Phone  +49 89 215 442 400

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 XenApp:

Remote -Desktop -Services -vs -Citrix -Xenapp


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 real-time data.

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 Server.


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 application.


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 Services.

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 application.

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.


©2019 FirstAttribute AG - All rights reserved.

Realization Site Point GmbH

Legal notice