Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008

The capabilities of Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008 are far ahead of those in Windows Server 2003. One of the features likely to get the most attention from end users is the support for RemoteApps. Previously, native Terminal Services could present only a desktop view of the terminal server. If you wanted to display […]

The capabilities of Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008 are far ahead of those in Windows Server 2003.

One of the features likely to get the most attention from end users is the support for RemoteApps. Previously, native Terminal Services could present only a desktop view of the terminal server. If you wanted to display individual applications, you'd need to create an RDP file that included a path to the application and its working directory. Anyone launching this RDP file would get only a single application, but it would still have the icon for the remote session -- instead of for the application being run -- and it was within a remote session frame. This wasn't much use to either users or Terminal Server administrators.

Windows Server 2008 now adds a new capability to terminal servers: RemoteApps.

RemoteApps launch from special RDP files, but they display the application as though it were running locally with no extra frames and with the right icon for the TaskBar. RemoteApps running from the same server will share a session. To set this up, the terminal server administrator installs the applications as usual, then uses a wizard-based tool to determine how the RemoteApp is delivered: as a RDP file on the user's desktop, wrapped in an MSI package for delivery using Group Policy, in a browser using Terminal Server Web Access, or TSWA.

Terminal Services Web Access -- Once you deploy an RDP file for a RemoteApp, how do you ensure that people are using the most current version? If you use Group Policy to deploy them, that helps, but you can't update client computers not joined to the domain. One way to ensure that your users are always using the latest RDP file to open their RemoteApps is to display those RemoteApps in a browser and create the RDP files on the fly. That's what TSWA does.

TSWA connects a terminal server and an IIS server to present applications in a browser, accessible via the intranet or on the Internet. All RemoteApps that the administrator has selected to be visible via TSWA -- this is part of creating a RemoteApp -- display their icons in the browser window. The user must be authenticated to the Web site to see the application icons.

When a user clicks an icon and is authenticated on the terminal server, this creates an RDP file with the settings appropriate to that user and terminal server, and the application launches. Only those RemoteApps the administrator has explicitly selected will appear in the browser. This delivery method also avoids the problem of "stale" RDP files with outdated paths.

TSWA cannot filter applications based on user identity, but shows all users the same application set. However, some Terminal Server ISV partners have announced that they're developing solutions to filter applications to show a personalized view of the portal to each user.

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Windows Server 2008, Terminal Services, Features, Microsoft