After 18 months with the new names, "XenApp" is as confusing as ever

When Citrix first announced their new product naming scheme for XenApp / XenDesktop / XenServer, I was excited. I thought the names were great.

When Citrix first announced their new product naming scheme for XenApp / XenDesktop / XenServer, I was excited. I thought the names were great. The were related to each in terms of brand family while each being sufficiently different enough to describe their own product. Sure, there was some confusion about what was what, but I thought that was temporary as people dealt with the transition.

18 months later, a lot of people are confused as ever. So much so that I'm started to wonder if the new names are really that good? (I should point out that hard core people in the industry understand the names. But I'm sure everyone who's reading this article now knows people who are confused.)

I first started to realize that people were still confused on a consulting project I did about six months ago for a large bank. The project team was getting some push-back from the security group because the security group thought there were weaknesses in the products. We had a meeting with them and spent two hours explaining our XenDesktop and XenApp architectures, and then they presented us with their evidence of weakness, which was around exploits in the XenAPI. "XenAPI? I've never even heard of that?" I thought. It turns out the reason I never heard of that is because the XenAPI is for XenServer. And this was mentioned all over the document that the security team sent, but they didn't recognize that XenServer was a different product than XenApp or XenDesktop.

Then of course there's the confusion of people who think that XenApp only works on XenServer, or that XenApp is XenServer. And now that XenDesktop can stream to bare-metal clients without hypervisors, people are confused even more.

And let's not forget the whole Xen / XenServer / XenSource thing. So, "Xen" is free, but "XenServer" is not. But now they've made XenServer free too. And there's a version of XenServer for Hyper-V, but since that's not the Xen hypervisor then they didn't want to call this XenServer for Hyper-V, so they call it Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V. But there was already a Citrix Access Essentials product which was a small business version of XenApp, so now that's XenApp Fundamentals.

Even if you "get" the concept that Citrix is trying to push: XenApp is about apps, XenDesktop is about desktops, and XenServer is about servers, it's still confusing in some cases. I mean you can use XenDesktop for full desktops (local or remote), and you can use XenApp to publish apps to those desktops (again local or remote), but you can also use XenApp to publish desktops? (remote only)

Citrix's challenge is that they're caught between a rock and a hard place. Do they stick with the existing names, confusion and all, until people finally understand? Or do they rename everything again, guaranteeing more short term confusion while hopefully alleivating long term confusion?

Or maybe they should just fire whomever is in charge of product naming. I mean if you think about the Xen-baesd names, and then think of all the other name confusion they've had, like NFuse Elite versus NFuse Classic, and MetaFrame for every product in the suite... wow!

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I think the names are very easy to confuse and use interchangably by accident.  I've seen/heard it done many times, even recently.  The products don't roll off the tongue for me - I always double check myself to make sure I'm referring to the correct product.  In many aspects, the Citrix motto is "find and replace".  Those who remember how name changes all of the sudden show up on the website know what I'm talking about.  Yet old products names are hard coded in static content such as videos and PDFs throughout.


Don't look at name... Ask people (in the field) what is virtualization, application virtualization and desktop virtualization and you will get different answer each time...

There is no problem between StarOffice, OpenOffice and Microsoft Office...Confusing Xen, XenServer, Virtua... Oracle and Hyper-V is because you don't bend on the subject.

For the rest, I personnaly find the App / Desktop / Server classification clear enougth for the product... even if there is some overlap between published desktop on XenApp and virtual dekstop on XenDesktop and that XenDesktop include XenApp  to integrate App into the desktops.


Each product name defines a significant piece of your virtualization infrastructure and provides the foundation to what Citrix dubs as the Citrix Delivery Center. Personally, I think it is a necessary distinction. People shouldn't be hung up on the names as much as the functionality and the necessity for separation of services.

I think that is ideal for a fine line to exist between what their app & desktop virt products can do because then there is more flexibility and choice between the two. Company A might be happy with published desktops only while Company B might have greater requirements.

Unfortunately as it is currently the app & desktop datastores are separate entities which creates duplicate and unecessary work, so this can further add to the confusion.

What I believe should change is where there should be ultimately one platform that App & Desktop Datastore/Distribution can be built on while retaining the seperate distinction of both services. Singular additional services can then be built on that such as Profile Management, HDX extensions, etc. Instead of calling it HDX multimedia extensions for XenApp/XenDesktop it should be for the common platform and could be used for the App & Desktop services that are on top of it.

Just a thought...



I totally agree with you. XenApp and XenDesktop should be one product with modes of operation since they are so close in terms of use cases and it makes no sense to have seperate architectures. A single license for their use will also make things easier for us. Please Citrix a single delivery product for Apps and Desktops.

I'm ok with Xen since it gives Citrix the Virtualization buzz that they need to create for people who don't get the value of the core products. I think it's more important for people to understand what Citrix means by delivery center, (all online a simple picture) that we can then show to peers. I find this makes it much easier to explain and everybody then understands the context of XenServer, XenApp, XenDesktop, Repeater, Recievers etc. A picture speaks a thousand words, but I wish Citrix would merge more products and simplify licensing. MS was just awarded a patent for simplifying licensing!!!!!


With my logic, it's rather ironic that in order to decrease confusion Citrix would need to extract the duplicate services of XenApp and XenDesktop and creating a new identity (another new name). It could be called Citrix Delivery Center Controller, which could become a modular foundation of existing services and more to come. You could have a XenApp Module, XenDesktop Module, Provisioning Server Module, etc.

Also, the name Xen is a brilliant marketing ploy and I just find it awesome.



Makes sense, and this simplifcation just goes to show you how powerful Citrix could become when they enable so many use cases and methods to achieve them from the Delivery Center. This would be great to return to customers who have invested so much with Citrix over the years.


Perhaps they should call it App Deliverer, Server Deliverer, Desktop Deliverer, Profile Deliverer, WAN Deliverer, etc and then it can all be tied together with Citrix Delivery Center and the Citrix Receiver (with App Receiver, Desktop Receiver, WAN receiver plugins) receives all of those things.  Now all we gotta do is find some way to Dazzle everyone with the new names and blamo!



"Or maybe they should just fire whomever is in charge of product naming..."

Actually, I think what happened is they found product namers that finally got it and introduced us to the Xen line. Then in January they all got layed off when Citrix announced 10% of their workforce would be let go. After that, we're starting to see more garbled mish-mash and confusion with their names again.

It's been easy to pick on Citrix for their product names but now take a look at the names VMware is feeding us. "vSphere" is good; but beyond that the names are quite confusing.


Citrix is a marketing company.  Plain and simple.  If you look at what Citrix has been doing lately to improve XenApp it's quite clear that XenApp has changed very little over that couple of years aside from an OS platform update. All the hoopla around XenApp has been around Citrix repositioning product entitlements.  If you look at Mechandising Server and the Citrix Receiver,  it is a great concept and great story but horribly implemented.

As far as Brian's take.  I agree.  People refer to XenApp as XenServer and at times misspell the name as Zen instead of Xen.  I even find myself calling the DDC a Desktop Data Collector at times.  Force of habit.

As to why XenApp and XenDesktop are separate product.  For now it allows the XenDesktop team to develop and add technologies to the product at a much faster rate than XenApp.



Citrix changes their branding every release.  It is a really bad strategy.

To the average person, its still Citrix.  You can add all the other products all you want, but their strongest branding is plain and simple - Citrix.  If they keep on deviating, the only people who will have any clue what their product portfolio means are the salesman (if that) and potentially the administrators.

Its a shame, really, in my opinion.


I am with you Brian on this.

Kleenex and Frigidare are perfect examples of why you do not change the product name once it is established.

We have weathered so many name changes over the past 12 years. This is a marketing and PR disaster.

Could you imagine explaining the products to your company decision makers or your customers?

Customers and sales people alike are all confused with the Citrix products and name changes.

The best names Citrix should have stuck with:

WinFrame - We are running Windows sessions in a Mainframe model.

NFuse - This distinguished the web portal product.

ICA Client - Could there be anything more confusing than all of the client name changes? Brian has written about this in a previous article?

Xenserver - yes! But do not use Xen in the name of any other product. I know it is probably too late for this.

Quit the bundling of products. How confusing is

the feature set between Advanced (used to be Standard version) , Enterprise and Platinum versions. These different versions are confusing enough.

Products should stand alone on their own merits.

Winframe is gone. Presentation Server is gone. Metaframe and XP are gone. Feature Release 1,2,3 are gone. NFuse is gone. ICA Client is gone. etc....

Whoever is responsible for all these confusing name changes should be canned!


hehe I am with you on this one Brian. I read on techforums the diehards talk about Metaframe Presentation Server 5.0 and I am like uhhhh but I know what they mean. I had to explain to a customer the difference between xenapp and xenserver and gladly took only 5 minutes to make him understand the difference. Luckely it was also a techie but non techies are still confused while some demand you install xenserver to deliver applications :) instead of virtualizing the whole bunch.  It is confusing but heck who cares as long as techies understand it.