Windows Server 2012 RDS / Terminal Services – What’s New?

Consumerization of IT and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are two trends that are moving forward in some organizations at full speed. How does IT handle getting critical workloads done in this type of environment? One way is to use Windows Remote Desktops (RDS). RDS is the workload within Windows Server that enables users to connect to virtual desktops, session-based desktops (VDI) and RemoteApp programs.  The key value that RDS provides is the ability to centralize and control the applications and data that employees need to perform their job from the variety of devices that the employee uses.  This provides “work anywhere from any device” while ensuring that your organization’s control and compliance needs are met.

In Server 2012 we have updated several areas in RDS. I will break that down into three main buckets of changes.

  1. Management of Remote Desktop Services
  2. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  3. The RDP protocol

1. Management of RDS RDS consists of a large group of services that can be a little complex to configure. With our new tools in Server Manager we have made the management of RDS easier to deploy and easier to keep configured correctly. Specific Changes in management include:

  • RDS Management Interface integrated into Server Manager. RDS now includes a single management interface through which you can deploy RDS end to end, monitor the deployment, configure options, and manage all your RDS components and servers. This management interface is built into the new Server Manager, taking advantage of many new Windows Server 2012 management capabilities such as multi-server deployments, remote configuration, and orchestrated configuration workflows. This interface replaces older tools such as Remote Desktop Services Manager, RemoteApp Manager, and RD Session Host Configuration. The management tools for RD Gateway and RD Licensing are still provided separately since these roles are often deployed independently.
  • Scenario-Focused Deployment. The new Server Manager provides a scenario-focused wizard that dramatically simplifies the task of bringing up a complete RDS deployment. This wizard sets up all the roles needed for an RDS deployment, configures each server role correctly to communicate with the other roles, and walks you through creating your first virtual desktop or session collection as well.
  • Active/Active RD Connection Broker.In previous releases the RD Connection Broker role service has supported an active/passive clustering model. This provided high availability in the case of component failure, but it did not address high scale requirements. In this release, we have eliminated the need for clustering and switched to an active/active model. With this model, two or more RD Connection Brokers can be combined as a farm to provide both fault tolerance and load balancing. This prevents the broker from being a single point of failure and also allows ‘scale out’ as load demands. Sweet!
  • PowerShell support. All platform functions and capabilities can be controlled through a comprehensive and rich PowerShell layer. IT administrators can use this layer to build sophisticated automation that helps fit RDS into their IT infrastructure and workflows.

2. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure In the VDI or session-based desktops arena we have added a lot of functionality to make it easier to control and manage your hosted desktop environment. For more on setting up VDI see my previous post:

  • Robust Pooled Virtual Desktop Collection model. “Pooled virtual desktop collection” model refers to the idea that a large number of virtual machines can be managed as a single entity by using a single virtual desktop template. This model is very attractive in VDI because it allows IT admins to provide a work desktop to multiple users without having to maintain a full OS for each user. In Windows Server 2012 we fully support this deployment model. Wow! Virtual machines can be created in batch from a virtual desktop template, patched by only modifying that virtual desktop template, and refreshed automatically the next time the user logs in.  This dramatically reduces the cost and complexity of managing a large number of desktops.
  • User Profile Disk.A major blocker for the “pooled virtual desktop collection” model has been lack of personalization: Since the pooled virtual desktop collection is based on a common virtual desktop template, the user’s personal documents, settings, and configurations would normally not be present. User Profile Desk was added to solve this problem for either virtual machine-based or session based desktop deployments. As the user logs on to different virtual machines within the pool or different RD Session Hosts within the session collection, his/her User Profile Disk gets mounted, providing access to the user’s complete profile.
  • Fairshare of resources in RD Session Host. In Windows Server 2012, RD Session Host server allocates CPU, Disk I/O, and Network I/O such that a single user cannot consume resources that would negatively impact other users on the same host. Each user will get a “fair share”. This is done with minimum overhead so the CPU, disk, and network resources are used to maximum capacity.
  • GPU Optional. In Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 we had a requirement on a physical GPU for RemoteFX. In Windows Server 2012 the physical GPU is optional for VDI where it provides value if you are running applications that could benefit from hardware offload such as a video or CAD/CAM type applications.

3. The RDP protocol At the lowest level of Remote Desktops is remote desktop protocol, RDP. This has been updated to RDP 8.0 and makes a lot of changes for remote control. This protocol has been updated in several ways. Specific improvements include:

  • Adaptive Graphics.   We support a mix and match approach, determining and using the right codec for the right content instead of one size fits all.  We included codecs optimized for multimedia, images, and text.  We improved caching as well as added progressive rendering.  Progressive rendering allows RemoteFX to provide a responsive experience over a highly constrained network.
  • Intelligent Transports.  We support UDP as well as TCP.  UDP provides a better experience over a lossy WAN network but, is not always possible dependent on the routers, and firewalls involved.  RDP will automatically use TCP when UDP cannot be used to ensure connectivity and the best possible experience.
  • Optimized Media Streaming.  We utilize a new codec to reduce bandwidth consumption for media content (in some cases a 90% bandwidth reduction) while also providing a great end user media experience.
  • Adaptive Network Auto Detect.   In this release, the end user no longer has to set the network in the Remote Desktop Connection client: the client auto-detects the network type and, also adapts as the network changes.
  • Single Sign-On.  In Windows Server 2008 R2, it was possible to configure an RDS deployment so that users will need to enter their credentials only once when connecting to RemoteApps and hosted desktops. However, this configuration was very cumbersome. In Windows Server 2012 we dramatically simplified this by eliminating the need to use multiple certificates. We also made it possible to use locally logged on domain credentials so that users connecting from managed devices can connect seamlessly without any credential prompts.
  • Multi Touch.  We support full remoting of gestures (e.g. pinch and zoom) between the client and host with up to 256 touch points.  This provides for a consistent experience when using a touch enabled device locally or, over RemoteFX.  As more apps are written supporting touch as the primary interface, this will become more important.
  • USB Redirection. In Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 we supported USB isochronous remoting only for vGPU enabled virtual machines.   We have added support when using sessions and physical hosts which provides a consistent experience independent of physical, session, or virtual machine based host.

Summary: Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2012 provides a single infrastructure, and consistently great remoting experience now even over WAN connections. It offers three main services of: traditional terminal services / RDS, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), and Remote App publishing. These tools support multiple scenarios including BYOD’s idea of “work anywhere from any device” while ensuring that your organization’s control and compliance needs are met.


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