Microsoft Terminal Services Became Remote Desktop Services

Don't feel bad if you still refer to Terminal Services. Even Microsoft employees still slip now and then.

by James E. Gaskin - This tip comes courtesy of Manlio Vecchiet, director of product management for Windows Server, and Michael Kleef, senior technical product manager for Desktop Services and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Both, obviously, work at Microsoft.

As the title says, Terminal Services became Remote Desktop Services with the release of Windows Server 2008 Support Pack 2. Don't feel bad if you still refer to Terminal Services: Microsoft employees still slip now and then.

VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) is an extension of the old Terminal Services that offers a choice of sessions for those needing scalability the most, and those needing isolation the most. Remote desktops can now see both applications (Session Host) and virtual desktops (Virtualization Host) at once if necessary.

Session Host scales significantly more users, up to 100s of users when running a limited set of applications. You can access both from the same client through a portal, but you can't host both on the same server.

Remote users have options for a personal VDI profile. Some users can get a pooled VDI connection, while others can be configured for a personal customized session.

Load those servers up with RAM. Microsoft recommends 8-16GB of RAM, meaning you need 32GB of RAM. Microsoft has planning documents in their KnowledgeBase to help configure your server, but those recommendations tend to underestimate the need for their own code to suck resources. Bulk up.

Printing has been cleaned up as well. Those aggravating printer driver installs needed before? Gone, as print jobs now turn into an XPS (XML Paper Specification) file to print like a PDF file, rather than relying on a particular print driver on a particular client matching a particular printer.

Both Vecchiet and Kleef recommend looking closely at application virtualization, which they admit was a bit of a pain point in WS2003. Where you used to have some conflicts with Terminal Services, you can now use application virtualization to stream those and avoid that issue.

Starting last fall, the AppV CAL requirement disappeared, and now AppV is part of the Remote Desktop Services license. That provides some nice value, and not many techs have discovered that savings to date. The AppV client is still separate, however.

Isolation improvements cut admin time. In the earlier version, different users wrote to the same Registry entries. Oops. Now sessions are more robust, up to supporting 64-bit systems with a new AppV 64-bit version. Put the client on a PC, stream new apps to a current session, and you can stream host access as well.

Although Virtual Desktop is the rage now, a surprising number of companies that start with VDI soon realize Remote Desktop will do a better job for them. That said, Terminal Services, er, Remote Desktop, has been around for years and the curious flock to VDI first, do a pilot project, then move to what works best.

Gold stars for those who remember Microsoft buying Calista two years ago, a company focused on virtualizing the Graphics Processing Unit of the computer and supporting streaming media. Microsoft promises more media help is coming, and if you're monitor happy, they now support 16 at a time.

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