This is part one of a three-part series on the top new features in Windows Server 2008 R2's Remote Desktop Services.
In terms of features and functionality, Windows Server 2008 raised the bar for Terminal Services.
With its release, Microsoft's long-lived remote access solution gained a variety of new capabilities, which helped it become the solution of choice for many businesses.
However, while the updated Terminal Services boosted RemoteApps, Web Access and Internet-grade security through TS Gateway, many considered it a diamond in the rough: The capabilities were available -- but they contained individual quirks.
In Windows Server 2008 R2, many of these idiosyncrasies are resolved, and the latest release also introduces an array of new features.
The following are eight of the ten most compelling developments in R2's Remote Desktop Services:
10. Per-user RemoteApp filtering
The RTM version of Terminal Services enabled TS Web Access -- a dynamic webpage where users could double-click to launch applications.
While this was extremely useful for finding applications, administrators could not limit access by username or group. R2 adds this capability.
9. Multiple-host support for Web Access
Another limitation with TS Web Access' first version was its ability to enumerate applications from a single Terminal Server or farm of similarly-configured servers. This made it difficult to consolidate applications from multiple servers with different application sets.
In R2, a single RD Web Access server can connect to multiple Remote Desktop servers or farms.
8. PowerShell management
Microsoft continues its drive towards PowerShell management ubiquity by adding complete exposure to almost every Remote Desktop configuration via PowerShell.
Combining this capability with PowerShell 2.0's remoting features means that RD management is command-line accessible for dramatically improved automation.
7. Cache management for Roaming Profiles
Old Terminal Servers tend to get clogged up with too many local profiles, and the collection of these profiles consumes valuable disk space needed for applications.
A new Group Policy setting in R2 automatically deletes aged profiles, helping keep the total profile size under a set value.
6. RDS-awareness for Windows Installer
Installing applications and getting them to work has been one of Terminal Services' biggest problems. The multi-user approach has forced a change in the paradigm for application installation, without the support of the Windows Installer.
New capabilities in R2, built into Windows Installer, ease the process of installing applications.
5. Remote Desktop IP virtualization
Certain applications on Terminal Servers require a specific IP address to function, while other applications require a separate IP for each instance.
With R2, unique IP addresses can be generated for each user as needed.
4. RemoteApp and Desktop Connection
Microsoft's Remote Desktop Client has traditionally felt like a separate application installed atop the Windows desktop OS. Launching desktops or RemoteApps required knowing where that application's link was stored -- either on a file share, webpage or local disk.
This is no longer the case with RemoteApp and Desktop Connection. The new client-side piece in Windows 7 seamlessly integrates RemoteApps and desktops into the local desktop OS for easier access.
3. Fair Share CPU Scheduling
You have more than likely seen how one overzealous user can take processing power from everyone else.
With R2's Fair Share CPU Scheduling, every user is limited to a portion of the available processor resources on the Remote Desktop server. When users consume the maximum amount of their fair share, they will no longer impact the experience of others on the same server.
While the above eight developments are great, they haven't scratched the surface of Microsoft's two best new capabilities in R2's Remote Desktop Services. Stay tuned.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Greg Shields, MCSE, is an independent author and consultant based in Denver with many years of IT architecture and enterprise administration experience. He is an IT trainer and speaker on such IT topics as Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. His recent book Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed is available from Sapien Press.