As the needs of the business grow so does the needs of the IT staff to manage and administer desktops, and if you manage a number of desktops it become a real problem to manage all of the desktops and configurations while at the same time safe guarding the data that is sprawled across all these desktops. Having managed many of these infrastructure myself I know that is can be a daunting undertaking. But there is one thing, among many solutions, that can provide a remedy to this problem: Terminal Services.
The simplicity of Windows Server 2008/2012 R2 Terminal Services coupled with the benefits of VMware can be used to develop a very powerful, consolidated, and available Virtual Desktop Infrastructure that delivers the same feel of a traditional Windows 7/10 desktop. This also provide easier administrative management, centralized backup, and high availability for End-Users.
Some may ask well this is sounds awesome, but isn’t it hard to make use of Terminal Services for my internal resources? …Sure anything can be hard to do if you don’t know how to do it. But this article is about how to setup a Terminal Server Farm. If you’d like to make this Terminal Server Farm accessible remotely that’s for a different discussion since that requires knowledge of firewalls and public DNS, but I’ll make a article on how to do that at a later time. The purpose of this article is how to make a Terminal Server Farm for internal use. 🙂
Below is a step-by-step instruction on how to make a Terminal Server Farm in a VMware Cluster:
Step 1: Make your Windows Server 2008/2012 VM.
a. Typically it’s a good idea to provision the hosts with 2 vCPU’s and 16 GB’s of RAM to start.
b. Add a second partition to the VM for the windows Swap partition.
c. Make at-least 2 VM’s to make up the farm.
NOTE: At-least one needs to be a Licensing Server and one makes up the Farm Master, while not advised you can make these on the same hosts being used by users. But as you can imagine if the host goes down for whatever reason like a Windows Update or a Virus the farm will be affected. This heads-up is a design consideration.
Step 2: Install Windows Updates, Applications, Setup Static IP addressing, Move Windows Swap to Swap partition.
a. Install Windows Updates.
b. Install all necessary applications like Microsoft Office, Anti-virus, and anti-spyware tools.
NOTE: Licensing for some application is different while being used in VDI, find out from your software manufacture the specifics.
c. Assign static IP addressing that pertains to the subnet that these Terminal Servers will live, contact your network administrator for this information.
d. Move the Windows Swap partition to the Swap Partition.
NOTE: The swap size should be 1.5 times the size of physical memory allocated to the VM.
Step 3: Install Remote Desktop Services from Roles within Server Manager.
a. If the VM in question will be the licensing server, ‘Remote Desktop Licensing’ service, for your TS Farm, you will need one server per farm to hold CALS for Users on the Terminal Servers.
b. The TS server that will be the Master TS server that controls the session broker (the service that balances users evenly across the TS server in the Farm and holds the configuration settings of the farm) will require the, ‘Remote Desktop Connection Broker’ service, installed.
c. Lastly all TS Servers in the farm will require the, ‘Remote Desktop Session Host’ service installed.
Step 4: Purchase Terminal Server CALS.
NOTE: Every standard Microsoft Volume Licensing package comes with 5 CALS for terminal services by default, if you need more you will need to purchase them. As of today, 2/26/2016 a single CALs costs roughly $110 from a reseller.
a. Access the terminal serverthat has the Remote Desktop Licensing service installed on it.
b. Navigate to the Remote Desktop Licensing by going to Start > Administrative Tools > Remote Desktop Services > Remote Desktop Licensing Manager.
c. If you need to install licenses for your Farm then Right click on the Terminal Server name in Manager and click ‘Install License’, then just follow the instructions and away you go.
Step 4: Setup a Terminal Server GPO for the Terminal Server Farm.
a. Refer to this article on how to do this: Terminal Services GPO
Step 5: Setup DNS records for the Terminal Server Farms participating in the Farm.
a. Assign a ‘A Record’ for the name of the Terminal Server Farm. IE: Cliffords-Cloud with the static IP address made in Step 2 above.
b. Repeat Step a above for all the Terminal Servers that take part in the Terminal Server Farm. You need to make a ‘A Record’ that repeats the name of the Farm’s name for every host that makes up the farm. Round Robin will use these records to balance users across these servers. This maximizes the performance of the TS in the farm and provides the best experience for desktop users.
Example: a. Cliffords-Cloud A Record 192.168.102.10 (Terminal-Server-1)
b. Cliffords-Cloud A Record 192.168.102.11 (Terminal-Server-2)
Step 6: Setup the Terminal Server Farm on the TS server that has the Connection Broker Service Installed.
a. Navigate to the Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration by going to Start > Administrative Tools > Remote Desktop Services > Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration.
b. Click on any of the lines in ‘Edit Settings’ to bring up a Properties box, makes it easier if you just click on the RD Connection Broker line.
c. When the Properties window opens, click on the ‘Change Settings’ button.
NOTE: Toggle the ‘Participate in Connection Broker Load-Balancing’ and start it off at 40% – this is a setting of how many users can connect to a host before it’s load balanced to another host in the farm.
a. Select the bubble labeled ‘Farm Member’.
b. Down on the bottom of the window you see two lines.
a. The 1st line is the full NetBIOS name of the server your on right now which includes the windows domain-name. Example: ‘terminal-server-1.mydomain.com’.
b. Lastly the name of the Farm is the name you gave it back in Step 5 like “Cliffords-Cloud”.
c. Click on the Licensing tab and make sure you click on bubble for ‘Per User’ and apply the licensing server’s full NetBIOS name that was setup in Step 4 above.
Step 7: Test out the Terminal Server Farm with Remote Desktop Connection from your Windows PC on the same network as the Farm.
a. Log into the TS Farm by the name that was specified in DNS like ‘Cliffords-Cloud’ and if everything was setup correctly you will be able to log into one of the TS server’s in the farm and away you go.
I hope this article has been helpful to you and if you find gaps missing please let me know and I’ll update it accordingly. Now get out there and make a TS Farm and be the hero of your users when they have a blazing fast desktop experience and you can sleep easier knowing the TS server have managed from one location, backed up more easily, and reduce CAPex and OPex costs. Sounds like a win-win to me!!!