Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services (User CAL)

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Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services is the core of Microsoft Cloud services and provides excellence and quality in deploying and managing your applications in large-scale cloud services. Previously named Microsoft Terminal Services, this RDS allows users to easily access centralized applications and desktop workstations from literally anywhere. Even though it is not the newest version of Remote Desktop Services, this version is the well-established and preferred choice for setting personal virtual servers. With a ton of improvements and enhancements in management, storage and networking, Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services is guaranteed to improve your remote work process. The package comes with a single user client access license (CAL) that allows you to connect unlimited number of devices to a single account and gives you the opportunity to deploy and manage your applications regardless of location and devices used.

Server roles and deployment methods in Remote Desktop Services

When setting up your RDS, you are presented with two options of how you would like to run the three core roles - you can either install them on a single server or separate each role onto different servers. If your needs are for a small environment than choosing the first option will save you hardware resources, however if your target is to create a big environment you should consider splitting the roles between multiple servers. Note that regardless of which option you choose, both will scale proportionally depending on user growth. The following bullet points describe these roles briefly:

  • Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) - RDSH is used to install, manage and publish your applications from. Or in other words this is where you deploy your work and make it available to others

  • Remote Desktop Connection Broker (RDCB) - this role is responsible for handling user sessions by load balancing traffic among the Session Host servers. It also provides the ability of instant reconnect to disconnected users without creating new sessions

  • Remote Desktop Web Access (RDWA) - this role gives a web portal in order to access the RDS environment. It gives the option of Windows 7 and 8 users to connect using two particular connection types - RemoteApp and Desktop.

Once all the crucial roles have been installed and managed properly, the user can choose between two different deployment options - Session-based virtualization and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VID). The first is the preferred choice if your users rely on their computers as their primary workstations, as it creates easy-to-manage multi session environment. The latter is used to specify individual applications which are ran on the virtualized machine but appear to users as local applications.

For environments that have a specific cost requirement, you would want to integrate both deployment methods, by deploying full desktops in a session-based virtualization environment.


Understanding the client access license (CAL)

In order to connect to the Windows Server 2012 R2 RDS, the user must provide a valid client access license. Even though there is a free licensing grace period, during which no CAL is required, once it is over the user will need an unique access license issued by the license server. There are two different types of CALs - per user and per device. This version of the RDS comes with a single user client access license that allows the user to connect any number of devices to the Windows Server once the authentication is complete. This CAL can be used both for Windows Server 2012 R2 RDS and Windows Server 2012 RDS as well as previous versions of the RDS, however it cannot be used for servers past that. This means you have to carefully choose your preferred RDS since once activated the client access license is bound to the server you chose and cannot be redirected, unless there is breach in the Remote Desktop licensing agreement. The following bullet points give some insight on the properties of the user CAL:

  • CALs are bound to a user in an Active Directory
  • The license server can track CALs, but does not enforce them
  • CALs cannot be revoked and temporary CALs are not allowed
  • CALs cannot be tracked within a workgroup

System Requirements

System requirements and notes on compatibility:

Supported operating systems for guest connections - Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10
Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services supports Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V Discrete Device Assignment (Gen 2VM) - requires 3133690 KB
Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services does support Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V RemoteFX vGPU (Gen 1 VM)
Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services does not support Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V RemoteFX vGPU (Gen 2 VM)

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