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Remote Desktop Services in Windows 8

Author by Nathan Lasnoski

There are a ton of new features in Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows 8.   It is clear that Microsoft is taking RDS again to the next level and also making it consistent with the Windows 8 client experience.   At //BUILD the team presented on these feature in depth and I've outlined some of these features below to provide a preview of what to expect.  Make sure to download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and try it for yourselves!   

Remote Desktop Services in Windows 8 RemoteFX Feature Overview

What are the system goals for Remote Desktop Services in Windows 8?

  • Fast and fluid desktop experience, consistent with metro UI.
  • Wide range of network conditions, including WAN and LAN.
  • New client devices and form factors.  (Ubiquitous access is VERY important)
  In order to accomplish the objectives above, Microsoft has spent a lot of time on RemoteFX.  What is RemoteFX?  Remote FX is the name for the full, rich, multimedia capabilities within Remote Desktop Services.   

What's new in Remote Desktop Services in Windows 8?

  • RemoteFX for WAN  (rich desktop over various networks)
  • RemoteFX adaptive graphics  (remoting of experiences adapting to network types)
  • RemoteFX media remoting  (high performance media remoting)
  • RemoteFX multi-touch  (consistent touch interface, even when remoting to RDS)
  • RemoteFX USB redirection
  • Metro-style Remote Desktop App
  • Choice of software or physical GPU (HUGE feature.  No requirement for hardware GPU)
  • Available for sessions, VMs, and physical machines
  • Broad range of clients (ubiquitous access)
  • New VDI features, such as the concept of a "gold image" and differential / user VHDX files
  • New Metro RDP App!
  The key point here is that Microsoft is supporting a much richer remoting technology stack, including improved performance, compatibility, and features.  It also provides a fully consistent experience with the touch-centric metro interface, whether a user is using a local tablet, or remoting to a Remote Desktop Services host in Windows Server 8.  

Usage Scenarios:

There are tons of usage scenarios for Remote Desktop Services in Windows 8.  The capabilities have been expanded so drastically that it is worth a complete review.  A paticular remoting example I demonstrated is a Windows 8 slate device, connected to USB peripherals, such as a scanner, a video device, a headset, or a missle launcher (hint, hint).  This can then be utilized through the remote session running on a session host or a virtual desktop.  Here are a few key example cases:  
  • Shop floor systems (either slate or desktop)
  • Consumer / business slate devices accessing enterprise applications
  • Mobile workers accessing their central profile experience
  • Distributing specific applications to run in the datacenter, vs. on the desktop 
  • High fidelity video / voice capabilities for users in the field (esp. Lync)
   Here is a shot of the new Metro RDP App.  You'll notice the "work resources streamed from the corporate RDS feed, as well as recent desktop connections.  You can see how this interface works well with a touch interface, as well as provides seemless access to work applications without installation.    

How has the RemoteFX graphics architecture been modified to address these needs?

  As you can see the diagram below, the RemoteFX feature set at the graphics level has been drastically improved, including media remoting, progressive rendering, optimized (and segmented) text codecs, and the calista codec (USB).  This is combined with improved transports for use over WANs.       I'd say that perhaps one of the most important components, especially as the Remote Desktop Services capabilities are used more often by users through Remote Desktop Gateways, is RemoteFX over the WAN.  This set of functionality isolates the traffic and auto-detects performance goals.    Here is the original configuration of RemoteFX (note that it uses TCP transport for all services).        

Here is the improved RemoteFX for WAN.  It isolates traffic to the optimal transport.

Note the UDP / TCP split on the traffic.  This segments text vs. audio (etc).     Here is a good video from BUILD where they walked through some of these features:   As you can see, these performance enhancements, consistency of experience, and the level of ubiquitous access are excellent upgrades to the RDS experience.  It certainly seems consistent with the idea that an individual may need to access their applications through several different modalities, yet receive a consistent experience at each. Happy virtualizing!   Nathan Lasnoski

Nathan Lasnoski

Chief Technology Officer