What is Citrix XenDesktop and Why Use It? | Parallels Explains

Citrix XenDesktop (now known as Citrix Virtual Desktops) is a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product that allows users to remotely access and operate Microsoft Windows desktops in a data center, public or private cloud via devices located elsewhere. Users can access Windows virtual applications and desktops through the Citrix Workspace App, and virtual applications are delivered and managed via Citrix Virtual Apps.

Citrix XenDesktop (Citrix Virtual Desktops) Overview

citrix xendesktopThe goal of Citrix XenDesktop is to provide employees with the ability to work from anywhere while reducing IT management costs due to centralized management. Additionally, it adds to data security because data is saved in a centralized data center or cloud infrastructure, and not stored on the devices of end-users. The product was developed for use by medium to large enterprise customers.

It manages and delivers applications and desktops using a connection broker called Desktop Delivery Controller (DDC). DDC supports multiple hypervisors, including VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and Nutanix Acropolis to create virtual machines to run virtual applications and desktops. It is compatible with several types of delivery methods and architectures, including desktops and servers, data centers, and private, public or hybrid clouds. Citrix Virtual Desktops comes with the Citrix Hypervisor and image management tool, Provisioning Services (PVS).

Core Features

At the core of XenDesktop is the Delivery Controller, which stores configuration and other settings managed via Citrix Studio or Citrix Director in a database.

The StoreFront portal displays the desktops and applications assigned to users. Upon authentication at the StoreFront, users only have to click an icon in the portal to access their assigned desktops and applications.

Connections to virtual desktops are managed through Citrix Workspace, available for several operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. Web browsers or thin client devices can also be used to connect to virtual desktops.

It offers native support for Citrix HDX, a suite of technologies that incorporates its proprietary Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) remote protocol for passing data between local and remote clients, data compression, and multimedia redirection.

Citrix XenDesktop also includes Provisioning Services for real-time provisioning of desktops using a single disk image.

XenDesktop (Citrix Virtual Desktops) and XenApp (Citrix Virtual Apps)

XenDesktop includes Citrix XenApp. The products share many features, except XenApp provides control and access for multiple users connecting to applications or session-based desktops on a shared Remote Desktop Services (RDS) server.

With XenDesktop, each client receives its instance of a desktop, and the desktop instances are not shared between users.

While XenDesktop is a platform to deliver desktops remotely, you will also need a XenApp license to deliver applications in order to share both applications and desktops with a user.

Security Vulnerabilities

Security breaches are far too common in VDI environments. However, when it comes to Citrix XenDesktop, the list of vulnerabilities keeps on rising. According to CVE—a system that tracks publicly known cybersecurity vulnerabilities and exposures—XenDesktop has been attacked a record seven times since 2012.

Most attacks revolve around information disclosures, code injection, and denial of services. Unauthenticated, remote hackers often exploit these vulnerabilities to send malicious packets to XenDesktop users and in the process, executing arbitrary codes. While Citrix claims to have patched these vulnerabilities, XenDesktop users are not out of the woods yet considering Citrix’s checkered past with security breaches.

XenDesktop mainly provides remote access to apps and desktops in organizations’ internal networks. Any security breach can allow malicious users to gain a foothold and move laterally across the victim’s company. Under such an environment, hackers can easily compromise published apps and desktops residing on the server.

Parallels RAS: An Ideal Alternative to Citrix XenDesktop

Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) is an alternative to Citrix XenDesktop and offers all the options of both Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop out-of-the-box without complex licensing. You can publish applications and desktops to users while restricting access with permission control ranging from the user profile up to the specific device. A simpler and more efficient console takes over all the extensive and complicated Citrix Management consoles, like Citrix Studio or Citrix Manager. Take control of the full range of RDS and VDI capabilities at a fraction of the cost, and save up to 60% of your total cost of ownership (TCO).

Download the 30-day trial of Parallels RAS today and experience the simplicity of IT management!