Don’t forget Remote Desktop Services… Old School VDI…

September 30th, 2016

Chris Minnis
Enterprise Architect

Just over 20 years ago, Citrix released WinFrame, as one of the first alternatives to traditional desktops. Even back then, we wanted to free employees from working at a desk! Back then, Citrix licensed Windows NT 3.51 from Microsoft and altered that code to deliver the Multi-User Kernel. Citrix was so successful, Microsoft changed the agreement so that they could license that kernel from Citrix and release Windows NT 4, Terminal Server Edition in 1996. Let that sink in for a moment… At the same time, that’s when access to the internet really begins to take off. Windows95 is released as well, as the desktop operating system’s first true alternative in Terminal Services. Twenty years later, Windows95 has led to Windows10 and NT4 Terminal Services has become Remote Desktop Services on Windows Server 2012.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) isn’t all that different from Citrix XenApp…Now, don’t get too excited here. I’m not telling you not to buy Citrix, or that you don’t need it. I’m just here to remind you that RDS is awfully good by itself, and to make sure you need to add something like Citrix, and to not just assume RDS falls short in some way. To that end, let’s take a look at how Terminal Services has grown up and into RDS.

There are the Old School features we should all know:

  • Multi-user kernel for Windows Server
  • – – Multiple users simultaneously executing desktops and/or applications
  • Great for small ROBO/SOHO remote access to one application
  • Great for the occasional need to work from home

Some of the common pains were performance over slow connections, printer management, and scalability. Over the years, features have been added that you might not be fully aware of. Let’s look at a list of those:

  • Application publishing looks like you’d expect… single app undiscernible from local execution
  • – – Gateway and Web Access provide a great way for end-users to interface with the desktops and applications they have access to
  • RDP isn’t the only protocol… RDP is better than before, but RemoteFX is even better
  • User personalization… What was profiles has become profile disks, much better
  • Policies… Every release of Windows Server includes massive updates to Active Directory, and group policies receive the same attention
  • Session Virtualization… Having a shared experience for the entire company, or a group within the company, can be achieved, so there are new configuration options available
  • Fairshare… Prevents one session from negatively impacting the performance of another session
  • RemoteApp and Desktop Connection… Can deliver the ultimate integration with traditional desktops and their start menus

So, what does this all mean to you? Don’t forget that Microsoft licenses software from Citrix via an agreement that has been renewed periodically and lasted over 20 years now. When you begin thinking about different ways to approach your employees and their desktops, don’t forget Remote Desktop Services that comes as a Windows Server service. We often think we have to jump directly into a Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop and/or VMware Horizon, and we might not need to, or there may be years of transition. Remote Desktop Services in Windows 2016 will deliver further enhancements (primarily tied to Cloud or Azure).

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