Windows Server 2008's eagerly awaited Terminal Services is a respectable presentation virtualization alternative for smaller shops, but for large enterprises, Citrix Systems still reigns supreme. That's the--not unexpected--finding of the first installment in our ongoing Windows Server 2008 Rolling Review. From a product-positioning perspective, Microsoft is walking a fine line, responding to calls for more core Terminal Services functionality in Windows Server, yet keeping its hands mostly off the large enterprises that comprise Citrix's core audience.
In the past, Microsoft has gotten beat up pretty regularly for the dearth of enterprise-level thin-client functionality in Terminal Services 2003, especially when compared with Citrix's offerings. From a strict functionality standpoint, the criticism was warranted. But functionality doesn't tell the whole story. For every Citrix XenApp (formerly Presentation Server) license sold, Microsoft requires purchase of not only a desktop client access license (CAL), but also a Terminal Services CAL.
In addition, Citrix is one of just a handful of companies with access to the Windows Server OS source code. Microsoft is making millions on CAL licensing no matter which direction Windows shops choose to go, and given that, there's little motivation to go after Citrix in head-to-head competition.
The company's official stance: "Microsoft and Citrix continue to be strong partners; this perception [of competition] arises with each new release of Windows Server/Terminal Services," says Alex Balcanquall, Terminal Services product manager. "Together, over the years, we have continued to deliver great joint solutions to our mutual customers. Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services is about reaching out to net new customers, those that aren't using presentation virtualization today. PUT TO THE TEST
We built a test bed that would reflect a small organization within our Boston Real-World Partner Labs, deploying a single dual-processor Hewlett-Packard DL 360 server with 4 GB of RAM to act as our core presentation server. Installation of Terminal Services was a snap; it can be added as simply another server role in a full OS installation or Server Core build. We tested Terminal Services RemoteApp by deploying a virtualized version of Microsoft Outlook to a user with a huge Exchange mailbox. Our client was a Windows XP SP2 box.