What is Microsoft RDS?

In 2001, Microsoft introduced the RDP protocol, a proprietary protocol that allowed users to access an operating system’s desktop remotely. Since then, Microsoft has come a long way, developing the Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to facilitate remote desktop access. Formerly known as Terminal Services, Microsoft RDS consists of several tools and services that allow businesses to build an application and virtual desktop delivery solution for their users.

However, Microsoft RDS leaves a lot to be desired. This article highlights the pain points of RDS solutions, and how systems administrators can use Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) to enhance their Microsoft RDS infrastructure to provide the functionality users need to be more productive.

Microsoft RDS overview

Depending on the environment and the business requirements, Microsoft RDS can be set up either as Session Host, which is commonly used for publishing applications (RemoteApp) or as a Virtualization Host, commonly used for publishing desktops and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Microsoft RDS is based on a suite of different server role services, mainly consisting of the following:

Microsoft RDS benefits

Microsoft RDS components work together to provide multiple benefits, including delivering solutions to low processing power devices, providing additional compute resources, delivering Windows-based applications to other devices, storing data in the cloud, and reducing configuration time. W

Deliver solutions to devices that have low processing power

RDS-delivered applications aren’t stored, nor do they run on your users’ endpoint devices (PCs, laptops, tablets, thin clients, etc.). Instead, all storage and processing are carried out on servers in your data center or on a public cloud. Thus, the applications can run regardless of an endpoint device’s processing power.

Provides more compute resources to an application without having to upgrade

If an application ever requires additional compute resources like CPU or RAM, you don’t have to upgrade your endpoint devices. All you need to do is add those resources, usually in virtualized form, at your data center or public cloud.

Delivers Windows based applications to other devices

Normally, Windows applications can run only on Windows OS-powered devices. However, since RDS-delivered applications aren’t installed locally, those applications can be delivered to devices powered by other OSs like macOS, Android, or iOS.

Stores data in the cloud

If your RDS infrastructure is hosted in a public cloud, your users’ data will likewise be stored there. That means you can take advantage of the extensive scalability of the cloud and store as much data as you want.

Reduces configuration time

Microsoft RDS consolidates all your applications into the RDS infrastructure. This can reduce your configuration and maintenance time greatly. Instead of performing configuration and maintenance tasks on every single endpoint device, you just need to perform those tasks in one place.

Microsoft RDS pain points

Despite those benefits, Microsoft RDS also has several pain points that many businesses find quite challenging from both an administrative and end- user perspective. Some of those are limited load balancing, client device support, and guest OS and hypervisor support. Installation, setup, management, scale up, version interoperability, and upgrading also can be challenging.

Limited load balancing functionality

The Remote Desktop Connection Broker manages the distribution of connections between the different servers in the farm. The technology is very limited because it only distributes the connections based on session count and server weight.

Limited gateway load balancing

Network Load Balancing (NLB) or DNS Round Robin can be used to load balance the network traffic, though neither of them tracks the health of the gateway service. Furthermore, NLB has to be installed and configured separately. To achieve true load balancing, Azure Load Balancer or any other third-party solution is required.

Limited client device support

Remote Desktop client is only available for Windows, iOS, Mac®, and Android. Microsoft RDS does not have a Linux® client, so the only option for IT administrators looking for wider client support is to use third-party solutions.

Difficult to install, set up, and update

The process of installing and setting up a virtual desktop and application delivery solution with Microsoft RDS is lengthy and complex. It requires systems administrators to install and configure several different servers and server roles, and to install additional software to support the setup.

Difficult to management

A Microsoft RDS solution is made up of several different software components, and there is no central dedicated console. IT administrators have to configure every component individually via different management consoles by logging in to different servers.

Difficult to scale up

To scale up a Microsoft RDS infrastructure or configure load balancing and high availability features, administrators have to install and configure additional software components such as Microsoft NLB, Failover Cluster, and Microsoft SQL, most of which are available at an additional cost.

Problematic and restrictive version interoperability

One of the biggest problems with Microsoft RDS is compatibility issues among different role services. For instance, Windows Server 2016 is backward compatible with just a few components. Also, all Session Hosts and Connection Brokers servers need to be running the same OS version, and the License Server must be using the same OS version as the RD Session Host.

Limited Support for guest operating systems support

In a VDI deployment, a Windows Server 2016 RD Virtualization Host server only supports Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, and Windows 7 SP1 Enterprise as guest machines.

Limited hypervisor support

Remote Desktop Virtualization Host role only supports Microsoft Hyper-V to host VDIs.

Upgrade limitations

Upgrades are limited and may require reinstallation of roles (setup downtime). For upgrades from Windows 2012 to 2012 R2, all Microsoft RDS roles can be upgraded in place. However, upgrades to Windows Server 2016 are supported only from Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016 TP5.

How Parallels RAS enhances your Microsoft RDS infrastructure

Many of these pain points are addressed by Parallels RAS. Parallels RAS is an application and virtual desktop delivery solution that allows systems administrators to create a private cloud from which they can centrally manage the delivery of all applications, virtual desktops, and business-critical data on the infrastructure.

Parallels RAS is well known for its ease of use, low license costs, and comprehensive features list. This section highlights some of the enhancements Parallels RAS offers when used in conjunction with Microsoft RDS.

Easy to install and setup

The default setup is tailored to help businesses get started very easily with configured SSL certificates, remote access, and fully enabled HTML5 support. Thanks to Parallels RAS’ intuitive interface, even junior IT personnel can build a complete setup within a couple minutes without requiring any training. Quick-start wizards guide the administrator in configuring terminal servers, publishing applications, and inviting users to connect.

Application publishing and delivery

Parallels RAS uses Microsoft’s own Remote Desktop Protocol and Remote Desktop Services role to publish applications. Parallels RAS enhances these features through its own set of application publishing features and management tools, allowing systems administrators to provide a better experience for their users.

VDI and desktop delivery

On the VDI side, Parallels RAS supports templates created for the Windows OS (7, 8, 10, and 11). It also supports hypervisors from Citrix, VMware, Microsoft’s own Hyper-V, Nutanix Acropolis, and Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM).

Load balancing, high availability, and scalability

Parallels RAS offers both round-robin as well as resource-based load balancing. Resource-based load balancing dynamically distributes the traffic between servers based on counters, such as number of existing user sessions, memory, and CPU utilization. In addition, it also provides RDSH auto-scaling, which dynamically scales RDS hosts up or down in accordance with administrator-defined rules.

Support for a wider variety of operating systems and mobile devices

The Parallels client software can be installed on popular platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux. It can also be installed on any type of mobile device, such as popular Android and iOS phones and tablets, thereby providing bring -your -own -device (BYOD) support out of the box. Parallels RAS also comes with a “clientless” HTML5 Client. Users can access published applications and virtual desktops via the HTML5 Client by using an HTML5-compatible browser, such as Google Chrom, Firefox, or Internet Explorer.

Client management and helpdesk support

Parallels RAS provides a comprehensive client management solution for Windows. Systems administrators can use Parallels RAS reporting to generate a wide variety of reports as well as monitor and control user session activity, devices used, session activity on the server, server health, and many more.

Use Parallels RAS to enhance your Microsoft RDS infrastructure

As this article highlights, Parallels RAS allows you to enhance your Microsoft Remote Desktop Services infrastructure, enabling you to offer a superior application and virtual desktop delivery solution.

Built around Microsoft’s RDP protocol, Parallels RAS allows systems administrators to do more in less time with fewer resources. Since it is easier to implement and use, systems administrators can manage and easily scale up the Parallels RAS farm without requiring any specialized training. Because of its extensive feature list and multi-site support, they can build solutions that meet the requirements of any enterprise, regardless of its size and scale.

Get firsthand experience on how Parallels RAS enhances the capabilities of Microsoft RDS. Try Parallels RAS now.