Remote Desktop Services for Windows Server 2008 R2 is the latest edition in a 10 year progression of Windows remote management services. Server administrators have used Terminal Services for years to access their servers from client workstations and end users have used a desktop variation (Remote Desktop Protocol, RDP) to connect to their work PC’s from home, and vice versa.
With previous Windows editions, the predominant difference between Terminal Services and RDP was licensing. RDP allowed for one end user at a time to connect to another client computer that had remote access enabled. Terminal Services was a server side utility that allows for multiple users to connect to one server, depending on the license allocations.
With Microsoft’s current Windows 7 Operating Systems, client Remote Desktop services are still available and you can configure them as you traditionally have. What has significantly changed are the Server Utilities.
Server 2008 Terminal Server Enhancements
Windows Server 2008 delivers a new suite of Terminal Services, including Terminal Services Gatekeeper, Terminal Services Session Broker, Terminal Services Remote Applications and Terminal Services Web Services.
Microsoft has moved the Terminal Services functionality away from Internet Information Services to an independent Terminal Services role service. The end result is a superior set of remote managed services.
For example, by configuring the Gatekeeper and Session Broker Services, remote users who need reliable connections can recover quickly from network failures or disconnects and resume their sessions. Additionally, users that only need access to a specific application, or set off applications, can access the Remote Applications through Web Services and work remotely on an application through a web browser interface.
Enhancements with Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services and Virtualization
With Windows Server 2008 R2 the Terminal Services role service has been re-branded as Remote Desktop Services. All of the Terminal Services functions that Server 2008 provides are included – along with a whole new set of functional tools.
The newer Virtualization services are labeled as Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI), and Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V). They now allow for remote users to access virtual computing environments, instead of the traditional one-to-one mapping for a RDP session to a physical computer.
A fully developed VDI and MED-V solution builds services on top of Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Systems Center Configuration Manager, Systems Center Operations Manager, and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack – MDOP. Then Remote Desktop Services can be configured to define and manage remote connections to these tools.
With the emerging Server 2012 platforms, you can also integrate a workflow automation service called Opalis to define virtual machine and virtual desktop deployments.
So why should I upgrade?
Remote desktop services have continued to expand and be a part of regular networking and productivity solutions. Traditional remote access services are still available through RDP and Terminal Services, but the new R2 Desktop and Application virtualization solutions give systems administrators a whole new suite of services they can provide for remote users.
James Dalton is a Learn iT! Microsoft Certified Trainer with over 15 years of experience as a solutions developer, consultant, and teacher of networking, applications and Microsoft server solutions for many different colleges, universities and private companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds numerous certifications, including Microsoft IT Pro for Server 2008, SharePoint, and Windows 7.