This is part three in a series of questions related to DirectAccess and VPNs. Earlier this week we addressed the hardware requirements with DirectAccess and whether DirectAccess, in combination with Windows 8, supersedes VPNs.
Question: Its inflexible and complex implementation was one of the greatest weaknesses of DirectAccess in combination with Windows Server 2008 R2. Microsoft has improved Windows server 2012 in this regard. Are there still issues Microsoft could improve or optimize?
Patrick Oliver Graf: Microsoft has considerably improved the implementation of DirectAccess under Windows Server 2012. For example, users can now implement DirectAccess through a single console where they had to use several before. Network Access Translation (NAT) is now able to direct incoming remote access connections to a central DirectAccess Server. Through the new features, there is no need for several servers any more. The system furthermore supports global server load balancing. This means that now a Windows 8 client is easily able to log on to the closest network entry point.
However, there are still several unsolved issues. In Windows Server 2012 and DirectAccess, multi-site support still causes quite a bit of hassle. Apart from that, multi-site implementations strictly require a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). This increases the users’ effort and contradicts Microsoft’s statement, maintaining that with Windows 8, setting up secure connections with DirectAccess and Windows Server 2012 has become easier than it is within a VPN infrastructure.
According to users’ experiences, it is essential to configure DHCP and DNS entries (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol / Domain Name Server) of DirectAccess implementations with particular care. This, too, increases the implementation effort and makes the system prone to errors.
Stay tuned as Patrick addresses more questions related to DirectAccess and VPNs next week. If you have any questions that you would like answered, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick Oliver Graf is General Manager at NCP engineering.