Virtualization in Windows Server 2008 R2 provides both client-server virtualization and presentation virtualization functionality.
Windows presentation virtualization has came a long way since it was first introduced in NT Server as "Terminal Services." At the time, Terminal Services was a desktop-session-based virtualization: The whole desktop was streamed to a remote machine. Terminal Services captured user input and passed it back to the server's session for processing. At the time, Terminal Services mainly used for remote server management.
"Terminal Services" is now referred to as "Remote Desktop Services," and presentation virtualization has shifted focus onto the users, not administrators.
What Is RemoteApp?
Instead of streaming the entire remote desktop to users, a single application can be streamed through RemoteApp. Running an application through RemoteApp is transparent to the users, as it just requires double clicking on a shortcut to launch the application.
RemoteApp can be used widely in an organization, as it relies on the remote desktop protocol (RDP), which is a secure, low bandwidth, mature protocol.
Using RemoteApp is beneficial because it provides for easy deployment and simplified management of software applications.
Traditionally, IT departments deploy software organization-wide using a software installer. By using the capabilities of Active Directory and Windows Installer, or a third- party agent, software could be installed on a number of computers. This style of deployment requires extra licensing, which increases the overall cost.
Also, due to inconsistent hardware, or incompatible software, an application might not install or run. This can lead to expensive hardware or software upgrades, just to make a Line of Business (LOB) application work.
Other issues arise after installation. As updates are released, IT departments need to test the update on different hardware specifications, before pushing them out to computers. This increases the costs of the deployment significantly, as it involves more man hours and resources.
By using RemoteApp, only one copy of the software application will be installed on the server. As long as the software application works on the server, and as long as they have network connections, the clients will not experience any difficulty running the application. If there is any upgrade to be done on the software, the administrator only needs to upgrade the copy on the server, without worrying about hardware and software incompatibilities on the client computers.
How Does RemoteApp Work?
RemoteApp allows users to connect to the server to launch software applications. For this to work, only one copy of the software will need to be installed on the Remote Desktop Services server, and the users will launch an RDP file (which is also used for remote desktop). This RDP file consists of the hostname or IP address of the server which hosts the remote application, the resolution or other configuration settings, and user credentials.
RemoteApp uses remote desktop protocol (RDP) to work, just like remote desktop. As RDP uses encryption and it supports bandwidth tuning, it is one of the ideal protocol for application streaming (as compared to VNC).
Remote Desktop Web Access, as part of Remote Desktop Services, allows users to launch remote programs by using a Web browser. RD Web Access relies on Internet Information Services to work, and by logging into the site, a list of published RemoteApp applications will be shown to the users to launch. This does not require the use of any .RDP file to launch software applications.
Here's a general outline of how to configure RemoteApp:
- Install the LOB software application on the remote desktop services server.
- Configure the applications which are to be connected remotely.
- Configure the users which would be allowed to launch the application.
- Publish the .RDP file to users' Start Menu or desktop.
What's New in RemoteApp in Windows Server 2008 R2
RemoteApp is a featured part of Windows Server 2008, but new enhancements have been added as part of the R2 version. If you are already familiar with RemoteApp from Windows Server 2008, the following items give a good idea on what improvements have been made:
- Better integration with Windows 7 user interface
- Provides simplified publishing of, and access to, remote desktop and applications
- True multiple monitor support
- Support for Aero Glass
- Multimedia redirection, which includes audio/video synchronization improvements
- Single sign-on
- Extends Remote Desktop Services to provide tools to enable Virtualization Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
If supporting Windows 7 client computers is important, Windows Server 2008 R2 would be a great addition to the IT infrastructure.
This article has covered presentation virtualization by using Microsoft's virtualization technology RemoteApp (as part of Remote Desktop Services). I would appreciate some real world feedback on your implementation of virtualization technologies, especially RemoteApp. Feel free to drop me an e-mail by using the Comments section at the bottom of this article!