Citrix and VDI: What is the Difference Between Them?

Citrix and VDI: Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly Citrix XenApp) is an application delivery solution that allows access to Windows-based applications to any device compatible with Citrix Receiver.

VDI stands for virtual desktop infrastructure. A VDI desktop is a desktop running on a server in the datacenter that a user can access from virtually any device. To use VDI with Citrix, you need to purchase Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop). Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop) and VMware Horizon are two well-known solutions to implement and deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure.  

What Are the Different Types of VDI? 

While there is a standard definition of VDI, there are various methodologies to deliver virtual desktops, classified into three main categories: 

What Are the Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly Citrix XenApp) and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop) Limitations for VDI? 

Deploying and maintaining VDI with Citrix is complicated due to different licenses offering different features. For example, to support desktop-based VDI and server-based VDI, organizations need to upgrade from Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly Citrix XenApp) to Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop). In essence, even in its Platinum Edition, Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly Citrix XenApp) does not support a full VDI. 

How to Deploy VDI with Citrix 

To deploy VDI with Citrix, organizations must consider what kind of VDI they need for their infrastructures (desktop, server, or session-based). They also need to be aware that publishing applications require either Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly Citrix XenApp) or Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop) Enterprise/Platinum version.

Citrix’s VDI solution Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop) works in small environments as well as large ones, but it’s geared toward the medium and large enterprise. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop) is available in three versions.

1. Virtual Desktops Standard

This version provides only the basic Citrix virtualization technology, restricting the delivery options to VDI for both pooled and dedicated services on Windows 7 and Windows 10. However, the app lacks basic security configurations, including FIPS compliance, Common Criteria certification, SmartAccess, Intelligent session recording, and provisions for SSL VPN.

In terms of productivity, the Virtual Desktop Standard does not provide optimized Skype and Microsoft Teams for business. Also, the app doesn’t allow for Citrix casting (transitioning applications and desktops from a mobile device to any display connected device in a Citrix Ready hub) and Workspace Environment Management.

2. Virtual Apps & Desktops Advanced

This version offers more virtualization features including, server-based hosted apps, server-based virtual desktops, VDI (for both pooled and dedicated services), Remote PC Access, and VM hosted applications.

The main benefit of this version is the inclusion of extra features to boost employee’s productivity, such as optimized Skype and Microsoft Teams for business that are not available in Virtual Desktop Standard. However, it still lacks Citrix casting and Citrix SD-WAN for WAN optimization that could boost efficiency in an organization.

In terms of security, Virtual Apps &Desktop Advanced lacks standard security configurations including FIPS compliance, Common Criteria certification, SmartAccess, Intelligent session recording, and provisions for SSL VPN just like its Virtual Desktops Standard counterpart.

3. Virtual Apps & Desktops Premium

This version includes all VDI features, plus an enhanced version of Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly Citrix XenApp) called XenApp Platinum. It also includes a couple of additional features such as seamless local applications, self-service password reset, and a UX network analysis.

 

Note: To deploy a fully-featured application and desktop delivery infrastructure with Citrix, you also need to purchase Citrix add-ons (NetScaler). 

Printing issues with Citrix Solutions

Printing is often a problematic area in Citrix. Among the pain points are:

  1. Slow printing: Citrix uses a virtual channel for printing. As a result, latency, packet loss, and lack of bandwidth may slow down printing across networks. Proper configuration with the use of the correct protocol and PCL6-based drivers may help address this issue.
  2. Not printing: Worse than slow printing are jobs that do not print at all. For example, while connected to a VPN, printing across a network may lead to jobs not being received on the other end. When this happens, check to see that your devices can connect to your printers, as network configuration may be the underlying cause.
  3. Printer misconfiguration: Citrix provides printer drivers for just about any possible printing scenario. However, if these drivers are not properly configured, users cannot utilize their advanced features, making them unsuitable for their needs. In this case, printer redirection may be needed.
  4. Printer is missing: Sometimes, connected printers may not appear at all when you try to use them for printing. When this happens, faulty policies and missing drivers may be to blame. The problem goes away when the correct policy is set, or the correct driver is installed.
  5. Printer stops working: When errors appear during printing or the printer stops working altogether, this can be traced to problems in either the Citrix and/or Microsoft printer services. Restarting the services on the session hosts often resolves the problem.

Parallels RAS Is Your Citrix Alternative.  

Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) is a cost-effective Citrix alternative that is easy to deploy and maintain. It delivers applications and desktops from RDS and VDI without feature limitations. In addition, it is available for a variety of deployments: on-premises, trial-in-a-box, and in the cloud (public, private, or hybrid). Get to know Parallels RAS by downloading the trial.

References:

Whitehat Virtual | http://www.whitehatvirtual.com/
Citrix Systems | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citrix_Systems 
Citrix Products Evolve, but Name Changes Obscure Unification | https://redmondmag.com/articles/2014/04/01/citrix-products-evolve.aspx 
Comparing Citrix options: XenDesktop vs. VDI-in-a-Box | http://searchvirtualdesktop.techtarget.com/feature/Comparing
Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (formerly Citrix XenDesktop) Flex Management Architecture! | http://www.basvankaam.com/
Citrix Alternative | https://www.parallels.com/citrix-alternative/

Parallels | https://www.parallels.com/vdi/

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