Terminal Services, The Rest of the Story
Application sharing can make you a hero with
remote users. But don't forget to examine the
hidden issues with using Win2K Terminal Services
in that mode.
- By Harry Brelsford
- February 01, 2001
Now that you've worked with Windows 2000 for a year,
it's time to learn some of the more advanced features.
Learning these features, however, may increase your pain
and agony more than slightly as you plumb the depths of
Win2K. This month, I'll share a story with you: It's about
learning how to implement Terminal Services the hard way,
via a recent MCSE consulting experience I had and the
issue of licensing plays prominently in this one. I have
no one to blame, but more on that later. First, let's
take a quick look at exactly what Terminal Services is.
Essentially, you can connect to the Win2K Server via
a Terminal Services session to run a remote control session.
With a remote control session, you have a session window
that displays the activity you create, such as keystrokes.
|Figure 1. The classic view of
Terminal Services - a window within a window. (Click
image to view larger version.)
In Figure 1, the screen images are passed between the
client session (which is really the session window) and
the server. Terminal Services runs in two modes on a Win2K
Server: remote administration and application sharing.
Remote administration allows up to two concurrent connections
by the administrator for performing administration on
|I can't resist giving one
technical tip along the way before jumping
into the licensing discussion. When you
switch Terminal Services from remote administration
mode to application sharing mode, you
also switch the Terminal Services session's
priority processing from background to
foreground on the Win2K Server. This dramatically
increases the load on the Win2K Server.
You'll need lots of RAM and processing
power when running Terminal Services in
application sharing mode.
Application sharing mode allows numerous connections
from users who want to run applications in Terminal Services
sessions (such as via a VPN connection over the Internet).
You most often read about the application sharing mode
of Terminal Services and it's this mode that requires
client access licensing, a complex area that I'll discuss
in a moment.
Licensing and Legalities
Perhaps you've been around the technology industry for
a while and have seen different licensing schemes come
and go. Possibly you licensed some of IBM's mainframe
and mid-range technologies and went through their complex
licensing scheme. Better yet, maybe you were exposed to
one of my favorite licensing approaches, power units,
with Computer Associates. Ouch! Well I've got news for
you. The licensing scheme related to Terminal Services
is right up there with the best of them.
Before I dive into the details, let's take a quick look
at how you'll likely discover that there is a licensing
issue at all. You're happily going along, deploying Win2K.
Curiosity overcomes caution and need overcomes want when
you decide to deploy Terminal Services in application
sharing mode. You're an instant hero as users can work
from home and other remote locations, running corporate
applications, such as a database, in a snappy Terminal
Services session window. Life is good.
Three months later, the feathers hit the fan when you
get a call late one night from a frantic user, unable
to launch a Terminal Services session to accomplish work.
The only error message in the event logs says a Terminal
Services user is unable to log in (not very descriptive,
to say the least).
Here's what has most likely occurred: When you install
Terminal Services in application sharing mode, you have
90 days to acquire the Terminal Services client access
licenses (CALs) and set up a Terminal Services Licensing
Server. Assuming you've hit day 90, you'll need to undertake
A. Install the Licensing Server.
The Licensing Server is installed from Start | Settings
| Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs | Add/Remove Windows
Components, and select Terminal Services Licensing. Click
Next and Finish to close the Windows Components Wizard.
|Win2K Professional clients
do not need Terminal Services CALs to
access a Win2K Server and launch a Terminal
B. Acquire the Terminal Services Clients
Access Licenses (CALs). Next, assuming you're running
Windows ME/9x or NT Workstation clients that are connecting
to your Win2K Server machines and launching Terminal Services
sessions, you need to purchase the Terminal Services CALs.
I found the task of purchasing Terminal Services CALs
to be much tougher than I first thought. When you launch
the Licensing Wizard, you're advised to enter information
about the "volume purchasing" arrangement you have with
Microsoft (such as a high-volume select purchasing program)
or "other." If you select "other," which fits many of
us, you're told to purchase the Terminal Services CALs
from your reseller (which doesn't carry them on the sales
floor, let me assure you). Alternatively, you can call
Microsoft at 1-888-571-2048 to purchase more Terminal
Services CALs (contact your regional Microsoft Center
if outside the U.S.). The problem you'll encounter when
you call that number at Microsoft is that they don't sell
Terminal Services CALs directly. Rather, they tell you
to purchase those from your reseller. OK, that call really
didn't do anything for us, as you may have noticed.
In my case, I purchased my client's Win2K Server from
PC Zones. I went to www.zones.com
and searched for Windows 2000 Terminal Services CAL (the
exact language from the Microsoft Win2K Pricing Information
Web page); the result returned was "No data exists."
|If you're working with your
reseller in an attempt to purchase Terminal
Services CALs, consider providing the
Microsoft manufacturer part number to
the reseller for the CAL - five unit stock
keeping unit (SKU) of C79-0001. This may
allow the reseller to find the Terminal
Services CAL product, which can be a challenge
At this point, more than an hour passed where end users
couldn't get a Terminal Services session launched (and
thus they can't work from the remote sites). Going to
another site, Egghead.com (www.egghead.com),
I got results with a price tag of roughly $671 for five
At this point I had ordered the Terminal Services CALs,
which are just a 25-digit code on a piece of licensing
paper. I (and my client) had to wait one day for the product
(labeled "Client License Pak" when it arrived). So not
only are the remote users down for that day but most of
the next day as well!
C. Adding Licenses. Whew! You've
fought off the remote end users who, quite frankly, wanted
your head served on a platter while the Terminal Services
CALs were being shipped. The big shipment arrives and
you open it to find a standard license agreement and a
page titled Microsoft License Code with a 25-alpha/numeric
license code. Cool, you say! Time to add the CALs using
the following steps:
Logon to the Terminal Services machine as the Administrator.
Launch the Terminal Services License Manager from
Start | Programs | Administrative Tools | Terminal
Services Licensing. The Terminal Services Licensing
Manager appears (see Figure 2).
|Figure 2. The Terminal Services
Licensing snap-in. (Click image to view larger version.)
Highlight the Terminal Services machine in the right
pane with a single left click.
Click Action | Install Licenses to launch the Licensing
After reading the "Welcome to the Licensing Wizard"
page, click Next.
If necessary, select the licensing program you use
(in my scenario, it is "other") and click Next. This
screen will not appear if you've previously selected
a licensing program.
The "Obtain client license key pack" page is displayed.
You are now at a critical juncture. Type the "client
license key pack ID in the boxes below" field. However,
upon closer examination, you note the field accommodates
35 characters, not the 25-character license code you
have in your possession. Perhaps you've noted that
the license server ID, also displayed on the "Obtain
client license key pack" page, is 35-characters (see
Figure 3). If you're like me, you enter that number
in the blank fields. But it doesn't work. Stand by
for the next step.
|Figure 3. The "Obtain client
license key pack" page in the Licensing Wizard; numbers
are blocked for privacy. (Click image to view larger
You must now perform a poorly documented step (heck,
I think it's actually undocumented). Call the telephone
number listed on the "Obtain client license key pack"
page (888-571-2048) and provide the person on the
other end both the 35-character licensing server ID
and the 25-digit licensing code. The representative
will feed both numbers into a computer and it will
hash out (or generate) a unique 35-character code
that you enter in the "client license key pack ID
in the boxes below" field on the "Obtain client license
key pack" page. Click Next.
Click Finish. Remote users can now log on and return
to work via their beloved Terminal Services sessions.
Here are the lessons I learned about Terminal Services
from this experience:
Don't wait until the end of the 90-day Terminal
Services licensing grace period to purchase and install
your Terminal Services CALs (or else your users will
suffer some downtime at an inopportune time).
Consider using all Win2K Professional clients to
access Terminal Services. These clients, as I stated
earlier, don't need to Terminal Services CALs. In
fact, the license record-keeping for Win2K Professional
clients is handled via the Existing Win2K License
entry shown in Figure 4 in the right pane. Note that
if you pursue the Win2K Professional client strategy,
you'll still need to call Microsoft and have them
help you activate your Terminal Services licensing
Have a deep appreciation that this licensing is
enforced (aside from Microsoft Small Business Server
2000, this is one of the few products from Microsoft
that actually enforces licensing).
Note that an upgrade from Windows NT Server 4.0
Terminal Server edition to Win2K Server running Terminal
Services doesn't upgrade the Terminal Services CALs
(which you'll still need to purchase). Early in this
consulting experience, I thought the CAL issue would
be resolved by virtue of my upgrade (of course, I
was caught by surprise!).
Print and save this column so you don't look too
silly when you try to order the Terminal Services
CALs and actually install them (with the infamous
under-documented step - Step 8 above).
|Figure 4. Observe the two types
of licenses in the right pane: Win2K and Terminal
Services CALs. (Click image to view larger version.)
I've only presented one scenario in the Terminal Services
licensing story. You will want to visit the following
Microsoft Web page, at www.microsoft.com/
as shown in Figure 5 to further your knowledge of Terminal
Services licensing. This Web page has a link to an entire
white paper on Terminal Services licensing!
|Figure 5. Microsoft's answer-all-questions
Web page on Terminal Services licensing. (Click image
to view larger version.)
You can complete this process over the Internet or via
fax, but these alternative registration methods assume
that you obtained your Win2K Server media via a volume
purchasing program, which didn't apply to my client. This
kind of stuff is described at the Web page mentioned above.
So there you have it, the mystery of Terminal Services
CALs unraveled and revealed. I leave you this month a
more humbled MCSE consultant from the above experience.
See you next month!