What's New in Remote Desktop Services for Windows Server 2012 R2

What's New in Remote Desktop Services for Windows Server 2012 R2

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Enabling Modern Work Styles Using Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2012 R2

This post is a part of the nine-part series What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 that is featured on Brad Anderson’s In the Cloud blog. Today’s blog post covers Remote Desktop Services (RDS) & Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions specific to the Windows Server 2012 R2 release and how it applies to Brad’s larger topic of “People-centric IT.” To read that post and see the other technologies discussed, read today’s post: Making Device Users Productive and Protecting Corporate Information.

Hi, I’m Klaas Langhout from the Remote Desktop Virtualization (RDV) team in Windows Server.

I’m happy to be able to provide a description of the key new value that we are bringing to Microsoft VDI and Remote Desktop Services specific to our Windows Server 2012 R2 release. The RDV team focused on areas that would help extend the functionality brought out in Windows Server 2012.

For those who are not familiar with Remote Desktop Services (RDS), it is the workload within Windows Server that enables users to connect to virtual desktops, session-based desktops, and RemoteApp programs. The key value that RDS provides is the ability to centralize and control the applications and data that employees need from the variety of devices that employees use, including bring-your-own-devices (BYOD).  This provides “work anywhere from any device” functionality while ensuring that a company’s control and compliance needs are met at reasonable cost.

In Windows Server 2012 we invested in 1) enabling the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to provide a great experience over wide area networks (WANs), 2) an easy-to-administer Remote Desktop and application solution, and 3) dramatic cost savings in the area of storage for a virtual machine-based or session-based desktop deployment.

For Windows Server 2012 R2 we focused on 1) further decreasing storage and network costs of desktop deployments, 2) decreasing the gap between a local app and RemoteApp program experience, and 3) solving specific administration pain points.

Our first focus area was to decrease storage and network-related costs:

  • Online data deduplication. The Data Deduplication feature released in Windows Server 2012 can now be used with actively running personal desktop collections when the desktop virtual hard disks (VHDs) are accessed via Server Message Block (SMB) from a file server running Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview.  Storage capacity requirements can be reduced by up to 90%!
  • Tiered storage spaces. The Storage Spaces feature released in Windows Server 2012 now makes managing your tiers of storage (fast SSDs vs. slower HDDs) even easier. When a logical storage pool contains physical hard drives of different tiers, the files that are most frequently accessed (for example, parent VHDs in the case of pooled desktop collections) will automatically be moved onto the faster-tier drives.
  • RemoteFX Media Streaming has up to 50% reduced bandwidth compared to Windows Server 2012. This decreases the cost of networking and also provides a better end user experience on constrained networks including WAN.
  • RemoteFX Codec improvements further reduce bandwidth for non-video content.  These improvements include the ability to offload all progressive decode processing to AVC/H.264 hardware if available.  This enables efficient client implementations on many lower-end CPU devices, with better user experience and lower bandwidth than in RDP 8.

Our second focus was improving the user experience by eliminating some of the remaining gaps we had between a RemoteApp program and a local app, and improving our modern Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) client.  We have improved the experience when running RemoteApp programs (either from a session or virtual machine) by:

  • Full support for transparent windows. Some applications draw transparent windows or borders, for example, Office 2013.  These apps now appear the same as local apps.
  • Moves and resizes of RemoteApp windows are snappier and look and feel like local apps.
  • Thumbnails, aero peek, and live taskbar all function the same in a RemoteApp program as they would locally.
  • Dynamic monitor and resolution changes. A common piece of feedback in previous releases was that adding/removing a second display from your client computer, changing the resolution, or in the case of a tablet, rotating it, would not be reflected in any RemoteApp programs (or desktops) that you were connected to.  Now, when you add/remove/rotate/change the resolution of a local client, the app behaves as you would expect it to reflecting those changes (for example, upon rotation, the width and height is changed accordingly on any RemoteApp programs or desktops) without requiring a session reconnect.
  • Applications that utilize ClickOnce setup technology would not work as RemoteApp programs – they now do.
  • DirectX 11.1 support. We have extended our ability to virtualize a GPU on a Hyper-V host to provide hardware acceleration up through DirectX 11.1 for full desktops.
  • Windows Store Remote Desktop application improvements. In Windows 8 we provided a modern remote desktop client that is available on the Windows Store. Two pieces of feedback that we addressed are to more easily bring up the touch keyboard and also manage RemoteApp and Desktop Connection subscriptions from within the application – no need to go to the Control Panel.
  • Quick reconnect. In the past, when a network drop caused the client to attempt to reconnect to the remote session or virtual desktop, it could take up to 70 seconds depending on the kind of network the user was on. We have increased the speed where we detect such a loss, and reconnect in less than 10 seconds.  Furthermore, the UI is less jarring as we now show the user a notification of this loss that is understandable .
  • Nested RDP support. With Windows Server 2012 | Windows 8 we also announced support for nested sessions: the ability to remote to a session, virtual desktop, or physical desktop and from there, launch and utilize a RemoteApp program. This is not new to Windows Server 2012 R2 but was announced after we shipped Windows Server 2012.

Our single pane of glass admin solution that focused on 1-500 users (PowerShell goes beyond that number) in Remote Desktop Services was made very easy in Windows Server 2012, but our third focus was to solve specific gaps that still existed in that experience:

  • Session shadowing. We now allow administrators to be able to ‘shadow’ a session-based or virtual machine-based desktop or RemoteApp program. This is very useful for helpdesk and troubleshooting of an end user problem. It utilizes our standard Remote Desktop client and works with single and multiple monitors.
  • Remote Desktop Gateway pluggable authentication. Both customers and partners asked for a more flexible way to authenticate users connecting from the Internet. RD Gateway pluggable authentication allows custom authentication routines to be used with RD Gateway. This can provide custom two-factor authentication and works seamlessly with Remote Desktop Web Access (RD Web Access) or RDP file resource launching (even when using third-party browsers with RD Web Access).
  • Single server RDS deployment including Active Directory. We now support running our RD Connection Broker role service on the same physical instance as an Active Directory Domain Controller.  In addition, we published guidelines for how RD Session Host could be used without the RD Connection Broker.
  • RD Session Host upgrades. With Windows Server 2012 R2 we now support an in-place upgrade of RD Session Host. Full guidance for how to take a Windows Server 2012 RDS deployment and upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2 is also coming soon.

Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2012 provides a single infrastructure, and consistently great remoting experience even over WAN while offering three deployment choices: session collection, pooled virtual desktop collection, and personal virtual desktop collection to allow the appropriate deployment to match user needs and reduce costs. The administration is simplified and platform hooks are provided for partner extension to provide additional value.

In Windows Server 2012 R2 we have further extended the value, focusing on lowering the cost of infrastructure, increasing fidelity of the end user experience (with lower bandwidth), and addressing specific administration requests that we received with Windows Server 2012.

Customers are excited about RDS in Windows Server 2012 R2, and some have already rolled out a pre-release version into production taking advantage of these new benefits!  We are proud of the work we have done and look forward to providing more information as we drill into the specific features in blog posts to come in the RDS Blog.

- The Entire Remote Desktop Virtualization Team

To see all of the posts in this series, check out the What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 archive.




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  • Great! Looking forward to try it out. Is it now pssible to have a RDS session on two monitors in a Three/ four montior setup? This could solve a lot of issues with our engineering customers...

  • Great Updates!! :)

    Will you support shadowing users with dual monitors?

  • Where is the 2012 R2 RemoteApp walk-through? The only "TS RemoteApp Step-by-Step Guide" I can find is for Server 2008.

  • Some question answers:

    1. For using RDS on two monitors out out of four: no, you can use all, one, but not two or three.

    2. Shadowing *does* support multi-monitor and RemoteApp across both sessions and vm's now.

    3. The RemoteApp step by step: social.technet.microsoft.com/.../10817.publishing-remoteapps-in-windows-server-2012.aspx

    cheers, klaas

  • Microsoft esta esquecendo das pequenas empresas, ta dando um tiro no pé... Pequenas empresas não usam AD...

  • Is there a Server 2012 RDS Resource Kit available, or some rough equivalent?  I found the 2008 version very helpful but have not found one for 2012.  

  • Can you clarify whether or not Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Session Host can use a suitable GPU to offload video processing from the main CPU? The text above is ambiguous.

    If it now can (I believe the only option in Server 2012 was to use the CPU), will this also work if the RDSH server is a VM running under Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V?

    If it still can't, why not?

  • Hey Klaas,

    interesting article. I´m a volunteer in germany and do a research on a project right now and look for a solution with following requirements:

    -the aim task is to provide a method and technology to enable end users to get access to comercial software tools via web browser. Tools need to be made available to end users without the need to install any local software.

    -shall give access to any tool running on our server via standard browsers

    -shall be embeded into an existing web site´

    -shall not require any installation on the computers of the end users

    -should not require any plugins to be installed on the computer browser of the end users (except common technology e.g. Java)

    -should not be isolated from the other parts of the web site

    Can offer Windows Server 2012 offer that? Windows Server 2008R2 offers a functionality to embed a remote desktop client into a website, but this requires a plugin which is available only in IE.



  • Hi

    we just installed server 2012 essentials and connecting to this server within the home network with the remote desktop program from a win 7 pc results in very sluggish functioning. RD to other computers or server with 2008R2 no problem.

    Drives me crazy what can this be???

  • could it be the fact that the two lan ports are in a network bridge?

  • Any MS plan for GPU pass-through like they did for Network adapter using SR-IOV ?. Hope one day we would be able to run AutoCAD in VMs ?

  • support for vGPU on 2012 r2 RD Session Host, or does the session still nedd to be a win 8 enterprise?

  • For Carsten Anker comment - that's the main trouble that RemoteFx vGPU doesn't supported in Windows Server 2012 R2 guest VM... RDSH could use GPU only when installed on bare metal - why!!???!!??

    We need RDSH to be installed as VMs, as we need RDSH farm with live migration, failover and so on.. But we run WPF apps in RDSH, as you know - WPF is rendered via GPU.. So no GPU for guest RDSH OS, no hardware acceleration of our WPF apps - pity, pity, pity..

  • No way to determine what application is being run in a session. I can get session collections of a collection but unless I limit that collection to one application (real dumb) I have no way to know.

    PowerShell or GUI has same limitation. What is purpose of collections if I cannot see what application is being run? This is a major hold up and anything more that a few applications is not scalable. It looks like another year of Citrix maintenance. :(


  • And of course give us back the ability to publish the host as the external domain name without having to go through the hassle of installing High Availability? No? Sighhhhhh!!

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