MVP Summit 2010 – The Future of Remote Desktop Services

I’m planning to attend the upcoming annual Microsoft MVP Summit next February.  Like every year since I was announced a Terminal Server MVP in 2003, I’m really looking forward to meet with members of the Microsoft product groups and directly learn from those people who are responsible for the individual product features.  When talking to the Remote Desktop Services product group – formerly known as the Terminal Services product group – I would like to cover the following topics with them:

  1. PowerShell scripting – How far can I get with PowerShell when managing RDS/RDV environments
  2. Public RDS API – New functionalities exposed through the “TS” API and .NET classes
  3. Profile management in WS2003 TS and WS2008R2 RDS side-by-side scenarios
  4. How to manage Microsoft RDS/RDV in large enterprises – how SCCM or other system management products can help us and our customers
  5. RDP7 protocol details – compression (bulk and media-specific) and client-side versus server-side rendering details
  6. Remote Desktop Connection – What will be the next steps with the RDP client? Will there be a combined RDP/App-V client? Central management
  7. Calista – estimated release date and technical details, e.g. support of graphics mechanisms (2D, 3D, Flash, Silverlight, WPF) and remoting architectures (RDS, virtual desktops on Hyper-V, hardware acceleration)
  8. What do RDS and cloud computing have in common from the Microsoft RDS product group’s perspective

But wait a minute.  When I was thinking about all these topics, I also started asking myself a critical question: Will Remote Desktop Services and Remote Desktop Virtualization Hosts still be relevant in three or five year from now?  I mean, if Windows applications as we know them today (Windows Forms based on managed and unmanaged code) will be replaced by other application types, there may be no need for RDS and RDV.  Applications based on Adobe Flash/Air or Microsoft Silverlight may just not require that sort of remoting mechanisms as provided with RDS.

Over the last weeks, I’ve been talking to several infrastructure and development experts about this topic, asking them for their opinions.  It was interesting to find out that none of them – except for those primarily dealing with cloud datacenter infrastructure – believe that conventional Windows applications will disappear during the next five years.  After all these conversations my personal prediction is that in five years we will see less than 50% new style applications (using Flash/Air, Silverlight or something similar), while more than half of all applications installed on corporate IT platforms will still be conventional Windows Forms applications.  I strongly believe that changes in the application landscape will not be happening too fast if there is such a huge base of established applications that were developed in the conventional way.  In addition to that, there are still many developers out there who stick to “old school” programming when developing new Windows applications.  This clearly leaves enough room for remoting technologies over the next years.

That being said, I still believe that Remote Desktop Services and the RDP protocol have a great future – even more than ever before, now that desktop and presentation virtualization has become a commonly accepted mainstream.  In such a scenario Windows Server 2008 R2 RDS and Windows 7 running as virtual desktop on Hyper-V are major milestones, strongly influencing corporate desktop strategies over the next years.  As a result, at the upcoming MVP Summit I’m clearly interested in finding out as much as I can about existing RDS/RDV details and new/updated components planned to be released in the near future.  To me this has way more relevance than talking about the long-term future of the Windows operating system.

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