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Microsoft embraces VDI with revamped Terminal Services

Margie Semilof

BARCELONA -- Microsoft said it will retool its Terminal Services protocol and TS session broker so that it will work better with other virtualization scenarios, such as virtual desktops and application virtualization.

At TechEd here this week, Microsoft said Terminal Services would be renamed Remote Desktop Services. Terminal Services, which is a feature of Windows Server, is also the underlying platform from which Citrix Systems Inc. has built its own XenApps application delivery software.

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The company is expanding the role of Terminal Services for Windows Server 2008 R2. The revision of Windows Server 2008 is due out in 2010. A beta is expected around the December 2008 to February timeframe, Microsoft said. In R2, Terminal Services now has a single broker to connect users to sessions, or virtual machines, or virtual desktop scenarios with Hyper-V, said Ward Ralston, group product manager in Microsoft's Windows Server group.

Microsoft's existing Remote Desktop Protocol was not created with multimedia, such as full-streaming video or 3-D graphics in mind. The refashioned protocol will support video, audio and 3-D graphics. The enhanced protocol will also support DirectX 10 graphics, VoIP, bi-directional audio and video and multi-monitors versus monitor spanning, Ralston said.

Microsoft's interest in virtual desktops is picking up steam as IT shops have started taking a close look at this emerging technology. "Microsoft put its head in the sand about [virtual desktop infrastructure] thinking it would go away," said Brian Madden, an independent consultant who specializes in desktop virtualization. "Now it's extended Vista so licensing is compatible with VDI. Microsoft is admitting VDI is real and it's something that it has to address."

Ultimately, Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services will make it easier for IT shops to have various client scenarios connected to applications. There are many reasons why an IT shop might want to put its desktops in a virtual environment, Ralston said. They can either be dedicated or non-dedicated to the applications or use pooled or non-pooled virtual machines, for example.

A beta for Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services is due out sometime between December 2008 and February 2009. The technology will be part of Windows Server 2008 R2, Ralston said.

Also for Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft previously promised to add live migration, the ability to move virtual machines from one host to another on the fly.

The company has also added Branch Cache to improve performance on the WAN, and a feature called DirectAccess, which lets remote workers connect to the enterprise without using a VPN.


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