A Beginner’s Guide To RDS Load Balancing

So, you’re curious about Remote Desktop Services (RDS) load balancing, huh? Awesome! Let’s dive in together and make sense of it all. Trust me, by the end of this, you’ll feel like a pro, ready to tackle your remote desktop infrastructure challenges with ease and knowing exactly when you should use an RDS load balancer.

What Exactly is RDS Load Balancing?

First things first: RDS stands for Remote Desktop Services, a centralized platform provided by Microsoft® for delivering and managing Windows®-based applications and desktops to users via Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). RDS components work together to execute different server roles, including load balancing, to publish Windows apps.

But what about load balancing? In this context, load balancing is all about distributing user sessions across multiple Remote Desktop host servers. This ensures no single server is overwhelmed with requests, which can slow down performance or even lead to crashes.

Why Load Balancing Matters

Performance Improvement

Think of load balancing as a way to spread the workload. If one server is trying to handle everything, it’s like having a single cashier at a busy store—lines form, people get frustrated, and the service slows down. By distributing the traffic, load balancing ensures each server gets a manageable number of requests, keeping things running smoothly.

Increased Availability

Ever had a server crash on you? It’s the worst. With load balancing, if one server goes down, the system can reroute traffic to another server that’s still up and running. This means your applications remain available to users even if there’s a hiccup with one of the servers.

Enhanced Scalability

As your user base grows, so does the traffic. Load balancing makes it super easy to add more servers to handle the increased load. It’s like adding more cashiers during a sale—everyone gets served faster.

Reduced Downtime

Load balancers can detect when a server is down and automatically redirect traffic away from it. This minimizes the impact of server failures on your overall system, reducing downtime and keeping your users happy.

Reduced Risk

Load balancing isn’t just about handling traffic—it’s also about security. By distributing traffic across multiple servers and firewalls, load balancing can help protect against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and other threats.

When Should You Add an RDS Load Balancer?

For small organizations with just a few local employees sharing a couple of apps, load balancing might not be critical. But as your user base grows, it becomes increasingly important. Imagine you’re an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) with hundreds or thousands of customers. These users expect a seamless experience, and load balancing is key to meeting those expectations.

The Microsoft RDS platform includes a built-in load balancer called Remote Desktop Connection Broker (RD Connection Broker). It manages connections between servers in the server farm, balancing incoming traffic and assigning users to servers. However, RD Connection Broker has its limitations, especially as user numbers grow and the infrastructure becomes more complex. Many organizations eventually outgrow its capabilities and look for more advanced third-party load balancers.

Types of Load Balancing Rules

Modern load balancers can route connections using a variety of rules based on specific conditions. Here are some examples:


This is the simplest rule. Traffic is evenly distributed across multiple servers in a circular manner, passing each new connection request to the next server in line.

Least Connections

Traffic is directed to the server with the fewest active connections. This ensures an even distribution of the load, even if servers have different processing capacities.

IP-based Routing

Traffic is directed to specific servers based on the IP address of the incoming request. This is useful when certain IP addresses need to be directed to specific servers.

Path-based Routing

Traffic is routed to different backend servers based on the path of the incoming request. For example, requests to /api might go to one set of servers, while requests to /images go to another.

Session Persistence

This rule ensures that requests from a particular client are always directed to the same backend server. It’s useful for applications requiring stateful connections, where data generated in one session needs to be used in the next session with the same client.

Geolocation Routing

Traffic is routed to specific servers based on the geographical location of the client. This can be useful for applications offering different content or functionality based on the client’s location, such as routing EU clients to servers compliant with GDPR regulations.

Has Your Organization Outgrown its RDS Load Balancer?

If your RDS application infrastructure isn’t delivering a great user experience or is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to manage, it might be time to consider switching to a more advanced solution. Many cloud services offer load balancing as a service option with various methods to choose from. Check with your provider for more details and costs.

Getting Started with RDS Load Balancing

Ready to dive in? Here’s a quick guide to setting up load balancing for your RDS:

Use RD Connection Broker

  1. Install RD Connection Broker:
    • Install RD Connection Broker as part of your RDS deployment if it’s not already installed.
  2. Configure Load Balancing:
    • Use the RD Connection Broker to configure session-based load balancing.
    • Distribute user sessions based on session count and server weight.
  3. Monitor and Adjust:
    • Regularly monitor performance and adjust load balancing settings as needed to ensure optimal performance.

Consider Third-Party Load Balancers

If RD Connection Broker’s capabilities aren’t enough, explore third-party load balancers that offer more advanced features and customization options.

Research Options:

Look into third-party load balancers that support RDS.

Set Up and Configure:

Follow the setup and configuration guidelines provided by the third-party vendor to integrate their load balancer with your RDS environment.

Optimize Performance:

Take advantage of advanced load balancing rules and features to fine-tune your RDS performance.

Wrapping Up

There you have it—a comprehensive guide to RDS load balancing. By now, you should have a clear understanding of what load balancing is, why it’s essential, and how to set it up for your RDS environment. Remember, the goal is to keep your applications running smoothly and efficiently, no matter how much traffic comes your way.