Microsoft Windows Remote Desktop Services vs. Citrix XenApp
Microsoft Windows Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services) is
a component of the Windows Server operating systems. Citrix XenApp
(Presentation Server) uses this system component and extends it or
facilitates scalability and administration. However, Microsoft
supplements and optimizes Remote Desktop Services with each new
version of Windows Server. More and more the question comes up
whether Citrix XenApp is still necessary.
The following article is a comparison of several features of
Microsoft Windows 2012 Remote Desktop Services vs. Citrix
RemoteFX Adaptive Graphic vs. Citrix HDX
RemoteFX was introduced in Windows Server 2008
R2 Service Pack 1. RemoteFX does not replace the RDP protocol but
is an extension. While in Windows Server 2008 R2, this feature
could only be used on LAN (at least 10 Mbit / sec) in Windows
Server 2012 is this possible to use it via WAN as well. Windows
Server 2012 is using the Port 3389/UDP instead of 3389/TCP for
RemoteFX divides the screen content into text, graphics and
video and transcodes the content, for example videos in H.264. On
the client the content is composed again.
Disadvantages of RemoteFX:
With the use of hypervisors, virtualization of the GPU can not be
provided currently. Even remote apps can not use RemoteFX.
Citrix HDX is designed for WAN connections.
Again, the screen contents will be disassembled and assembled on
the client side. Flash content can be transferred directly to the
client and rendered there. To this end, Adobe Flash Player must be
installed on the client.
Disadvantages of CitrixHDX:
For Flash multimedia redirection the same version of Adobe Flash
Player should be installed (as an API interface to the server as an
ActiveX control and the client) on the server and on the client.
This feature is supported only for Microsoft Internet Explorer. The
resources of the client must be able to play Flash content. This is
particularly a problem for old thin clients with low memory and for
clients that use flash cards instead of hard drives.
Client software / device
With Remote Desktop Services Microsoft focuses primarily on
Windows clients. Other RDS Solutions are offered from Microsoft
partners such as IGEL. But not all manufacturers offer RemoteFX
certified equipment. There does exist RDP software for iOS or
Android, but with these tools just the whole desktop can be
published. RemoteApp or access via a gateway is not possible.
Citrix offers a wide range of client software (Windows, Mac,
Java, Linux, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, ChromeOS,
HTML5) and certified devices from other manufacturers.
The great choice of client software and devices is a major
advantage of Citrix XenApp. If a change of Citrix XenApp on
Microsoft Remote Desktop Services is planned, it need to clarified
in advance that all stations support the desired RDP functions.
Both Remote Desktop Services and XenApp allow printing to a
printer attached to the client without installing the
manufacturer's driver on the server.
Since Citrix XenApp 6.5 Rollup Pack 1 it is also possible to use
printers that are connected to a Microsoft print server. At best,
only the Citrix Universal Printer Driver is required on the
terminal servers. On the other side Citrix UPServer must be
installed (Windows Server 2008 or higher) on the Microsoft Print
Remote access via SSL
Both companies offer a solution for the access via SSL.
Microsoft uses the Remote Desktop Gateway server.
Citrix provides the NetScaler Access Gateway.
While Remote Desktop Gateway server covers the functions of the
Citrix SecureGateway (no longer recommended), the Citrix NetScaler
Access Gateway offers significantly more features. For example the
endpoint analysis. In the endpoint analysis the client is checked
on certain criteria before it can access or launch an
What is better about Citrix XenApp?
With Citrix XenApp Platinum Edition the Citrix Provisioning
Services can be used. Provisioning Services allow you to stream
standardized images of Citrix XenApp servers to virtual or physical
servers. Using a SAN can save a considerable amount of disk space.
Also a restore of an older state of the system (eg after running
hotfixes) can be implemented quickly with Citrix Provisioning
With the pre-launch feature, a "blank" session can be created
when the user logs on or to a certain point in time (when the
user is already logged in).
This pre-launch session shortens the start time of the first
Citrix EdgeSight for XenApp (Platinum) is a
comprehensive performance management provided by Citrix. The data
continuously collected by EdgeSight give the administrator
information about the performance of an application that was
actually to a user. Both, performance data at the level of the
individual user session and server-specific data on the utilization
of the resources on the XenApp server are collected.
In Citrix XenApp Platinum Edition Single Sign On can be used.
This feature is also known by its old name Citrix Password Manager.
An agent which is running on the Citrix XenApp servers in user
mode, transmits user names and passwords into login screens.