Microsoft recently made a few announcements that made many believe that desktop virtualization is now ready for prime time. I suppose many Windows admins have not yet bothered with desktop virtualization despite the buzz about Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in the media lately. With Windows Server 2008 R2 Microsoft finally entered the VDI market, so it can't hurt to inform yourself about the topic even if you have no plans to introduce VDI at this time.

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In a series of articles I will give an overview of all the essential concepts of Microsoft's VDI products. In this first post, I will introduce Microsoft key terms with regard to desktop virtualization. You have to know these terms in order to be able to follow the next articles in this series.

Remote Desktop Services

Remote Desktop Services (RD Services) (formerly Terminal Services) is the new generic term that encompasses all forms of desktop virtualization where users connect to a Windows machine using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). The former name "Terminal Services" was no longer appropriate since Remote Desktop Services now also includes the VDI technology.

Remote Desktop Session Host

In Microsoft's language the good old Terminal Server is just one form of desktop virtualization or operating system virtualization. This kind of OS virtualization is now called session virtualization. In Windows Server 2008 R2, the new name for Terminal Server is Remote Desktop Session Host (RD Session Host).

RD Session Host is a role service that allows end users to run typical desktop applications remotely on a server. The good thing about the new names is that RD Session Host and RD Services probably won't be confused as easily as their predecessors Terminal Server and Terminal Services.

Remote Desktop Virtualization Host

The new VDI function that comes with Windows Server 2008 R2 is called Remote Desktop Virtualization Host (RD Virtualization Host). RD Virtualization Host integrates with Hyper-V. So VDI in a Microsoft environment means that a Windows client OS (e.g., Windows 7) runs on a virtual machine on a Hyper-V system.

Microsoft offers three VDI products: In-Box VDI, VDI Standard Suite, and VDI Premium Suite. I will cover all three products in more detail in my next post.

Remote Desktop Connection Broker

Users connect to their virtual desktops via RDP through the Remote Desktop Connection Broker (RD Connection Broker) (formerly Terminal Services Session Broker). The new RD Connection Broker in Windows Server 2008 R2 manages VDI and Remote Desktop sessions. It supports load balancing and reconnection to existing sessions on virtual desktops, Remote Desktop sessions, and RemoteApp programs.


RemoteApp (former Terminal Services RemoteApp) allows end users to launch a single application on an RD Session Host. That means they don’t get a full-blown remote desktop with Start Menu, Explorer, and so on. The application runs on the remote server but is more or less indistinguishable from a desktop application.

Remote Desktop Web Access

Remote Desktop Web Access (RD Web Access) enables users to access RemoteApp, RD Session Host and RD Virtualization Host through a web browser. Admins can create web pages that contain links to launch one of the Remote Desktop Services.

Remote Desktop Gateway

Remote Desktop Gateway (RD Gateway) (formerly Terminal Services Gateway) allows users to securely connect through the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) over HTTPS (SSL).

More details about the Remote Desktop Services can be found in this TechNet article.

I hope I haven't confused you with all these Remote Desktop terms. Sorry, but I didn't invent this somewhat puzzling terminology. Sleep on it, rehearse everything in the morning, and you will be ready for my next post about Microsoft's three VDI solutions In-Box VDI, VDI Standard Suite, and VDI Premium Suite. 😉

  1. llllllllllllllllllxlllllllllllllllll 13 years ago

    Seriously considering this for a current client with 25 users with a desktop refresh coming up…if you get into pricing for the In-Box VDI, VDI Standard Suite, and VDI Premium Suite I would love to hear what they are pitching…

  2. I will also cover pricing. But you have to wait a few days. I publish at least 5 articles about Microsoft VDI. Two will be about licensing and costs.

  3. Christoph 13 years ago

    Sweet writeup! I am looking forward to your follow-ups. There IS a great void when it comes to VDI related guides. I was hunting for details on the RemoteApp feature – what i can and can’t do – and came up almost empty.

  4. Thanks, Christoph. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan to write more RemoteApp because I think there are no new features in R2. I once played a little with it on Server 2008 and I remember it as fairly simple to configure. You can run any application that works on RD Session Host. The only difference is that users only see the application’s user interface and if they close it the corresponding RD session will be terminated. Here is a little more.

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