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Microsoft Previews Virtual Desktop Starter Kit

Microsoft released a software tool today for testing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) scenarios using its Remote Desktop Services (RDS) protocol.

The new tool, called "Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Starter Kit 1.0," is currently available at the "preview" stage. Microsoft is billing it as something that should not be used for production environments. It's just for testing purposes. The kit "complements" the management console and wizards used with the RDS server role of Windows Server 2012 R2, according to Microsoft's announcement. It comes with a couple of applications, Calculator and WordPad, for testing virtual desktop access scenarios.

The finished Starter Kit product is scheduled for release in the second quarter of this year. In the meantime, the preview can be downloaded at this page.

The kit consists of PowerShell scripts that automate VDI deployments using Microsoft's RDS protocol (formerly known as "Terminal Services"). It deploys the Windows Server 2012 R2 RDS server-role components needed, including the connection broker, session host, virtualization host and Web access components. It can be used with various virtual desktop "collections," including personal, pooled or session-based ones.

Microsoft defines "a collection" as a group of servers that are managed together as part of a virtual machine (VM) deployment, according to this TechNet Magazine article. The session-based collections are used for "desktop sessions and RemoteApps housed on RD Session Host servers." The pooled and personal collections are used for "VM-based desktop sessions and RemoteApps housed on VMs running Windows 7 or Windows 8."

Microsoft's RemoteApps technology is a bit different in that the applications are accessed from a window on the end user's local machine, according to this TechNet library overview description.

The kit includes configuration settings for VDI deployments, which are contained in an XML file. Testers can modify the file to suit their needs. For instance, it's possible to alter the settings to expand from the default number of collections that are preconfigured with the kit.

The lab environment needed to use the kit requires Windows Server 2012 R2 plus Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 clients, along with two physical servers. There are some required initial setup steps, too, according Microsoft's "Part 2" description of the kit. The kit comes with a "readme" file that provides details about the architecture needed, as well as a deployment guide.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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