What is Microsoft® RDS?
Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) provides a centralized platform for delivering and managing Windows®-based applications and desktops to users via Microsoft’s remote desktop protocol (RDP). It was first released in 1998 as Terminal Server in Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition and was renamed Remote Desktop Services in the 2009 release of Windows Server 2008 R2.
Who uses Microsoft RDS?
Initially, organizations installed Terminal Server/RDS in their corporate data center, which was generally in the same physical location as employees, who accessed their applications and desktops from RDS using the corporate network. Over time, as the internet became more ubiquitous, and organizations began moving IT operations to hybrid and cloud environments, IT began to run RDS from cloud-based servers, and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) adopted RDS to deliver their applications to end user customers from the cloud.
Why use RDS?
IT benefitted from RDS’ centralization paradigm. Centralizing end user applications and desktops gave IT more control and reduced administrative tasks. RDS also reduced the cost of managing and maintaining physical desktops and costs, especially those related to installing, maintaining, and tracking the Windows applications installed on end users’ devices (this capability was especially appealing to ISVs).
But, in parallel to enjoying RDS benefits, IT began to experience challenges related to RDS implementations, including:
- Scalability: RDS makes inefficient use of server resources, so growth in number of users is primarily accommodated by adding servers, which adds complexity and cost.
- Licensing: in addition to server licenses, running RDS requires the purchase of a license for each user; also, Microsoft’s licensing model is complex and difficult to fully understand.
- Performance: application performance can be impacted by the number of users accessing an application and the resources required for their session, which can be difficult and complex to manage and optimize.
- Security: Microsoft RDS uses Microsoft remote desktop protocol (RDP), an open-source protocol where security weaknesses have been found and exploited; additionally, Windows does not support single sign-on without extensive customization, creating risk of attacks to corporate infrastructure, systems, and data.
Does an RDS alternative exist?
There are several remote access solutions that allow IT to centralize applications and desktops, but they are all built on Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, with one exception—GO-Global.
GO-Global was first released in 1999. It was built to provide remote access to Windows applications from any cloud without utilizing RDS. Many of GO-Global’s customers are Windows ISVs who use GO-Global to deliver their software to customer end users via a web browser.
Because GO-Global doesn’t utilize RDS, ISVs get the benefits of centralized application management but avoid the challenges posed by RDS:
- Scalability: GO-Global makes highly efficient use of server resources. GO-Global customers switching from RDS to GO-Global find that they can support twice as many users as they did on RDS on the same number of servers they used for their RDS implementation. Additionally, GO-Global leverages a cloud service’s existing infrastructure and security and scalability features to deliver similar functionality to RDS with considerably less complexity.
- Licensing: GO-Global licensing is very simple. Licenses are priced by concurrent user—not named user—to optimize efficient license consumption. No additional licenses required.
- Performance: GO-Global’s proprietary RXP connectivity protocol delivers consistent high-performance, even over low-bandwidth connections.
- Security: Because RXP is closed source, it offers additional defense against attackers, compared to RDP’s open-source protocols. GO-Global enables strong encryption and TLS security by allowing admins to generate trusted TLS certificates for GO-Global Hosts. And, GO-Global’s sandbox feature allows admins to tightly restrict process behavior and deliver a locked-down application to the end user. Finally, GO-Global also provides two-factor authentication and Single Sign-On Support for OpenID® Connect (OIDC), which enables organizations to use OIDC identity providers like Okta® and Microsoft® Active Directory Federated Services (ADFS) for single sign-on into GO-Global Windows hosts.
If you want to make Windows applications available to your users from any cloud, and avoid the complexity and cost of Microsoft RDS, consider GO-Global. You can download a 30-day free trial here.