Is Microsoft’s RDS still the right choice for ISVs hosting desktop software and offering it as a service?

1.0 The adoption of SaaS is enabling ISVs to effectively respond to evolving market demands

Many software providers or Independent Software vendors (ISVs) have embraced Service-Level Agreements (SLAs), through the means of hosting and providing remote access to their mature desktop software, or developing new software based on cloud native architecture and delivering as a Software as a Service (SaaS).

SaaS offers customers the flexibility of remote access to key applications and data through an internet connection regardless of their location. SaaS also offers ISV customers mitigated responsibility in ensuring application performance and reliability, as the software is now a “service” offered by the ISV, removing the requirement from the customer to manage and maintain.

In recent years, automation and centralization has helped improve the efficiencies in managing IT infrastructure for SaaS. A key aspect of this is reliable and dynamic user-resource scaling. Whether through rapid user adoption, or fluctuating user demand (like access for contractors or seasonal workers), the ability to efficiently scale resources needs is vital for smooth business operations but also for providing great user experiences. This poses challenges for software vendors or ISVs who rely on these technologies for onboarding new users and delivering their software and applications remotely.

2.0 How to evolve your legacy software and deliver as cloud applications (SaaS)

The move to hosting applications and offering them as SaaS has seen a steady uptake during the last 15 years, with the global COVID-19 lockdown being a significant catalyst.

The process of migrating applications to the cloud begins by developing a solid grasp of the application’s requirements, encompassing both resource and operating system (OS) needs.

For true SaaS, this begins with analyzing the requirements is necessary for a rewrite, followed by determining whether the rewrite makes sense. If not, the next step is to look at how the application can be hosted. Following this step, the evaluation and selection of a suitable SaaS vendor capable of delivering the software with the necessary feature set is crucial. Once these steps are fulfilled, rigorous testing ensues to ensure the adequacy of the infrastructure.

The increasing adoption of on-premises-based SaaS prompted a greater demand from ISVs and businesses for virtualization technologies such as Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS), which utilizes Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Additionally, other app virtualization vendors like Parallels RAS have also gained prominence in meeting this demand.

2.1 How does Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) help ISV businesses today? 

For many businesses interested in using virtualization or application publishing technologies to host their desktop applications, one option is to achieve this is through RDP.

RDP is a communication protocol developed by Microsoft that enables secure remote connections between end-point devices and the centralized infrastructure, which is usually a server-based. RDP allows IT administrators to grant employees or customers access to applications, data, and other resources through an internet connection. Although RDP is a proprietary protocol, some of its specifications are open and can be utilized to expand its functionality and align with organizational requirements if necessary.

Some virtualization providers leverage various technologies like Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS), Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS), and other virtualization technologies as the foundation for their solution offerings. However, while these virtualization technologies serve as the base, each offering has its own feature set that can shape the quality and performance of security, management, and user experience in the ISVs infrastructure.

Windows RDS has inherent limitations, particular in the area of auto scaling and automation. Why is this important? Well, ISVs are constantly growing their customer base, they need to invest in an infrastructure which can efficiently grow with their success. This is why many ISVs are turning to more feature-rich virtualization technologies like Parallels RAS.

2.2 Concerns of Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for your software delivery? 

Over the years, there has been a steady exodus of software vendors and ISVs from Windows RDS deployments. This is due to limitations in effective scaling compared with other product offerings in the market today. For example, when compared to Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS), there are several distinctions in the RDS feature-set that offer software vendors and ISVs more value in the areas of automation and scaling,

These include:


Parallels RAS 

Microsoft RDS 

Autoscaling Autoscaling feature enables IT admin to automatically optimize the workload based on demand with Parallels RAS. This includes create/delete, add/unassign workload threshold is above/under a specific value. Not available out-of-the-box — requires PowerShell Scripts to create similar functionality. PowerShell requires a lot of experience to use and a lot more time to set up due to its unique process.
Scalability The flexible architecture of Parallels RAS is easily scalable supporting 5K+ Session hosts in the same site, deployed on-premises or the cloud. To scale, IT Admin can simply deploy additional infrastructure via the console. Difficult to scale out due to day-to-day management and difficulties in maintaining multiple RDSH collections.
Printing Parallels RAS Universal Printing is a built-in feature that increases printing performance and response time when clients use locally installed printers with published desktops or applications. Remote Desktop Easy Print is a universal print driver for RDP sessions. Easy Print uses XPS documents that will download to the client computer. The offering is limited compared to Parallels RAS Universal Printing.
Automated Image optimization Parallels RAS offers administrators the capability to optimize RD Session hosts and Templates for better performance while using fewer resources. This is integrated right into the console. Not built- in, and an administrator is required to optimizse the image in a separate process using various tools.
Flexible deployment Under the same license and via the single console, Parallels RAS can support, on-premises, hybrid and cloud/multi-cloud deployments including Azure virtual desktop (AVD), Amazon EC2 integrations. Separate installation for on-premises and cloud deployments (IaaS).   Azure Virtual Desktop is available but does not integrate with RDS at all. RDS and AVD must be separately managed.
Multi-site and optimal routing Deployment able to span multiple, WAN-connected locations, managed and maintained by a single Parallels RAS farm – enabling IT admins to create Multiple load balanced points of entry. Sites are not available. Different collections must be used.
Management console The Parallels RAS console is the only interface needed to configure, manage and run the solution. Limited as part of the Server Manager on the server.
Single and multi-tenancy Parallels RAS offers single and multi-tenancy deployments as standard with no need for third part support. RDS does not have native support for multi-tenancy.

As you can see, there are some missing qualities within the RDS offering that impact performance of application hosting and delivery. Despite these limitations, Windows Remote Desktop remains widely used when properly configured and used within its intended scope. However, to mitigate or improve these short falls, ISVs can look to Parallels RAS as an alternative product offering.

2.3 The essence of using Parallels RAS as an ISV

Parallels RAS, short for Parallels Remote Application Server, is a comprehensive virtual application delivery solution. It enables ISVs to centrally manage and deliver their applications to customers, regardless of their device or location.

Parallels RAS can replace RDS and be used to enhance the existing experience for both IT administrators and direct customers alike. It offers features such as seamless application publishing, secure remote access, load balancing, and high availability. Parallels RAS aims to simplify IT administration, enhance user productivity, and provide a seamless remote working experience.

Find out more:

3.0 The impact to software vendors delivering application hosting

There are several necessary characteristics that ensure an ISV’s SaaS environment is not limited in its ability to scale or automate with the success of the business.

These include:

4.0 Enhance RDS experiences with Parallels RAS

Parallels RAS can help enhance the Microsoft’s RDS infrastructure that ISVs use to publish their applications to their customers (and the device(s) of their choice).  It can introduce a rich set of features and tools to improve an existing environment, in several key areas:

If you are an application developer or an ISV providing remote access to your customers using Microsoft’s RDS, you may have concerns about the effectiveness of the environment. However, fret not!  By replacing RDS with Parallels RAS, you can strengthen the resilience of your current RDS environment, ensuring improved reliability and scalability for onboarding new customers and users.

6.0 Frequently asked questions and answers (FAQs)

1. Should my business leverage Microsoft’s RDS for delivering SaaS?

It depends on various factors such as your business requirements, infrastructure, security considerations, and user experience expectations. It’s recommended to evaluate RDS alongside other options to determine the best fit for your specific needs.

2. Is Microsoft’s RDS still a good choice for hosting desktop software and offering it as SaaS in 2023?

Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is still a widely used and reliable solution for hosting desktop software and offering it as a SaaS. However, if you are looking for further features to support your application delivery, including security, user experience and infrastructure flexibility, an alternative solution like Parallels RAS could be a better option for ISVs in 2023 and in the future.

3. What is Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS)?

RDS is a component of Microsoft Windows Server that enables remote access to applications, desktops, and data hosted on a server from a remote client device.

4. What is Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)?

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft that allows users to remotely access and control a computer over a network. Its use by many software companies to delivery application and desktop virtualization.

5. What potential challenges might an ISV face when using Microsoft’s RDS for SaaS delivery?

Some potential challenges ISVs might face when using Microsoft’s Remote RDS for SaaS includes scalability limitations and/or poor user experience if oversubscribed.

For more information, contact us for a consultation about how Parallels RAS can enhance your ISV’s RDS implementation.