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RDS - How relevant?

Copper Contributor

Hi All:


Long time user of Windows RDS (and Terminal Services / Citrix before that!)


We have a simple RDS infrastructure running on Windows Server 2016, mainly sharing a centralized desktop for thin client users running simple office apps/browser apps. We have had it deployed to give our users an "access anywhere" mechanism with one standardized set of apps/desktops/printers/shared resources to use. It has worked great for years.


My question is whether this is still relevant today and what may be new since RDS 2016 (in Server 2019 or Server 2022) that may be of interest for us in moving forward.


As many of you know, RDS is great to reduce costs and increase access. For those of us who work for organizations with extremely limited budget, it fits the cost sweet spot in that it allows us to reduce our costs on many fronts from administration, client device costs, support and maintenance.


I have been assessing alternatives such as VDI/vAPP publishing (VMWARE), but those costs are well beyond our non-profits ability to afford, whether using Azure for VDI, or VMWARE Horizon).


So my two questions about the viability of the continued use of WIndows RDS relative to today's options/alternatives is one thing I'm trying to get up to date on. Secondarily, I've not really been able to find any docs on what is new with RDS relative to Server 2019 and Server 2022. This later item makes me wonder in general about the continued viability of RDS, given trends in server features and capabilities.


My non-profit is tightly constrained by costs. RDS has worked well, though I worry that I'm now six chronological years in age since we first deployed it in 2016. I worry about application compatibility / server compatibility as Windows 2019 has advanced as has Windows Server 2022.


Long winded question, shortened:


Is RDS still viable today?


Anything new of relevance in RDS in Server 2019/2022?


PS. My present user base is very simple. We have mainly Office 365 apps, browser apps, some vertical proprietary apps (Windows 64-bit OS) and infrastructure.


I'm asking these questions to plan what my foundation of technology needs to be for the next 3 years or so. Like I said, there are many advantages and benefits that RDS 2016 has provided over the years. I worry that it's now legacy technology and whether this time of centralized/thin client computing is still a solid option in today's /tomorrows technology infrastructure.


Thanks in advance.

3 Replies
There are some things to think about, especially Office 365 apps ( I guess that having your clients on Windows 10/11 with Endpoint Manager for software/settings/security would be better and use a central RDS environment for apps that can only be run on on-prem or which are latency sensitive.

For all intents and purposes, RDS has remained unchanged in Windows Server 2019/2022. Microsoft's focus is on Azure Virtual Desktop, and it's unlikely that RDS will see meaningful changes in future LTSC versions of Windows Server. The company's answer for customers that want to host virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) on-premises is Azure Virtual Desktop deployed on Azure Stack HCI, currently in public preview.

It's important to note that Remote Desktop Modern Infrastructure (RDmi), originally previewed in late 2017, was intended to be the long-due update to RDS. However, the technology of RDmi was instead used as the basis of Azure Virtual Desktop (originally announced as Windows Virtual Desktop in late 2018.) Given that their previous effort at modernizing RDS turned into a hosted service, I think it's unlikely that they will put any further effort into RDS other than security, bug fixes, and compatibility.

Azure Virtual Desktop (and Windows 365) are Microsoft's focuses for virtual desktop infrastructure. Those services are where new features and capabilities will be delivered, like it or not, and are where you should look for your long-term planning.


Similarly, as @Harm_Veenstra noted, Microsoft is making it very difficult to support Office running on Windows Server (such as in a Windows Server hosted terminal server or session-based desktop environment). If you're using the Office 365 apps, they will no longer be supported on Windows Server after late 2025. If you're using the perpetual (LTSC) versions of Office, it get more complicated depending on what (if any) Office 365 services you're using.

In VDI environments, Microsoft is using a combination of licensing benefits and Office end-of-support to push users away for session-based Windows Server desktops to the multi-session versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11 - which, unsurprisingly, can only be licensed for use with Azure Virtual Desktop. 


As always for all architecture-related questions, the response is "it depends".
On your situation, RDS seems to be a well designed solution - however, Microsoft just decided to drop support for Office 365 on Windows Server 2022, and to shorten Office365 support on 2016/2019.
On-premise Windows Server editions get the minimum amount of engineering these days - as far as I know, there are no differences between RDS 2019 and 2022 (and even 2016).

You may keep using using RDS 2016 until Office 365 end of support for it (2025) - for what happens after, it 's Azure (ou Azure HCI) or nothing (or a non-Microsoft solution). Of course, these solutions costs are far higher than on-premise RDS.