Microsoft released Windows 2000—with support for Win2K Server Terminal Services—in February 2000. Since that time, a lot of people have asked me about whether their environments require Citrix MetaFrame or whether they can work with Win2K Server Terminal Services on their own. The answer, of course, depends on whether they need the extras that MetaFrame provides (e.g., rules-based load balancing, high-color support, sound, published applications) enough to spend the extra money for MetaFrame. (I won't rehash those extras here; for background information, read my February 14 column about MetaFrame XP (see the first URL at the end of this column), search for MetaFrame on the Windows 2000 Magazine Network Web site and search for MetaFrame, or go to http://www.citrix.com for Citrix's perspective about the difference.)
Choosing to purchase MetaFrame isn't a negligible decision. The retail price for MetaFrame 1.8 is $4995 for server licensing plus 15 user connections and $5995 with Subscription Advantage included. MetaFrame XP is licensed on a per-connection basis only—for $250/$300 per connection for the baseline product. And that's in addition to the Terminal Server Client Access Licenses (TSCALs) you'll need to connect to a terminal server, regardless of which display protocol you use. However, you aren't restricted to an all-or-nothing approach.
One option is to install MetaFrame only on an "as-needed" basis. You can load MetaFrame on the servers that need it and run Win2K Terminal Services on the others. For example, you could install MetaFrame on a couple of servers to support the Macintosh users and let the Windows users use RDP. Everyone uses a TSCAL, but only the Mac users use per-connection licenses.
What about installing ICA support on a Win2K terminal server and letting people connect to the MetaFrame servers only from within Win2K terminal sessions? This might or might not work for you. Running ICA from within an RDP session has limited utility. Feature Release 1's (FR1's) client-side enhancements (included in MetaFrame XP) don't apply when you run ICA sessions from within an RDP session—RDP displays 256 colors, and that's what you'll get in the final analysis, even if the ICA session displays in true color. You don't necessarily save anything on licensing fees because ICA is licensed on a per-connection, not a per-seat basis—connecting from an ICA client located on a terminal server still uses up a license. However, letting people connect to a MetaFrame server only from within an RDP session has one definite advantage: You might be able to restrict per-seat licenses to users who are supposed to be using Terminal Services in the first place. In other words, if ICA connectivity is restricted to the terminal server, you can avoid the problem of people connecting to the terminal server through ICA and using up a TSCAL. Although the licensing hotfix I mentioned in the April 11 column (see the second URL at the end of this column) reduces the damage such mistakes can cause by slowly returning unused TSCALs to the pool of available licenses, it won't change the underlying licensing scheme.
The bottom line is that the decision to use MetaFrame doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing deal. You might need some MetaFrame capability, but you don't have to install the product on every terminal server to get it. Be sure to answer the Instant Poll (see below); we're gathering comparative information about MetaFrame and Win2K Terminal Services use.