Building a Windows Server 2012 RDS Test Environment

I’m traveling a lot and I like to be able to test and demo things while I’m on the road. This is why I wanted to build an entire Windows Server 2012 RDS environment on my Windows 8 laptop with Hyper-V installed. A major goal was to make sure that I can play around with new features and functionalities introduced with Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, such as the new version of RemoteFX. So initially I created four VMs and installed Windows Server 2012 on them using my TechNet licenses. The names of the VMs are DC, Infra, RDSH1 and RDSH2, each configured with a minimum of 1GB and a maximum of 2GB dynamic memory. In this article I will walk you through all further installation steps to build a working test environment.

The first step is about making sure that all VMs have a static IP addresses assigned to their respective virtual network adapters. Then it’s time to set up a domain controller on the VM called DC. This requires to install the Active Directory Domain Services role from Server Manager. It is important to note that the Dcpromo command has been deprecated and the domain setup is completely done through the Server Manager role configuration wizard now. This means that after successfully installing Active Directory Domain Services, the post deployment configuration task to promote the server to a domain controller must be selected. All details are described in a step-by-step guide on Microsoft TechNet. To complete this configuration step, the servers Infra, RDSH1 and RDSH2 must be joined to the new domain.

Now it’s time to build the RDSH farm. Ideally, this is done from the Infra server when logged in with domain administrator credentials. Use the Manage – Add Servers menu item in Server Manager to add all required VMs into the All Servers management group. Then use Manage – Add Roles and Features to install the Remote Desktop Services scenario with “standard deployment” as deployment type and “session –based desktop deployment” as deployment scenario. In my environment, I assigned the RD Connection Broker and RD Web Access roles to Infra and the RD Session Host role to RDSH1 and RDSH2.

Even though the new Server Manager wizard was significantly improved if compared to Windows Server 2008 R2, there are still some manual steps required to complete the build process of an RDSH farm. The first step is to add a new collection in the new Remote Desktop Services page in Server Manager. This requires to click the Task button in the upper right corner and select Create Session Collection. Add RDSH1 and RDSH2 to this collection and give it the name you want your server farm to have. Finally add the farm name with the IP addresses of the two RDSH servers as two new host entries to DNS on the domain controller. Now it’s possible to connect to the farm by using the farm name. Unfortunately, the last step is not described in the RDSH deployment step-by-step guide on TechNet.

In order to make things mobile, each of the four server VMs has two virtual network adapters. One is connected to the external network represented by the physical network adapter of my host machine. The other is assigned to an internal network that can also be accessed by the Windows 8 host. This allows me to remote into the test environment from Windows 8 even when my laptop is not connected to a physical network – which is the typical situation when demoing things during a presentation.

If you want your RDS test and demo environment to function longer than just the 120 days of the “grace period”, you need to install the licensing role of Remote Desktop Services. Microsoft provides a nice step-by-step guide on TechNet for this. Typically, you add the licensing role on the server named Infra, allowing Licensing and Connection Broker to be co-located on the same server.

One final note: In terms of resource requirements on your host machine, you will need about 80GB free disk space and you should have more than 8GB of RAM to run the RDS test and demo environment.

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