Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services (RDS) have come to the forefront with RemoteApp, an RDP-based approach to serving published applications and desktops to the enterprise included in Windows 2008 R2. Now with the RDS server service role in Windows 2008 R2, you can host Applications that run on the server and get pushed to the desktop using the Remote Desktop protocol and Published Applications.
If you’re thinking “Big deal, I already use Citrix!” that means you also pay Citrix Contract Support fee, Licensing fee and Citrix Software on top of Microsoft TS CAL. Microsoft RDS can do 95% of what you may need with less cost. It is also blazing fast using RDC7 client challenging Citrix’s ICA protocol performance – which is a big deal! For many years, the ICA protocol was the reason many large companies stayed away from Microsoft’s RDP connection-oriented protocol as it wasn’t as efficient or as fast as ICA was at presenting data. Application Virtualization was also previously an extremely expensive application solution that cost serious ducks in licensing, support and software purchases and contracts on top of consulting. However, with recent developments at Microsoft it would seem they have been in the lab working on these issues for some time. Their hosted platform solution called RemoteApp is the ’secret weapon’ for Network Administrators; its features, applications and low cost make it a valuable solution for many of our clients and may just be a great solution for your business too!
As part of the RDS Server role, it works by utilizing Microsoft Terminal Services and RDP to host applications installed on the server in user profiles. Applications are launched by RDC shortcut or .MSI file at the client PC, accessing server files in a remote session managed by the TS server with secure connections if needed. It is then presented through your built-in remote client in Windows XP and 7. Your application is hosted at the server and shows up on your desktop as a managed app run from either a shortcut distributed or an installer package that can create file associations for your users. It can also be accessed by a configured web portal with customizable access for users. By using Group Policy and RemoteApp Manager, you can string multiple servers together in Server farms with the same configuration and load balance the sessions. Another previously expensive enterprise solution! These services can also be hosted via an internally hosted setup in a secure IIS intranet site for even more value for sprawled employees on the road with access to a VPN. All this with integrated windows Active Directory security and you can setup to save your account info.
With RemoteApp you’re able to go from a bare bones laptop – to having applications up and running in less than 30 seconds for each user, by distributing shortcuts to each PC. If updates are needed, a phased approach can be used to make this happen with less impact to your users.
Let’s say you had to roll out an application that was hosted on a RDS Server farm, with 4 servers, for 100 users. You can take one server down and the connections will automatically be load balanced to one of the other servers. Once it is updated, place it back into production and move to the next.
Pushing out apps using Group Policy is a good idea and a new machine can have a Start menu folder automatically created for launching the app. Centralized printing is also available for this solution, and works with any local printer no matter where the remote access takes place.
The possibilities for who would benefit from RemoteApp are endless; Hotel Clerk and Desks, Presentation Kiosks, Law Firms, Dental Offices, Government, Manufacturing and Health Care, just to name a few! Microsoft has done a fantastic job of packaging RemoteApp with the small and mid-size business in mind.
Imagine you are testing an accounting package that will virtualize and manage all the updates and deployment for your finance division. You can roll out RemoteAPP and test it with existing or new data with no impact to your users. Or perhaps you have a time logging application for a group of lawyers that timestamps your calls and conferences with clients. Lawyers can’t afford to waste 30 minutes to install a custom application with lots of add-ons and configuring with reboots; RemoteAPP helps keep time down and value up.
What if you work for a manufacturer of goods that needs a kiosk setup for factory stations – essentially a “set and forget” scenario with little configuration. RemoteAPP would be perfect for enabling a centralized configuration for Kiosk applications and touch screens.
If you are a salesman and need access to applications for critical contact information that you can’t do without, even if Viruses or malware attack, suddenly in almost any situation you can access the application from your web browser over the VPN. This can be done in a hotel, a client site, or even from home. You save your files in your network home directory safely on the RDS server.
It is easy to see the potential for RemoteApp’s added value and how it’s resolved multiple problems in the enterprise. With the proper planning this take on Application Virtualization can save you time, money and support downtime.
The future of cloud computing and the cornerstone of a successful and efficient IT practice is in creating scenarios where the application is separated from the PC desktop. The next time someone says to you “My Application does not work – can you reinstall it for me??” Remember RDS and let 360 Visibility help you plan for it so you can work smarter not harder!