Note: This article has been updated since it was first published. Originally, I stated that Bear Paw would be part of R2. I said this because Microsoft announced that RDP over HTTP would be part of R2, so I assumed that functionality was part of Bear Paw and that Bear Paw would be part of R2. That assumption was wrong. Officially, Microsoft has not yet chosen a release date for Bear Paw.
At TechEd this week, Microsoft revealed several details of the “R2” update to Windows Server 2003, scheduled to be released sometime next year. R2 is the codename for a massive update to Windows Server 2003 that will include several new features, including branch server deployment, Windows SharePoint Services, and Active Directory Federation Services. R2 will be built on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, which will be released later this year.
One of the new Terminal Services features is the ability for a Windows Server to encapsulate and proxy RDP traffic over HTTPS connections. The RDP over HTTPS proxy is part of what Microsoft calls “Anywhere Access.” Not to be confused with Citrix’s “Access Infrastructure,” Microsoft’s Anywhere Access will allow users to securely access corporate resources over the public Internet without using VPN software.
This capability is already available today for users connecting to Microsoft Exchange 2003 Servers from Outlook 2003 clients. In this case, the Exchange/Outlook connection uses Windows Server 2003’s built-in RPC proxy. Essentially, standard RPC traffic is wrapped in HTTPS at the client. A Windows 2003 IIS server receives the HTTPS packets, pulls out the RPC data, and forwards the packets off to the Exchange server. This allows users to have “full” Outlook RPC-based connectivity using standard SSL-encrypted HTTPS traffic.
For the Anywhere Access component of R2, Microsoft is expanding the RPC proxy’s capabilities so that it can also support SMB file shares and RDP Terminal Server sessions. This will allow users to securely connect to a Terminal Server across the Internet and is a direct threat to Citrix’s MetaFrame Secure Gateway product.
Similar to Citrix, Microsoft is beginning to ramp up the “solution” messaging, focusing on how an Anywhere Access strategy can allow users to be productive while outside the office from any device (since VPN client software is not needed).