allows end users to easily access applications and virtual desktops they have access to by simply opening them from the Start Menu on their local computer.

Remote Desktop Connection Broker

The Remote Desktop Connection Broker in Windows Server 2008 R2 now extends the broker capabilities to virtual desktops in a Remote Desktop Virtualization Host. As with the previous versions of the sessions broker, the Remote Desktop Connection Broker provides load balancing and ensures users reconnect to existing sessions after a disconnect. The Remote Desktop Connection Broker connects users to the new RemoteApp and Desktop Connection feature.

Remote Desktop Gateway

The Remote Desktop Gateway feature includes several new enhancements over the previous Terminal Services Gateway. The new Remote Desktop Gateway includes the following new features:

  • Gateway level idle and session timeouts

  • Logon and system messages

  • Pluggable authentication

  • Network access protection (NAP) remediation

Gateway level idle and session timeouts

This feature allows administrators to configure idle and session timeouts on the gateway itself. By setting these timeouts, administrators can ensure that unused sessions are disconnected and active users are forced to periodically reconnect.

Logon and system messages

Administrators can now configure special message windows to be displayed to users when connecting to a Remote Desktop Services Gateway. System messages can be used to provide active users with important notifications such as information regarding system outages. The logon message can be used to provide users with important notifications every time they logon. These can be useful to advertise new applications or services available via the gateway.

Pluggable authentication

Pluggable authentication allows developers to write custom authentication modules for Remote Desktop Gateways. This can be used to further enhance Remote Desktop Gateway services by providing such features as Two-Token authentication.

Network access protection remediation

NAP remediation features allow computers connecting via a Remote Desktop Gateway to remediate any noncompliant security settings prior to connecting to the network. This ensures that even computers connecting via Remote Desktop Gateways comply with corporate NAP policies.

Remote Desktop Web Access

Remote Desktop Web Access was known, as in Windows Server 2008 R1, as Terminal Server Web Access providing users with a portal to view and connect to available RemoteApp-based applications within a Web browser. The new Remote Desktop Web Access feature includes the following enhancements over Terminal Service Web Access:

  • Security-trimmed RemoteApp filtering

  • Forms-based authentication (FBA)

  • Public and private computer options

  • Single sign-on

Security-trimmed RemoteApp filtering

Windows Server 2008 R1 Terminal Services Web Access displays any RemoteApp Web applications available on the system to all end users. This allows users to see RemoteApps even if they do not have access to them. Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Web Access now security trims the interface so that users see only RemoteApp shortcuts they have access to.

Forms-based authentication

Remote Desktop Web Access now offers the ability to provide FBA. This provides a more user friendly logon page which users may be used to from other applications such as Outlook Web Access (OWA) in Microsoft Exchange.

Public and private computer options

Users can now specify what type of computer they are connecting from when logging into Remote Desktop Web Access. This provides more strict security settings when logging in from a public computer such as a kiosk.

Single sign-on

When using Terminal Server Web Access in Windows Server 2008 R1, users were prompted twice to logon to RemoteApps via the Web interface. They were prompted once to access the Web access server and a second time when launching the application. Remote Desktop Web Access provides single sign-on so that users need to logon only initially to the Web access site. Credentials are then passed to the RemoteApp automatically.

Remote Desktop Client Experience

Several new features have been added to further enhance the Remote Desktop experience for Windows 7 client computers. Windows 7 clients connecting to a Windows Server 2008 R2 server gain these additional features:

  • Multiple monitor support —Remote Desktop Services now supports multiple monitors for Windows 7 clients. This allows RemoteApps to take advantage of multiple monitors in the same manner as if they were running as applications on the local computer.

  • A/V playback —Remote Desktop Services now redirects Windows Media Player-based A/V content to the client computer where it is played locally using the memory and CPU of the client computer to view the content locally.

  • Windows 7 Aero —Remote Desktop Services support Windows 7 Aero features when the connecting client is a Windows 7 computer.

Remote Desktop Services PowerShell module and Best Practices Analyzer

Remote Desktop Services now comes with more management features and options including a PowerShell module and Best Practices Analyzer (BPA). Using PowerShell, administrators can perform most Remote Desktop Services administration via a PowerShell command prompt.

The BPA helps administrators verify that their Remote Desktop Services configuration is following best practices and that there are no misconfigurations that could negatively impact on the deployment.

3. Planning to Deploy Remote Desktop Services

Prior to installing Remote Desktop Services, you should properly plan your deployment. You should consider the following:

  • What Remote Desktop Services are needed?

  • Are the applications you want to use over Remote Desktop Services compatible?

  • Is access from outside the corporate firewall required?

  • What infrastructure is required to support Remote Desktop Services?

  • How many concurrent sessions do you need to support?

  • Do you want to provide Web-based access to RemoteApps?

  • Will you be using PCs, ThinClients, or a combination of both as clients for Remote Desktop Services?

  • What are the availability requirements of Remote Desktop Services?

  • Will Users need access to applications offline?

  • Will users have access to RemoteApps only or access to full desktops?

These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered before deploying Remote Desktop Services. For example, if you need access to Remote Desktop applications from the Internet, you will want to deploy the Remote Desktop Gateway. If users need the ability to run an application while “disconnected” from the corporate network, and the Internet, then Remote Desktop Services is not the solution for that application. After reading through the following section on installing and configuring Remote Desktop Services, you should be in a better position to answer some of these questions for your deployment planning.

Notes From the Field

Remote Desktop Services and application licensing

Before deploying an application as a RemoteApp, you should make sure the software license allows installation on a Remote Desktop Server. Some software vendors prohibit the installation of their software on a shared application server, using technologies like RemoteApp.

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