Windows 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services (RDS) (1 of 2)

Understanding and Deploying RDS

This is the first of a 2 part article I’m going to do on the Windows 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services, or RDS.  This first article I’m going to cover the technology and the basic implementation.  In Article 2 of 2, I’m going to focus on the Remote Desktop Web Access which is like Outlook Web Access (OWA) but for terminal services sessions as well as I’m going to cover the Remote Desktop RemoteApp that allows you to have an icon on a desktop and the user simply clicks on the icon and has access to the application without having to load up a full desktop session with a Start button and everything.

So Remote Desktop Services, or RDS is the old Windows Terminal Services but several generations updated!  Where organizations used to think of Terminal Services as the foundation for Citrix where the “real” stuff came from the Citrix add-in, now with Windows 2008 R2 RDS, we’ve found most (almost all) organizations no longer need Citrix.  Microsoft has improved their out of the box features and capabilities that everything that you used to buy Citrix for is now included.  And with x64-bit host servers, we can now stuff 32gb or 64gb and 8core or 16core into a single system and get 150-250 users on a single RDS server.

So the key features of RDS:

  • Lots of simultaneous users on a single RDS host server

  • Ability to put dozens / hundreds of RDS servers into an RDS load balanced farm

  • Put an RDS Session Broker server to load balance the RDS servers and to reconnect users back to the server they were on if they were disconnected (so the user reconnects right back to where they left off)

  • Put an RDS Gateway server on the network so that remote users access RDS hosts over standard SSL port 443 (instead of the proprietary port 3389 that is frequently blocked by firewalls)

  • Put an RDS Web Access server on the network so that remote users can just connect to a Website and access their RDS apps from a Webpage instead of having to get a full desktop session

  • Put an RDS RemoteApp server on the network so that users can just have an icon dropped on their desktop and can double-click the icon to launch a centralized application without ever knowing that the application is running as an RDS hosted app (users never know which apps are installed and running on their local system, and which apps are installed and running on an RDS server), the user icons and experience are identical 

And you can combine these various “server roles” to minimize the number of “systems” you need, or you can scale out your environment to extend access to resources from 1,000, 10,000, or more users.

So for the basic install of RDS, here’s a snippit out of my book Windows Server 2008 R2 on the installation of RDS…

When deploying the RD Session Host role service, three things (at a minimum) must be done, in order, before an RD Session Host server can be used to host applications:

  1. First, the RD Session Host role service must be installed (this is the basic “terminal server” system role)

  2. Next, the applications that are to be hosted by the RD Session Host server must be installed on the RD Session Host system.

  3. Finally, you must grant users or groups the required privileges to connect to the RD Session Host server and configure RD Licensing  

Installing the RD Session Host Role Service

To install the RD Session Host role service, follow these steps:

  1. Log on to the desired server with local administrator privileges.

  2. Click Start, and then click Run.

  3. In the Run dialog box, type in ServerManager.msc and click OK.

  4. In the Roles Summary section, click the Add Roles task.

  5. After the Add Roles Wizard loads, click Next.

  6. On the Select Server Roles page, select the Remote Desktop Services role, and click Next

  7. On the Remote Desktop Services page, click Next.

  8. Now, on the Select Role Services page, only select the Remote Desktop Session Host role service. This is the only role service that is being installed at this time. Click Next.

  9. On the Uninstall and Reinstall Applications for Compatibility page, click Next.

  10. Now, on the Specify Authentication Method for Remote Desktop Session Host page, select an authentication option for this RD Session Host server (the decision about which method should be made based on what type of clients will be connecting), and then click Next.

  11. On the Specify Licensing Mode page, select the Configure Later licensing option, and then click Next.

  12. On the Select User Groups Allowed Access to This RD Session Host Server page, leave the default Administrators group, and then click Next.

  13. On the Configure Client Experience page, choose the desired level of “Client Experience” functionality that will be available to remote clients when they connect to this RD Session Host server, and then click Next.

  14. On the Confirm Installation Selections page, review the selections made, and then click Install.

  15. On the Installation Results page, review the results, and click Close.

  16. When prompted to restart the server, click Yes.

  17. After the server restarts, log on to the server with local administrator privileges.

  18. After logging on, the Installation Results page is displayed. Review the results on the page and confirm that the Terminal Server installation has succeeded. 

Installing Applications

Applications should be installed on an RD Session Host server only after the RD Session Host role service has been installed. Applications that are installed prior to installing the RD Session Host role service might not function properly for all users. In addition, applications must only be installed on an RD Session Host server when it is in a special installation mode. To put an RD Session Host server into this installation mode, use either of the following methods:

  • Use the Install Application on Remote Desktop Session Host option under Programs in Control Panel.

  • Use the following command before installing an application: change user /Install. 

If the change user /Install command is used and then the server needs to be changed back to Execute mode, use the following command: change user /Execute. The server should be in Execute mode before users access the newly installed application. To see the current mode, use the following command: change user /Query.

NOTE

When installing applications that use an .msi package from Microsoft, an RD Session Host server typically doesn’t need to be switched to Install mode. Instead, just install the application using the .msi package or the related installation executable.

Granting Users or Groups Access

To grant users or groups access to an RD Session Host server, use the following steps:

  1. Log on to the desired server with local administrator privileges.

  2. Click Start, and then click Run.

  3. In the Run dialog box, type in ServerManager.msc and click OK.

  4. After the Server Manager console is displayed, select the Configure Remote Desktop task.

  5. In the Systems Properties dialog box, on the Remote tab, and in the Remote Desktop section, click the Select Users button.

  6. Next, click the Add button, and in the Select Users or Groups dialog box, choose to find the users or groups you want to grant access to, and click OK.

  7. Click OK, and in the System Properties dialog box, click OK. 

NOTE

Completion of the previous steps actually just results in the modification of the lo-cal Remote Desktop Users group. When managing a number of RD Session Host servers in a farm, it is recommended that access to these servers be controlled using a Restricted Groups policy in a Group Policy Object.

In my next post Windows 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services (RDS) (2 of 2) on Deploying RDS Web Access, I’ll be continuing this discussion on Remote Desktop Services specific to the Web Access and RDS RemoteApp features

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