What Is Citrix Server?

Learn how it works—and another alternative.

Citrix Server is a virtualization mechanism that enables organizations to deliver centrally hosted applications and resources to mobile and desktop clients. Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) provides you with a simplified and more sustainable solution.

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Citrix Server may be costly, complex to implement, and time-consuming to maintain.

Citrix Server uses the Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) infrastructure to deliver virtual applications and desktops to remote users. While there are numerous components involved in a Citrix virtualization infrastructure, the two main editions are:

  • Citrix Virtual Apps
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops

Citrix Virtual Apps is the main product used for application delivery. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops extends the capabilities of RDS to publish virtual desktops using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology. Both products deliver secure applications, desktops and resources to users based on location and device-specific security configurations. Before choosing your virtualization solution, it is important to know what a complete Citrix Server is.

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What is Citrix Server
and how does it work?

In a Citrix application delivery setup, IT configures central servers to host applications and resources.

Citrix Virtual Apps isolate the applications from the underlying operating system (OS) and delivers them to the target device. The client device doesn't need applications installed — all the configuration and data are on the server. The user sends keystrokes and mouse clicks to the server and receives screen updates. The client device needs the Citrix Receiver installed on it to gain access to hosted resources from a Windows Server. In this case, the users share the server's physical resources.

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops is used to publish a whole virtual machine (VM) from a hypervisor to remote client devices. A published VM means every user gets a unique virtual machine of the OS and desktop. The resources are not shared between users, as its virtual desktop is allocated with resources.

Each organization has different virtualization requirements

It is critical to know what Citrix Server is and the differences between Citrix Virtual Apps and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.

Citrix Virtual Apps Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
Small application and configuration requirements X
Moderate hardware resources available X
Stock applications—no configuration or personalization of the user environment X
Full desktop capabilities required X
Remote administrative functionality required X

Possible challenges with Citrix products

While Citrix is a popular name in the virtualization area, their products may be confusing for users regarding licensing and feature sets. Moreover, the company has introduced 200 products in the last 25 years, and many products have been renamed, sometimes causing perplexment.

The company introduced Citrix XenApp for application virtualization and Citrix XenDesktop for desktop virtualization. Later, Citrix combined both products into one and released XenDesktop 7.0. However, the company backed out from this decision, as it seemed to confuse users.

Citrix then separately released both products as XenApp 7.6 and XenDesktop 7.6—while also renaming them as Citrix Virtual Apps and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.

What exactly is Citrix Server?

Both Citrix Virtual Apps and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops come in three different editions with different features and pricing structures:

  • Standard
  • Advanced
  • Premium

Organizations need to search through each product edition to work out which features best suit their purpose. Moreover, additional components such as Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS) and Citrix Director for advanced features should be purchased for an improved user experience.

Another challenge is that the installation of Citrix products may be complicated. Often a certified professional is needed to install and configure the product, plus multiple components need to be configured for complete virtualization infrastructure.

Additionally, a Microsoft SQL database is necessary to maintain a healthy Citrix infrastructure. As there can be a multitude of software and hardware components within the Citrix infrastructure, monitoring it may be challenging.

Also, SQL Server pricing may be costly and complex for organizations. The Per Core option pricing model in the SQL server is too high for organizations that want to scale up their SQL instances.

An overly complicated Citrix infrastructure is also challenging when it comes to delivering and maintaining business continuity. Given the large number of components required to deploy Citrix systems and the many failure points, an organization cannot provide high availability and disaster recovery for its assets.

Parallels RAS Customers

What is Citrix Server?
Key takeaways

Parallels RAS solves Citrix Server challenges by delivering a complete solution for all your virtualization needs. One out-of-the-box edition delivers the same features as Citrix Virtual Apps and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops—all with a simple licensing plan while lowering VDI cost and complexity.

The Parallels RAS Console is easy to install and use. With a simple step-by-step wizard, it is possible to put a 50-user environment into production in less than 30 minutes. All the major components are autoconfigured by default.

Parallels RAS provides a single dashboard to monitor and manage the entire infrastructure from a centralized location. In addition, Parallels RAS supports a range of client devices, including Google Chromebook and Linux. Most importantly, Parallels RAS cuts your cost down by 60% compared to Citrix.

Parallels RAS
Citrix XenApp Migration Tool

Parallels developed a migration tool that automates most of Citrix XenApp 6.X use-case scenarios. The migration tool extracts settings from Citrix XenApp 6.x and imports them into the Parallels RAS Console, allowing for a seamless migration.