My Crazy Adventures with RemoteFX, Part Two

[This is part two of the "My Crazy Adventures with RemoteFX" series] Back in Part 1, I left off just before describing what was needed to set up RemoteFX (in a VDI scenario). Let's dive into that now.

Software requirements

It shouldn't come as a shock that Windows Server is required for RemoteFX. Specifically, you'll need to install:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 or higher (I am specifically covering Windows Server 2012)
  • Remote Desktop Services (see licensing below)
  • Hyper-V

Hardware requirements

While RemoteFX inherits its hardware compatibility from Windows itself, you will need two key pieces of hardware:

  • A processor capable of Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)*. Intel calls their implementation of this technology Extended Page Table (EPT). AMD instead chose Rapid Virtualization Indexing (RVI). Newer processors today have this technology; if you want to check if your processor is supported, use Sysinternals Coreinfo.
  • A DirectX 11* capable GPU (with WDDM 1.2 drivers). Previous versions of RemoteFX required a DirectX 10.0 card. But with RemoteFX's ability to now handle DirectX 11-class graphics, this requirement has been bumped up. If you're looking to color within the lines, you'll need to drop some serious cash for an officially supported video card (e.g. AMD FirePro). But in reality and in my testing, a consumer card -- like the Radeon 5970 HD -- will work slightly slower but otherwise operate just fine.

But wait, what do the little *s mean? Those stars mean these requirements can be bypassed, using some trickery. Using a non-SLAT processor, however, incurs a huge performance penalty and isn't worth the trouble. Bypassing the DirectX 11 requirement -- for say a DirectX 10 card -- isn't as crazy and could make sense in scenarios where DirectX 11 acceleration isn't needed. But that's a very dark cave to be wandering in. Get a newer card.

That said, Hyper-V on Windows Server 8 supports a software-emulated GPU that provides DirectX 11-class support without RemoteFX. I could not, however, convince my 3D applications it existed so won't be exploring that option further.

Licensing requirements

RemoteFX has no ties to the host OS's licensing status. But Because RemoteFX is ultimately a Remote Desktop Services (RDS) technology, RDS licensing applies. That means you need to obtain a license per client accessing the server and have a license server installed on your network somewhere. Per client in this case can mean either a device or user, depending on what makes sense. But don't let this scare you. RDS provides an ample 180-day (6 month) grace period before a license server needs to be installed. (After setting that up, you're afforded another 90 days in way of temporary access licenses.)

If you run out of time, you can of course purchase a retail copy of Windows Server and some RDS CALs. But for testing purposes, I would instead recommend looking into acquiring a MSDN subscription. With any level of subscription, you'll gain access to Windows Server and RDS CALs. (Just make sure you read the MSDN Terms of Use to ensure you're eligible.)

Looking forward

In the next post, I'll cover actual installation and configuration. Stay tuned!