Microsoft will rename Terminal Services to Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows Server 2008 R2. The new name makes sense because of the changes that RDS will introduce. Most interesting of these is that Microsoft will support desktop virtualization: see Bink.nu for a comprehensive article about this topic. (Note that parts of Stephen Bink’s text sound as if they have been written by someone from Microsoft’s marketing department. Several times he talks about “we” as if he is now working for Microsoft.) In this post, I will summarize the central points.
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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
It was only a matter of time until Microsoft would enter the VDI market. It is growing faster than server virtualization and might change our IT infrastructure more than any other virtualization technology.
Virtual desktops will run on a Hyper-V host. This will certainly push Hyper-V adoption.
Remote Desktop Connection Broker
The Connection Broker will replace the Windows Server 2008 Session Broker. Whereas the Session Broker allows users to reconnect to a specific server in a load-balanced terminal server farm, the Connection Broker will manage presentation virtualization (terminal services) and desktop virtualization connections.
System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)
The article doesn’t mention it explicitly, but I think that VMM will also support VDI. However, it is not clear if one will require VMM in order to use VDI. The Windows Server Division Weblog wrote: “Together with Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, the Remote Desktop Connection Broker enables a VDI solution for low-complexity, departmental environments, and a platform for partners who are delivering rich, extensible solutions where heterogeneous client support is a prerequisite, and when enhanced management and scalability is a requirement.”
The Remote Desktop Connection Broker will include “extensive” APIs which allow third party vendors to add management and scalability features. My guess is that ISVs will offer management tools that will focus on VDI. Since VMM is also intended for managing virtualized servers it might not be the best choice for virtual desktop administration.
Persistent and pooled VMs
The connection broker will support two kinds of virtual desktops. With persistent or permanent VMs, each user will have a dedicated desktop. Similar to a physical desktop, all changes will be permanent. By contrast, all changes on pooled VMs will be deleted once the user logs off. However, it is possible to provide user-specific settings with roaming profiles. The main advantage of pooled VMs is that they – supposedly -- require less storage capacity. Since profiles won’t be stored on the virtual desktop, they will need more bandwidth if user-specific settings are needed.
The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) will get quite a few new features. The list at Bink.nu is quite impressive. I will only discuss the most important ones:
I think that the bad multimedia support in RDP (and ICA) is one of the main reasons why many organizations didn’t deploy terminal services solutions. The quality of sound and video in a terminal server session is lousy and it consumes huge amount of bandwidth. Redirecting multimedia content to the client, in order to render the content there, seems to be the only solution to this problem. However, I think that this technology will not be easy for admins to handle.
Aero Glass support
I believe that this is also an important feature - but not because Aero Glass really improves productivity. Rather, it’s an important feature more for a “psychological” reason: users who are already used to it will miss it in a remote desktop session. To improve acceptance of remote desktops it is essential that users are not able to distinguish between remote and local.
Remote Desktop & Application feed
It appears that Windows 7 will have a new Remote App & Desktop Connection control panel. As I understand this feature, it will allow users to launch remote applications from their desktops. This would be an alternative to the TS Web Access feature of Windows Server 2008.
Seamless integration with Windows 7
I think that this feature is related to the one above. Windows Server 2008 introduced the RemoteApp feature. It allows users to launch a single application on a Terminal Server. To deploy these apps, one has to work with MSI files or TS Web Access. It seems that this will be easier with Windows 7 and Windows Sever 2008.
There are many more new RDP features. Most of them will improve user experience and simplify the deployment of remote applications. I will write more about it as soon as I have tried them myself.
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Microsoft has already extended Terminal Services considerably in Windows Server 2008. It appears that the changes in Windows Server 2008 R2 will be even more important. The new VDI support is certainly a milestone in Microsoft’s virtualization strategy. Together with Virtual PC, Hyper-V, App-V and VMM they will offer a complete virtualization infrastructure.