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Windows RT 8.1 in the Enterprise: Remote Application Access

Published: April 16, 2014

Applies To: Windows RT 8.1

This topic discusses how Windows RT 8.1 devices can access enterprise applications remotely including RemoteApp, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Remote Desktop Services, and Remote Assistance options.

In some scenarios, certain applications may not be available for Windows RT 8.1. This could be because they are existing desktop applications that cannot be installed on Windows RT, those that cannot be used outside of the corporate network, those that are isolated using IPSec domain isolation, or any other applications that have special requirements that cannot be directly met by Windows RT 8.1. Fortunately, there are multiple options for solving these issues.

In this topic:

By leveraging the Remote Desktop Services features in Windows Server 2008 R2 or later, traditional desktop applications can be run on the server with the user interface presented on the Windows RT device. Additionally, with Windows Server 2012, Windows Store apps can also be run in this way.

With Windows Server 2012 R2, additional improvements have been made to the RemoteApp experience. These improvements include:

  • Multi-touch support, which enables the best experience for accessing Windows Store apps remotely.

  • Better network bandwidth awareness for WAN-connected clients.

  • RemoteFX improvements, which offers support for streaming video and other multimedia applications, as well as USB redirection support, which allows some types of local peripherals to be used by applications running remotely.

  • Simplified configuration support that enables devices to automatically discover available RemoteApp servers and applications.

See Remote Desktop Services Overview for more information on these new improvements.

To configure a Windows RT 8.1 device to access the RemoteApp server, some simple configuration steps need to be performed on the Windows RT device to specify the URL of the server (for example, https://contoso.com/RDWeb/Feed/webfeed.aspx), as shown in Figure 1.

RemoteApp and Desktop Connections

Figure 1. RemoteApp and Desktop Connections

To leverage the automatic discovery capability mentioned above, an additional DNS entry must be created so that the URL can be determined based on an email address entered on that same screen. For instructions on how to configure this DNS entry, see Test Lab Guide: Remote Desktop Services Publishing.

Once configured with the URL of the Remote Desktop server or gateway, the RemoteApp programs published by that server can be launched from the Start screen like any locally installed application. The first time the application launches, it will take several seconds for a session to be established with the Remote Desktop Services server, but subsequent application launches will be quicker.

When these applications run, they typically leverage the user’s Active Directory account, which allows the application to access enterprise data within the corporate network – no data related to the applications ever needs to be stored on the Windows RT device, which helps to ensure compliance with enterprise security and control policies.

Another option that can be used from Windows RT 8.1 is a virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI. As with the previously-discussed remote desktop capability, VDI presents an image of a full remote desktop running in an enterprise datacenter. But unlike with remote desktop, this image represents an entire virtual machine dedicated to the current Windows RT user.

These virtual machines can be pooled (shared between multiple users) or dedicated to a particular user as required. In either case, all enterprise data remains within the corporate network and is not stored on the Windows RT device; only the user experience is remotely presented to the device.

When using VDI sessions (either directly or through an Internet-connected Remote Desktop gateway), Windows RT devices can leverage RemoteFX to provide a rich multimedia experience, leveraging either a built-in software GPU or the server’s own hardware GPU. Full multipoint touch capabilities are also supported.

Also new with VDI on Windows Server 2012 is support for USB redirection. Users can make any USB peripheral attached to the Windows RT device available directly to the VDI session, enabling it to be used with applications running in that session.

The primary challenge with VDI scenarios is making them cost effective, as each concurrent VDI session can require significant server resources (CPU, disk, memory, and network). With enhancements made in Windows Server 2012, these resources have been reduced making this a practical solution for scenarios where isolated or dedicated Windows instances are required. For other scenarios, consider Remote Desktop scenarios as these have lower resource requirements.

Windows RT 8.1 can also be used to establish a full remote desktop connection to a Remote Desktop Services server, as well as to any other Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2 computer. When used through the Remote Desktop gateway, this can even be done across the Internet, without using a VPN connection (the same as can be done with RemoteApp programs). To enable this, Windows RT 8.1 includes the desktop Remote Desktop Connection application (Mstsc.exe), or you can install the small Remote Desktop app from the Windows Store to provide an even better experience.

noteNote
Windows RT does not provide support for making a remote desktop connection into the device; only outbound connections are possible.

Windows RT 8.1 does support Remote Assistance, so users of the device could request help from remote support personal. With that invitation, the remote support personnel could connect to the user’s session to help troubleshoot any problems the user may be encountering.

Software vendors can also provide Windows Store apps for Windows RT 8.1 that enable remote application presentation, remote desktop connections, and remote data access. For example, the Citrix Receiver app is available to access a variety of Citrix virtualization solutions.

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