Windows Server 2008 R2 TS. What have they done? 2

As you know Windows Server 2008 R2 has been around for some time now but as several of our customers are still on 2003 or 2008, I did not have a change to get deep into it.

Of course most of the new features (i.e. two-way audio, virtual IP addressing, etc) I had a chance to play a long time ago and even presented about 2008 R2 at BriForum.

Now as I am working on updating the guide I wrote (“Terminal Services A to Z”, available here), I had to go through all the stuff Microsoft blessed us with on 2008 R2: RDS Web Access, RDS Session Broker, RDS Gateway and so on. What did I find?

If I had to define in a single word, the experience of setting up a load balanced solution with a web interface and a gateway using only 2008 R2, that would be the word: frustration.

To understand the reason for that, you may need a little bit more information and history about me. Back in the days when Citrix was the only solution, with Provision Networks still in its infancy, I envisioned and designed a solution that was not only modular but dead simple to setup and use. This idea, or dream,  turned into real products that many here will remember: WTSPortal, WTSGateway Pro and so on. People all over the world used our solutions and everyone seemed to agree at the time that we did it in such a way that we had pretty much NO support calls whatsoever. It simply worked and worked in a way that even your grandma could set it up and manage it. The Library of Congress used our products. So did the Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA. Warner. Disney. Hilton and so on. All these people trusted a three men shop.

So years ago (2003/2004) we had all that sorted out: RDP over HTTPS, Published Applications, Resource Based Load Balancing and so on and no kidding, it would not take you more than 30 minutes to get all going.

Simple and elegant design. More than that, I would say, smart design.

Today after going through all the stuff required to get RDS Web Access, RDS Gateway and RDS Session Broker up and running I am simply baffled. Stunned. This is for sure the epitome of bad design. I am still banging my head in the wall just thinking about how the setup of all this makes no sense and more than that, what a steep learning curve this will be for anyone that is now on Windows Server 2003 TS.

In laymen terms, Microsoft simply made it difficult and hard. Add to that a bad design to start with and you have a solution that, even though it works at the end, is simply stupid. To put in perspective how bad it is, it makes Citrix and its 12,000 consoles look great.

What amazes me the most is Microsoft had YEARS to watch what others did and learn with their mistakes and then come up with something clean. Smart. Unfortunately that was not the case. Not even Jesus Christ can set this thing up without reading AND reading AND without banging his head somewhere. And trust me, at one point he will call his dad for help.

The weird part is I know most of the developers or the people involved with RDS in Redmond and they are indeed good, smart and hard working people. This creates a paradox in my mind. How such great resources could create such a piece of junk. Junkware.

Again, I am not debating if the solution at the end works. It does. I am discussing how easy it is to setup, how smart the design is and so on. And in that respect, they simply failed to deliver. I am telling you that based on 15+ years of experience doing nothing else other than TS/RDS/Citrix deployments and starting companies focused on TS/RDS development. I may look stupid indeed but I know some shit about these things.

Simplicity and clean design are key elements on any good piece of software, what someone in Redmond seems to disagree.

Light up a candle, hold hands and pray for changes in Windows Server 2010 RDS. They are needed.


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2 thoughts on “Windows Server 2008 R2 TS. What have they done?

  • Kimmo

    Yeah, it’s a bit of annoyance to set up and administer. As of what it delivers, I dunno, it is what it is, certainly better than anything before from MS in RDS. A good advice is to use wildcard certificates, because if there’s something that you need then it’s certificates.
    For my own part most of my baning the head has been around the Windows Shell. Freckin C++ compiling, IShellLibrary, Known folders, GPO:ng waste and whatnot. Finally it behaves somewhat as it should in corporate (same goes for “normal” managed client/server, obscure VDI and plain ‘ol TS – sorry – RDS.

  • sstokic

    So I had to set this up about a year or so ago. I tried to get failover to work by using httpmon, which was a pain to find since every link MS had was broken. So in the end for security reasons MS disabled remote administration so you can’t add or remove servers in a IIS Load Balancing cluster. Very very annoying. So the command line to stop or start wlbs does not work remotely any longer. MS TS Server developers point to using WMI but never explain exactly how to set it up. Even when I contacted them they had no clue on how to fix it. They all need to be fired. I had to setup a work around using HostMonitor to execute the commands locally.