This past week, our managed services team at OrcsWeb ran into an issue with Remote Desktop Services 2012. We had a client setup request for RDS on their Windows Server 2012 machine. We were to install the Session Host, Web, and Service Broker roles. This server was to point to our existing 2008 R2 RDS Licensed server. This 2008 R2 server’s only job is to provide central point of management for RDS CALs.

A Windows Server 2012 box cannot point to anything but another Windows Server 2012 box for licensing. This was not an issue, we just stood up a Server 2012 box to replace our 2008 R2 RDS box, where its only role would be a license server.

Once the new server was up and running, RDS licensing role installed, configured and validated with CALs for our server versions, including Server 2012 RDS, we attempted to point our RDS session host installation to the new licensing server.

To do this, I launched Server Manager, selected Remote Deaktop Services from the left panel, in the Role section I selected Overview, then selected the tasks drop down in Deployment Overview and selected Edit Deployment Properties.

RDS screenshot

I then went to the RD Licensing section to add my license server. I added my licensing server via FQDN, and was promptly greeted with an error message.

“The license server specified is not valid. Verify the server name and specify a valid server name before saving the settings.”

RDS Lic Error Msg

So I immediately began to check obvious things. Can I ping the license server? Check. Are the appropriate firewall rules enabled on the license server? Check. Triple-check that the license server had been truly validated and had appropriate CALs? Check. Restart the licensing service on the license server? Check. Check event logs on both license server and session host server? Check. I even went screen by screen looking at my previous 2008 R2 Licensing server and compared with the new one.

Nothing seemed to get me past this issue. Then I turned to the super-secret ultimate IT tool, Google. It took a bit of searching and forum crawling, but I was finally able to track this down where another user had encountered this:

The fix for this issue, is to set the licensing server and the per user/device settings in the local group policy on the Session Host server. You need to edit two entries in the following directory:

Local Computer Policy\Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Session Host

We are looking for:

-Use the specified Remote Desktop license servers
-Set the Remote Desktop licensing mode


I am not sure of the root cause at this time; however, this problem is something that can be reproduced. The model of a single server responsible for just licensing and other servers hosting other roles would be a common scenario for RDS I would imagine. This problem does not exist in the 2008 R2 RDS implementation. Having to set group policy instead of utilizing a wizard seems to be a step backwards for the RDS platform. That being said, the remote application presentation and web access configuration are quite excellent in implementation and fairly easy to configure. Also, having 120 days to try it before licensing is a very nice feature.

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