Windows Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003: A Preview

By Marcin Policht (Send Email)
Posted Apr 11, 2003


With Windows Server 2003 released to manufacturers on March 28, we can expect that Microsoft will make the product commercially available as promised on April 24. With the economy in slump, the initial impact of this release won't likely be overwhelming; nevertheless, new features introduced in Windows Server 2003 are worth exploring. In this article, we'll focus on enhancements in the area of Windows Terminal Services, as well as cover changes in the Terminal Services Licensing.

Windows Server 2003 is strictly a server platform, but it offers a range of solutions geared towards different functionality and scalability requirements. On the lower end, Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is intended for small business and departmental environments. Enterprise Edition, with its improved clustering and performance enhancements, is aimed for enterprises expecting powerful, yet economically sound solutions. Datacenter Edition meets the scalability and availability demands of mission-critical applications. These three editions are equivalent to Windows 2000 server products (Standard, Advanced, and DataCenter). New in Windows Server 2003 is the Web Edition, offering functionality scaled down for Web serving and hosting environments. With the impending release of Windows Server 2003 on April 24, Microsoft is making a slew of changes to the various editions of the server operation system, as well as changes to Windows Terminal Services in terms of offerings and licensing. Marcin Policht details the changes and how they'll affect you.

Terminal Services functionality -- the ability to run multiple, simultaneous interactive sessions on the server -- has been an inherent part of the operating system since the release of Windows 2000 server (due to the multiuser kernel), and is available as well in all four versions of Windows Server 2003 server. While all editions are capable of running Remote Desktop for Administration (known in Windows 2000 as Terminal Services in Administration mode), full Terminal Server (known previously as Application Server mode) requires Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter Edition.

Windows Server 2003 includes new version 5.2 of the Remote Desktop Protocol, which determines capabilities of Terminal Server session. Among the most significant capabilities are:

  • automatic redirection of client local and network mapped drives (previously, this functionality required creating manual mappings)
  • automatic redirection of audio
  • automatic redirection of client time zones, which ensures that time within the session reflects location of the client device, not the server
  • automatic redirection of client printers, both local and network, including default printer selection (Windows 2000 supported only local printer redirection)
  • automatic redirection of parallel and serial ports
  • automatic reconnection of broken sessions (especially useful with wireless connections)
  • support for 24-bit color mode
  • support for standard Windows shortcuts in the full screen mode
  • support for dynamic bandwidth allocation (part of QoS technology)
  • support for high (128 bit, two-directional) and low (40 bit, one-directional -- from client to server only) encryption levels
  • support for smard card authentication
  • direct console session (last, but certainly not least)

This last feature requires some extra attention. In the previous versions of Windows servers (Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition), it was possible to run remote sessions, but they were always separate from the console session (which, as the name indicates, required presence at the server console). While remote sessions were sufficient for majority of user and administrative tasks, there were some important exceptions, such as installation of programs outlined in the Microsoft Knowledge Base article Q247930, as well as Service Pack installations prior to Windows 2000 SP3 (as indicated in the article Q215465.) The ability to run console RDP session eliminates these types of problems. Note that the console connection works similiarly to XP Remote Desktop Connection. If another console session is in progress, it will be terminated, since there can be only single console session running. For the same reason, RDP console session can not be monitored from the physical console, since the console screen at the physical device will be locked as soon as the RDP session is established.

Keep in mind that the features listed above require RDP version 5.1 (introduced in Windows XP) or higher on the client side and 5.2 (included in Windows Server 2003 servers) on the server side.

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