I recently set up a "micro" size Windows 2008 Datacenter server on Amazon AWS. My small group needs several concurrent RDS users to be able to access the machine. Without installing the "Remote Desktop Server" role, it allows 2 concurrent connections.

I read on MS' website that in order to set up multiple users, we needed to install the RDS role. I did so, but now the application we are trying to share is running much slower than it was before. Prior to the role installation, it was taking about 5 seconds to open; now it is taking a few minutes to open -- without any other users logged on except me.

My assumption is that the RDS role may be too much for this micro instance to handle, and currently, changing to another size instance is not an option (it may be possible later if we were to receive enough funding).

This leads me to the following questions:

1) Is it a sensible assessment to assume that it is the RDS role is slowing things down, or are there other things that I could look at to speed it up? We are talking about a machine with ~600MB of memory.

2) If I revert back to the pre-RDS role, is there any legitimate way (in terms of purchasing RDS licenses) to get more than 2 concurrent desktops? I did read this, and am not questioning that the answerer is knowlegeable; but someone else may have some other experience. I am also making it clear that we want to do this in a legitimate way.

Thanks in advance for any assistance that can be provided!

EDIT: if it is helpful in answering the question, the application in question is a Lotus Approach database.

Also, I am asking this from a technical perspective: not a legal one. I want to know if it is possible to install valid licenses without the RDS role.

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    I want to know if it is possible to install valid licenses without the RDS role. - I'm pretty sure the answer is no. In this case, the technical perspective echoes the legal one. There's no role to install the licences to if there's no RDS role present. – Rob Moir Jun 4 '12 at 16:32
  • +1 "I'm pretty sure the answer is no". This is my gut instinct as well from searching the net and MS forums but I want to validate this with people who have experience installing the RDS role in 2008, before I bring the answer back to my employer. It is a bit counterintuitive to me to have Remote Desktop available out of the box as a service, and then require a seperate "RDS role." It's evident this is done to allow headless administration, but it can still be confusing. – transistor1 Jun 4 '12 at 16:42
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    I have experience installing and supporting the RDS role in Windows 2008, and that is what I based my comment on - A server simply won't check for licences if the RDS role isn't there. The "out of the box" RDP sessions have always been aimed at administration, IIRC since Windows 2000 – Rob Moir Jun 4 '12 at 16:48
  • That totally makes sense. I had initially assumed that the "RDS role" functionality and the out-of-box functionality were identical, except for the licensing aspect. @Brent explains that there is more to it than that. After the performance decrease, I had a hunch about that, but didn't have enough RDS server experience to know for certain. – transistor1 Jun 4 '12 at 17:06

I'm assuming that the performance problems exist even with just two users. I could certainly see performance problems with more than two users, especially if the programs being used are taxing.

The minimum memory recommendation for Windows Server 2008 is 512 MB with a recommendation of 2GB. I certainly understand that there are cost implications with AWS but you are pushing the capabilities of a Windows box in general running at 600MB.

Either way, RDS transforms the way the server handles user sessions. It abstracts the user profile and global variables so that if a lowly user tries to delete an application or system file it limits that change to just that use. That functionality may be introducing the additional overhead that is causing the server to page out. But regardless it's hard to really pin point it other than looking at performance monitors and just doing some simple session testing.

To answer your other part of the question, in order to get more than two RDS licenses you MUST be running a RDS with a valid license file/server on the network. There is no legal way to bypass this.

  • Great answer-- exactly what I was looking for: thank you. "I'm assuming that the performance problems exist even with just two users" That's the thing I found weird: the app performance issues didn't exist before I installed the RDS role. +1 for "Either way, RDS transforms the way the server handles user sessions..." Logically, then, that could be the reason. – transistor1 Jun 4 '12 at 16:52
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    Yea, it's weird I wish you had the option of increasing the amount of administrative connections that could be opened. We used to have three admins and would often have issues where the last person in would not get a connection, kind of a pain. – Brent Pabst Jun 4 '12 at 16:55
  • Is there any way you know of to disable that added functionality from the RDS role? – transistor1 Jun 4 '12 at 19:18
  • No sorry. Haven't seen it before. – Brent Pabst Jun 4 '12 at 19:37

The answer to question (1) is "Maybe. Remove the role and see if the machine speeds up." -- You may also want to look at your system resource utilization and see if you're overtaxing the system.

The answer to question (2) is "Talk to Microsoft and/or your lawyer" -- You missed this canonical question about licensing in your search, which basically boils down to "Licenses are hard, most of us are not lawyers, and we don't want to give you bad advice that winds up costing you a lot of money in fines."
My understanding however is that Microsoft has limited the non-RDS systems to 2 desktops so people would actually purchase the necessary licenses...

  • Thanks for your quick answer. I had already stated that pre-role, the app was operating more quickly. It was the only change made. Is the RDS role inherently slower or memory-hungry than the built-in system? Also, I'm not asking for legal advice or specifically about the licenses themselves. Just if there is any way of installing them if we were to call MS and purchase them. I stated pretty clearly that I intend to purchase them; this is a technical question only. – transistor1 Jun 4 '12 at 16:24
  • @transistor1 I don't see a reason the RDS role should be inherently slower, but I'm also not a Windows expert -- I wouldn't think that just being in the RDS role would impose a resource burden on the system though. – voretaq7 Jun 4 '12 at 17:25
  • I would have wholeheartedly agreed with that statement coming in to this. I would have assumed the only difference between the two was the licensing aspect; but as @Brent points out, there is some other functionality added when the RDS role is put in place, in contrast to the the out-of-box RDS. It would be nice for MS to call the out-of-box system something like "Administrator Desktop" or something similar, to emphasize that there is a difference; but I digress. – transistor1 Jun 4 '12 at 18:13

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