Microsoft's Complete Longhorn Terminal Server Feature List

Posted by bink on October 3 2005, 4:04 PM. Posted in Terminal Services.

Application Publishing with client-side file type associations. Microsoft is calling this “Remote Programs.” Basically you use a wizard on the Terminal Server to create a Remote Programs package for an executable. That package becomes a small (<100k) MSI file that you can then deploy to client machines running Windows XP or newer. (Terminal Server will not include any functionality for deploying these files. That’s up to you to do using Intellimirror, SMS, logon scripts, web portal, etc.) When an MSI is run on the client machine, the proper application shortcuts get installed into the Start Menu and the proper file-type associations are registered. From the user’s perspective, it appears as if the application was installed on their machine, although it’s really a shortcut to a remote seamless application running on a Terminal Server.

Seamless Windows. This is pretty self-explanatory. Seamless windows are obviously a big part of the whole “Remote Programs” experience. Microsoft’s seamless windows on Longhorn will have full local system tray integration, just like other vendors’ products do today.

A Terminal Server Gateway (TSG). This is like a Microsoft version of Citrix Secure Gateway. It’s a head-end gateway server that can provide SSL encryption for many back-end Terminal Servers. TSG will be an extension of the current RPC over HTTPS functionality that’s built into IIS6 and Exchange 2003. Basically, the TSG will allow RDP traffic to be encrypted with SSL and sent via HTTPS to an IIS server. That server will peel off the SSL wrapper and then transmit the RDP traffic to the back-end Citrix server. RDP 6 clients will have this functionality built-in.

Intelligent Avalon/WinFX Remoting. This is kind of a complex topic, and something I’ve written on before. Longhorn and Vista will have a new programming interface called WinFX. (WinFX includes the new presentation layer that was codenamed “Avalon.”) WinFX will do a lot of things, but in terms of Terminal Server, the biggest change will be how developers write their applications to deal with screen space. Applications will be able to more intelligently draw their windows and deal with available screen space. This will provide an opportunity for a big change for Terminal Server and RDP. In today’s version of RDP, the RDP protocol acts as a display driver, and the RDP client device receives whatever the server sends to its display driver. (This is what I call the “screen scraping”-based technology.) In Longhorn with WinFX, Microsoft is building a more intelligent RDP engine that can intelligently intercept and redirect raw WinFX calls (or “WinFX Primatives” to use Microsoft’s term) and send them down to the client where the client’s local WinFX engine can do the processing and display them. This has several advantages, including the fact that server resources and network utilization will be reduced and that the client device can have the “full” WinFX application experience even over a remote session. The downside is that a client device will have to be running WinFX (which will mean Windows Vista or Windows XP with the WinFX add-on) in order to experience this. Microsoft has said, however, that Longhorn’s RDP protocol will be smart enough to figure out whether the client device can display WinFX primitives. If so, that’s what it will get. If not, the Longhorn Terminal Server will render everything on the server and then scrape the screen and send the contents down to the client. Note that a WinFX client will NOT be required for seamless windows and published applications.

A Unified Management Console. Today there are several tools in Windows that you need to use to manage a Terminal Server. In Longhorn, Microsoft will combine these into a single, easier-to-user tool.

Redirection of Plug-n-Play devices with UDMF drivers. In Terminal Services for Longhorn, Microsoft is taking a different approach to client device redirection. Instead of trying to write a client redirection engine for every single type of client device (drives, ports, printers, etc.), Microsoft is writing a more generic redirection engine that can make almost any PnP device on the client available within a remote Terminal Server session. The catch is that the client device will need to have a UMDF (“user mode driver framework”) compliant drive. Does this mean that Terminal Server will support USB redirection? Generically you could say “yes,” Longhorn will have USB redirection, but the full answer is “yes” there will be USB redirection “if” the device has a UMDF driver. The other caveat is that Microsoft has not yet finalized the specific set of UMDF device classes that will be supported for redirection, so this won’t necessarily work for every single device.

Major Reworking of the Logon Process. This goes beyond Terminal Server a bit, but Longhorn server will have a much different user logon process (in terms of what happens under the hood). This means that logon speed should increase, and things like single-sign on should be available. No further details are available at this time.

Major Reworking of User Profiles. As everyone reading this is painfully aware, user profiles were never designed for a single user to be simultaneously logged in to multiple different computers. (This is primarily due to the fact that all registry settings are stored in a single, flat file.) According to Microsoft, “profiles in Longhorn are being updated to handle this situation,” although no further details are available at this time.

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