Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services Design Process

Published: February 25, 2008


The goal of this Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services Infrastructure Planning and Design Solution Accelerator is to guide the planner through the information gathering, decisions, options, and tasks required to create and design a Terminal Services infrastructure. The objective is an infrastructure that is sized, configured, and appropriately placed in order to deliver the stated business benefits, while considering the end-user experience, security, manageability, performance, capacity, and fault tolerance of the system. The guide addresses the scenarios most likely to be encountered by someone designing a Terminal Services infrastructure. Customers should consider having their architecture reviewed by Microsoft Customer Service and Support prior to implementation as they are the organization that can best comment on the supportability of a particular design.

The primary components of Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services are shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 2. Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services architecture

This diagram illustrates the relationship between the components that can work together to publish applications through Terminal Services. They are shown together in one possible implementation for illustrative purposes. The components can be architected in many different ways.

Terminal servers are usually implemented in farms in order to provide high scale and fault tolerance. A terminal server farm is a group of terminal servers that publish an identical set of applications. All the terminal servers in the farm deliver an equivalent experience; they host the same applications, in the same configuration, even though there may be differences in the hardware from server to server.

The farm can be load balanced so that users connect to a common name; they are then connected to one of the member servers of the farm. There is no programmed limit to the number of servers that may participate in a farm.


This guide addresses the following decisions and activities that need to occur in preparing for Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services. The ten steps that follow represent the most critical elements in a well-planned Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services design:

  • Step 1: Determine the scope of the presentation virtualization project.
  • Step 2: Determine which applications to deliver and how they will be used.
  • Step 3: Determine whether Terminal Services can deliver each application.
  • Step 4: Categorize users.
  • Step 5: Determine the number of terminal server farms.
  • Step 6: Map applications and users to farms.
  • Step 7: Design the farm.
  • Step 8: Determine where to store user data.
  • Step 9: Size and place the role services for the farm.
  • Step 10: Secure the communications.

Some of these items represent decisions that must be made. Where this is the case, a corresponding list of common response options is presented.

Other items in this list represent tasks that must be carried out. These items are addressed because their execution is significant to completing the infrastructure design.

Decision Flow

The following figure provides a graphical overview of the steps in designing a Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services infrastructure.

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Figure 3. The Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services infrastructure decision flow

Applicable Scenarios

This guide addresses considerations that are related to planning and designing the necessary components for a successful Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services infrastructure. The scenarios considered in creating this guide include:

  • Organizations planning to centralize their desktop environments into regional data centers or to a central data center.
  • Organizations that are combining their computing resources and users after a company merger or acquisition. An alternate rich client desktop or application may be delivered alongside their existing desktop so that they have access to applications from both parts of the merged enterprise. This can be used to significantly accelerate the integration of the acquired company’s systems. In this case, the security and directory issues around application access will of course also need to be addressed, but that is beyond the scope of this document.
  • Organizations that will implement Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services alongside Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services.
  • Delivery of full desktop environments. Organizations may choose to deliver a new desktop environment to clients that are unable to upgrade, or are waiting to upgrade, to a new operating system.
  • Rapid deployment of new applications across an enterprise so that end users can be up and running very quickly, without needing to wait for new applications to be installed on their desktops.
  • Rapid deployment of a new version of an individual application to clients that are unable to upgrade because of compatibility issues, or are waiting to upgrade.
  • Providing full corporate desktops to employees who work from home, either occasionally or full time, on their personal workstations. This enables the enterprise to provide full function secure application delivery without needing to be concerned about the maintenance and security of the user’s personal workstation.
  • Providing individual applications to external third parties, such as vendors and suppliers, in a Web browser.
  • Business continuity in the event of a disaster. Terminal Services can be used to rapidly provision a full working desktop to a newly acquired, or rented, population of user workstations in a new location.
  • Multi-forest environments in which the Terminal Services infrastructure components may span forest boundaries. This is particularly relevant in the mergers and acquisitions scenario.
  • Provisioning of difficult-to-maintain or infrequently used applications. The management overhead of running such applications on end-user workstations can be significant, so it can make a lot of business sense to run them centrally instead, with delivery through Terminal Services.
  • Delivering data-intensive client applications over low bandwidth links. Terminal Services can be used to deliver an application over bandwidth-constrained links. This is very effective for remotely accessing and manipulating large volumes of data because only a screen view of the data is transmitted over the network to the client, rather than the actual data.

Out of Scope

This guide concentrates on Terminal Services design and planning exclusively. Solutions containing the following elements are to be considered out of scope for this guide:

  • Remote assistance. Although Remote Assistance uses Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), this feature is used for user assistance rather than presentation virtualization.
  • Remote Desktop for Administration. This Terminal Services capability allows up to two remote users to connect to a Windows desktop session for administrative purposes. It is included with Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista® Ultimate operating system, the Professional editions of Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
  • Multi-tenant hosting or remote hosting. Although companies hosting remote application and shared servers quite often use presentation virtualization in some form, this document does not address all of the complexities of a full multi-tenant design.
  • Migration from Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services.
  • Citrix MetaFrame. Third-party add-ons to Terminal Services extend the product and offer solutions for various situations, but they are too varied to cover here.
  • Planning for Microsoft Application Virtualization. Microsoft Application Virtualization on Terminal Services can resolve application conflicts and greatly simplify administration. Consider using the Infrastructure Planning and Design Microsoft SoftGrid® Application Virtualization Solution Accelerator, available at, as a complement to this guide when designing a Terminal Services infrastructure.

Additional Reading

This accelerator is part of a larger series of tools and guidance from Solution Accelerators.


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