This week I delivered a couple of sessions for Microsoft on Microsoft VDI/RDS as part of their People Centric IT Road show which WMUG hosted the Reading session. I thought it only right that I should therefore share some of that information with those who couldn’t attend, that and it’s a subject I don’t often write about but is pretty cool and often forgotten about.

So what is Microsoft VDI and RDS?

Well VDI is a fairly generic term meaning Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. RDS is the technology term meaning Remote Desktop services. So you could refer to it as Microsoft VDI powered by RDS.

Now you could also lend those terms to the 2 different options available to us and really the naming conventions we should become accustomed to.

VDI to Virtual Machine based desktop deployment OR RDS to Session based desktop deployment.


For clarity, I’m going to refer to this as RDS. As you can see you can deploy RDS in 3 ways

  • Session based – Deliver a session to an end user
  • Pooled VMs – Deliver a full VM from a shared pool
  • Personal VMs – Deliver a dedicated VM to a user

Session based is according to the stats the most popular. In fact 70% of all customers that investigate Microsoft RDS choose this solution. If you are familiar with RDP (I imagine most of us are) then you are effectively using the technology in a session based way. Another session based option is Microsoft RemoteApp.

Virtual machine based combines with a hyper-v virtual host and allows you to use a standard ‘gold’ image to deliver to your users. If you already have a corporate WIM then you can convert this into a VHDX or even build a VHDX from a ConfigMgr task sequence as described by Rob Marshall here, either should work well.

So what are the features of each method?

Session Based

  • This the “traditional” way of delivering virtual desktops to users
  • There is a low storage requirement.
  • “Because there’s only one installed copy of the OS, a session-based desktop deployment can reach a greater density of concurrent users per server than virtual machine-based desktop deployments. By not providing a copy of the OS per user, RD Session Host also reduces storage requirements and simplifies management.”
  • Over 30 million users access RD Session Host servers worldwide
  • Greater density of users per server over VM based
  • RDS Application Analyser

Virtual Machine Based

  • You deliver a full VM per user
  • They can be Pooled or Personal
  • Unified management – You can manage them as clients with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)
  • Extended RemoteFX capabilities for 3D rendering
  • Flexible – Storage for client hard drives can be de-duplicated
  • Dynamic – Memory can be set dynamically in the VM
  • Scalable – whether you want to add servers or users RDS is fully PowerShell enabled
  • Highly available – Each role involved can be made highly available.

Specific features in RDS from Server 2012 R2

  • Session shadowing is available so you can monitor or access a session either with or without the user being aware.
  • Online Data De-duplication can be enabled for your client VM drive delivering phenomenal storage savings. This isn’t currently support in hyper-v!!
  • Improved RemoteApp behaviour with reduction of so called ‘Alpha-drag’ which was particularly noticeable when running local applications alongside remote applications.
  • Quick connect for remote desktop clients has been improved allowing for much faster reconnects to session which have been disconnected.
  • Improved compression and bandwidth usage – up to 50% less due to dynamic protocol switching for different content.
  • Dynamic display handling allows better support for modern touch devices and screen rotations.
  • RemoteFX Virtualised GPU supports DX11.1.
  • RestrictedAdmin Mode is available where the client can run low privilege sessions without passing credentials over the wire.

The benefits

The benefits of using this solution are many but will also depend on the requirements of your organisation. I highlighted some of the benefits of using Microsoft VDI solution for desktop and application delivery as follows:

  • Low Total Cost of Ownership
  • Smaller footprint over other solution on the market
  • Familiar technology – If you’re familiar with Terminal Services/Hyper-V/PowerShell then you’re already on your way
  • Simple and familiar management with existing Microsoft tools, GUIs and PowerShell
  • Modern technology which means you’re using the latest and greatest currently available out there.
  • Supported and maintained as the OS will remain in mainstream support for some time yet.

And finally…

In case you missed it, Brad Anderson announced at TechEd US 2014 that Azure RemoteApp is on it’s way. You can get your demo now here.


This will allow you to run your remote applications leveraging Microsoft Azure platform either fully or in a hybrid set-up. Full Azure obviously means hosting your servers in the cloud whilst the hybrid allows you to retain your on-premise servers whilst leveraging Azure for delivery of your applications. The layout would be something like this: