What's Missing in Terminal Services?

Windows 2000 (Win2K) isn't the last word in multiuser Windows. On the plus side, the shared Clipboard that Win2K includes is vital to session transparency. Users who need help will welcome the administrator's ability to take remote control of the session and either correct the problem or show the user how to correct it. And using a locally connected printer without having to go through the rigmarole of sharing the printer with the network and connecting to the share from the Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition session is handy. On the minus side, Win2K Server Terminal Services lacks some features that are available only in third-party products.

Support for non-Windows clients. Terminal Services doesn't support all Windows clients—Terminal Services works only with Win32 OSs (including Windows CE) and Windows for Workgroups (WFW). When you have Windows 3x, DOS, UNIX (including Linux), or Macintosh clients on which you want to run Windows applications in a native Win2K environment, you need Citrix MetaFrame. As the rudimentary support for non-Windows clients in single-user Win2K demonstrates, Microsoft prefers to support Windows clients.

Multiprotocol support. Terminal Services uses RDP to pass user input and terminal output between client and server. RDP depends on TCP/IP, which means that both client and server must run TCP/IP. But the Win32 clients that Terminal Services supports come with a TCP/IP implementation, and the Internet's ubiquity makes TCP/IP the transport protocol of choice on most networks anyway, so the lack of multiprotocol support isn't limiting. However, Terminal Services locks you into only one protocol. In contrast, MetaFrame's Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) protocol supports many network protocols, including IPX/SPX and NetBEUI.

Seamless client sessions. The terminal session and desktop windows are the same size as the local window, but you can configure a 1024 x 768 window. However, you have to either scroll around to view the frames for the entire session window and the taskbar on the bottom of the screen or run in full-screen mode without same-screen access to your locally running applications.

Server farming. Win2K lets you create client connections that supply only applications, but you must know which server is running the application and make an explicit connection to it. MetaFrame 1.8 lets you create general client connections to a set of servers running a certain application without the client needing to know which server is providing the application. Server farming automatically downloads the links to the applications to the client desktop.

Load balancing. Load balancing lets multiple servers work in tandem so that the least busy server processes client requests. Win2K Server doesn't include support for load balancing. Win2K Advanced Server (Win2K AS) supposedly does, but only for user logons, not for running applications. To get application load balancing, you need a third-party product such as Citrix Load Balancing Services with MetaFrame or NCD ThinPATH Plus load balancing.

Sound. Some users need sound in an office environment. Win2K's RDP doesn't transport audio output. For sound, you must install MetaFrame on the terminal server. (NCD ThinPATH Plus supports client-side sound, but this product doesn't work with Win2K beta 3.)

Access to Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports. Although Win2K redirects COM and LPT ports, it doesn't redirect USB ports. If you're using USB devices, you'll still need to share them with the network to access them.

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