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Citrix XenApp vs XenDesktop (Key Differences)

Citrix XenApp vs XenDesktop: Key Differences


Despite the growing popularity of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), plenty of organisations are still learning what it’s all about. Citrix hosting offers XenApp and XenDesktop – both virtualised environments – so what’s the difference between the two? Taking a closer look at XenApp vs XenDesktop, the differences are really quite straightforward and easy to understand, which means it’s easy to determine what is best for your business.

In short, XenApp is a shared solution, whereas XenDesktop is a virtual desktop solution. Both XenApp and XenDesktop work through the same web interface, but when you use XenDesktop, you launch a VDI machine – whereas XenApp is an instance on a shared platform. Clear as mud? Read on to unpack the definition of each a little further.

What is XenApp?

Citrix XenApp is application virtualisation software that allows applications access via individual devices from a shared server or a Cloud system. With Citrix XenApp, you can have an application installed on a XenApp server in a data centre and anybody around the world can launch that application on any device: whether it is a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Essentially XenApp is application publishing, but you can also publish a desktop with XenApp.

What’s the difference between XenApp and XenDesktop if they both can publish desktops? The simple difference is that there is no VDI infrastructure in XenApp (i.e., there is no virtual desktop machine per user). With XenApp, all users share the resources of one machine, meaning that when you install the XenApp virtual desktop application (VDA) on one machine, all of the users share that resource. This makes it a shared platform accessible from many devices. XenApp can be shared with any number of users – from five to two hundred – and as long as your needs aren’t resource-intensive, it can help to significantly cut down on overhead expenses.

What is XenDesktop?

Citrix XenDesktop is desktop virtualisation software that allows multiple users to access and run desktops installed at a centralised location, separate from the devices on which they are accessed. XenDesktop centralises the desktop lifecycle management in the data centre, which can reduce the costs of running a desktop by up to 40% while also improving data security.

XenDesktop uses similar technology to XenApp but has the added provisioning to spin up a virtual machine on a per user basis. Whenever you connect to XenDesktop, you are the only person using it – instead of sharing it with other people who could affect performance, depending on the workload. With XenDesktop, each user has their own personal vDisk (PVD) as well as their own personal virtual machine with its own isolation. This means that with XenDesktop, users have greater privileges than with XenApp to make changes to their desktop. Additionally, if a XenDesktop user breaks their system, an administrator can instruct the provisioning services within Citrix to spin up a new desktop. The XenDesktop user can then log in, which will create a brand new replacement desktop where the files will automatically be synchronised – just like having an “undo” button for your entire desktop.

When comparing XenApp vs XenDesktop, the main difference is the isolation of XenDesktop – and the price tag that comes with that. XenDesktop is all about personal VDA, and each XenDesktop VDI instance requires approximately 200 virtual machines. XenDesktop offers a much richer visual experience and can dedicate a number of resources to each user, which means that XenDesktop will cost more in terms of outlay as it requires more storage, more IOPs, and more complex infrastructure than XenApp.

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Whether you choose XenApp or XenDesktop, you'll join a global community of millions of Citrix users.

XenApp vs XenDesktop: Which is Right for Your Organisation?

Citrix solutions are in use by more than 400,000 organisations and over 100 million users globally. In fact, 10 of the largest global banks, 10 of the top 10 U.S. health care organisations, 10 of the top worldwide automakers and 10 of the top global aerospace and defense manufacturers use XenApp and XenDesktop. So which is best for your organisation?

XenDesktop is best suited to large organisations that are keen to virtualise their desktops and have users that are both dispersed and resource intensive. XenDesktop organisations typically deploy hundreds of virtual machines for their employees and are commonly used by businesses in financial and insurance verticals – as in corporate London and New York.

XenApp is frequently used by smaller organisations as a way to virtualise their applications without the major overheads. XenApp is most commonly deployed when virtualising an application that is not resource-intensive. Typically, XenApp organisations have three to four servers and their users don’t have an impact on each other. XenApp helps small- to medium-sized businesses mobilise their business, maximise productivity and performance, enhance security, and reduce costs.

Deliver Secure Virtual Apps and Desktops

Still contemplating XenApp vs XenDesktop? Both XenApp and XenDesktop provide secure remote access to employees while cutting IT costs. Virtualising your infrastructure can reduce the costs of labour and server lifecycle maintenance – and with fewer physical servers, there’s less to provision, monitor and maintain manually. Whether your organisation is looking to deliver Windows, Linux, web, and SaaS applications or full virtual desktops to workers, Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop solutions will meet all your needs from a single, easy-to-deploy platform.

At Umbee, we specialise in building and hosting custom XenApp and XenDesktop virtualisation solutions to meet your organisation’s needs. Contact our experienced and knowledgeable consultants to architect and implement the perfect Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop solution for you today.

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