Access and Terminal Services May Be The Hot New Thing

There is an interesting blog post on the Access Team site that discusses and links to another post by Luke Chung over at FMS tat talks about using Access with Terminal Services (TS) and the new RemoteApp technology in Windows Server 2008 R2:

http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-access/archive/2011/04/20/deploy-access-applications-with-the-help-of-terminal-services-and-remoteapp.aspx

Although I have become a big fan of Access Services with SharePoint for Access solutions in the last couple of years, there is no doubt in my mind that using Terminal Services and RemoteApp (or the equivalent Citrix technologies frankly) is a great way to improve the performance, maintainability, deployment and reach of existing Access applications with the least cost in time and budget.  Every Access developer (and Excel one for that matter) should read this article and look into deploying their solutions this way.  In fact, this technology is a great opportunity to deliver Access solutions in Corporations in a way that passes the IT “smell-test” (where we all know they have very sensitive noses🙂 ).

Sadly though, reading this article does not make me happy at all, rather it makes me very, very sad and almost despondent.  You see, I have been delivering Access applications through Terminal Services since the late-nineties, way back even using Windows NT’s Terminal Services technology.  Even back then I was able to tell Terminal Services to run a specific application (with switches) on load that gave me the ability to drive the user to only the Access application I wanted them to run and then to exit and close the TS session when done (a capability removed and then reinstates basically as RemoteApp).  I am using TS every day at a client in West Virginia right now that allows data to be collected across the State and managed in an Access application from everywhere (on the top of mountains and down in mines) and allows me easily to maintain it all from up here in Canada.  None of this would be possible without Terminal Services and it is a reliable, cost-effective solution.

So now after the 15 years that I have been using this technology, the Access Team decides that is a cool new capability (?). I’m sorry to say that if this article means that Microsoft is finally going to promote TS as a great new platform for Access solutions then I think I might as well give up now – after talking about this for over 15 years with no success beyond my own successful solutions.

Terminal Services should have been front and center in all Access messaging for all those years but it was not even mentioned.  It definitely makes me question all the efforts I have made on behalf of Access over the last soon to be 20 years.

This is not a happy day for me personally, but if people get the message finally about TS, it MIGHT be a good day for Access.  But I wouldn’t bet on it if past “Messaging” on Access is any indication.

Dick

About Biggus Dickus

Dick is a consultant in London, ON Canada who specializes in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office Development.
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7 Responses to Access and Terminal Services May Be The Hot New Thing

  1. Donna Meyer says:

    Thank you for this timely article. I have been managing an Access database developed by my predecessor for 7 years thru Terminal Services; with 6-8 users in Las Vegas and 5-7 users in Denver. Our problems have only been the refreshing speed in Denver. We also have a web-based proprietary application linked to sql tables. I was entering the idea of either moving the Access back-end tables to sql for use by each front-end OR trying to find someone to move the Access application to the Web. We are using Access 2003 on a terminal server/no desktop applications. Should I consider upgrading to Access 2007/2010 for better performance; move my backend tables to a Cloud environment and employ Access RunTime on each desktop. Again, thanks for confirming the Terminal Services solution; I could not find many positive positions until I read yours today.

  2. Michael S says:

    Hey Dick. Just saw this post the other day. I too have been using TS with Access and SQL Server for a very long time. You’re right, I can’t recall any TLC directed at that frankly excellent combination of MSFT technologies, by MSFT.

    I think the reason it has not gotten official attention is that as we all know, for a long time Microsoft devoted almost no energy towards Access, and then a tiny fraction of that went towards support of Access developer solutions. In the recent years they pumped more into Access but almost entirely towards Access as a way to feed Sharepoint.

    Why they’ve been like that? I mean, they could have sold a lot of TS and Windows Server and SQL Server CALS if they’d buffed up Access’ developer aspects and promoted Access + SQL Server + TS. I personally guess that it’s because the company is so big and has so many diverse agendas that what moves things there are large scale sweeping plans/fantasies, which utterly disregard what little crowds of a couple ten thousand developers and their clients. The kind of directive that makes it down the chain of command is something akin to “Feed Sharepoint”…that’s a big scale success and one can direct the troops to pile on.

    If a small company was in charge of Access it’d be completely different for access devs.

    If you pay any attention to the ruckus about HTML 5 vs Silverilght and .Net you’ll know that Access devs are not the only devs to feel slighted by Microsoft. Many .Net devs feel that Microsoft does not really value them like it should, listen to them etc. Obviously if .net devs are not being heard, Access devs are completely off the map. We’re used to it, that’s all . The .Net guys felt like first class citizens.

    Although I could beef about how Microsoft has done a lame job with Access for devs for a very very long time (and also about how it’s still a great solution for many needs) what is even more interesting to think about is why there are so few alternatives that we can turn to for creating productive database apps. There are some, thankfully, but it’s not a rich field. I find this unfathomable…forms over data is at the center most business activity on the planet. Why do we not have many mature tools to choose from which are capable of working over whatever network connection and lets us assemble the UI and data tier without writing miles of code or tags…I just don’t get it.

    I kind of guess that Luke’s article re TS is just filler. No harm in it, in fact it’s a good thing to see TS + Access there, but I rather think it’s not a shift towards giving those kinds of solutions more air time.

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      Hey Michael: Great comments !! I think you nailed it.

      Your comments about .NET are interesting. I never noticed that .NET isn’t getting s lot of bandwidth from MS – I wasn’t looking for it but now you mention it I can see it.

      I also agree that the comment from Luke is just filler – there is a certain amount of wishful thinking in the title of this post🙂. What bugs me is that I see so many completely petty things coming out of MS in the way of Access messaging (same is true for Excel too BTW). If there is little money being doled out for Access marketting and on-line information I do believe it could be used a lot more effectively than it is.

      Your comments about how Access is pretty much alone in its space and how important that space really is (and what potential there is there) are right on the money too. It makes me sick when I think about the opportunities just let slip away with this product. I know that to some extent it is up to us to promote the technology but that is just not going to work. Our job is to sell our skills at implementing solutions using the product, it is Microsoft’s job to lay the groundwork in Corporate mind-share about it – at their expense. Since they have failed to do that over the years we all suffer when trying to sell solutions using Access. In that environment it’s really hard for us to justify spending our own money on promoting their product for them. If Microsoft did their messaging job on Accss then it would be possible for third parties to invest their own marketing snd messaging. Without the groundwork form MS that is simply not good business.

      The only person who has been willing to put his own money on the line to promote Access is Luke Chung at FMS, and that’s only because he has made the gutsy decision to suppport an Access After-Market, a graveyard for businesses in every other technology Microsoft has developed , as opposed to simply promoting the core product. I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate his efforts.

      Microsoft just has to do better, for their own sake, our sake and especially for the businesses (customers?) that could get value out of this great technology.

      Dick

      • Michael S says:

        Another company which has ‘invested’ in Access as platform and who we’re both familiar with is AccessHosting.com. They have been great to work with.

        I wish Microsoft would create a new group specifically tasked with creating software development tools geared towards simplicity and productivity. I’m not sure you’ve got your eyes on Lightswitch, but in a way it’s not too far away from what I’d really like to see. Lightswitch is based on Silverlight and Entity Framework, so it’s .Net all the way. But they handle a great deal of the plumbing for you. It can output both browser and desktop apps. It does not have a drag and drop UI design surface like Access or .Net winforms (or even webforms), instead it uses a component outline metaphor, which is fine by me. But for some reason they made it *completely* data oriented…what I mean is, that in order to add any element to the UI you have to make it into a data object. So you end up with a fair amount of mickey mouse code if you want to say drop an image on a page. It’d be very hard to built a really sweet UI like we’re used to in Access using Lightswitch. But it is only in v1 beta 2, and I’m hoping that some third party control vendors will step up to the plate and create a simpler way to build rich user interfaces with it.

      • Biggus Dickus says:

        Yes AccessHosting is excellent. Sorry I forgot to mention Larry Strange and his company.

        As far as Lightswitch is concerned, as I have said here before, I wish that Microsoft had taken the effort put into Lightswitch and invested it in Access. In the past Microsoft had some success with having competing groups fighting for attention in the same space (a little internal competition) but lately IMHO all that’s done is split the focus, results and success and has made both products worse off than would be a single focused technology from the company.

        It’s a new world, Microsoft isn’t the only player on the block and the days of internal competition is over. There’s more than enough external competition now thank you🙂. All they’re doing is spending double the money for less than half the result. Time to get over themselves IMHO.

  3. Funny this topic should come up I have just ordered a terminal server for our site after developing a couple of business critical programs in access that need to be used globally.

    Since I’m a first timer can anyone offer hints as to what was mentioned in the article about driving users down the route of only being able to go in to a specific application. I will deploy a link to desktops which is jsuta dressed up remote desktop link that I then wish for the user to login to the terminal server but then be directed straight to my application without being able to use other functions. The article mentiones “switches”

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      Younusef to be able to do that in Windows 2003 in the setup of the RDP file… then they removed it for security resons (??) Now you can do the same in Wind Server 2008 R2 with Remoteapp. I suggest you search RemoteApp and you can get it going that way.

      Dick

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