Citrix Workspace App: What’s in the cloud & what’s on the client side?

Citrix Workspace App encompasses features from Receiver, ShareFile, StoreFront, NetScaler Gateway, Analytics, and more. Confused? Let’s dig in.

Will the real Citrix Workspace please raise your hand? Oh wait, that depends on whether you’re referring to:

  • Citrix Workspace Services (Premium Citrix Cloud offering that includes XenApp Service, XenDesktop Service, ShareFile, XenMobile/Endpoint Management, and more)
  • Citrix Workspace Hub (Raspberry Pi)
  • Citrix Workspace Experience (marketing term for the backend aggregation of all services)
  • Citrix Workspace App (client-side component, formerly Receiver)
  • Citrix Workspace App (Citrix Cloud user interface previously presented and controlled by StoreFront and NetScaler Gateway, plus additional capabilities)

Confused? Citrix Workspace clearly has too many meanings, but for purposes of our discussion, we’ll focus on the latter two seemingly repetitive bullet items and delineate what happens where. Although some of the individual Citrix products will be sporting new names, the existing names are being referenced above for familiarity.

So, what is Citrix Workspace App?

From a technical perspective, it’s both a client-side component and Citrix Cloud functionality. Let me explain.

Workspace App (client-side component)

Citrix Workspace App client software, for lack of a better term, will be the replacement for Citrix Receiver and other client software starting next quarter. The Citrix Workspace app, i.e., the client endpoint software, only enables the connection, much like it does for virtualized applications and desktops.

Today, if your production environment is entirely based on Citrix products, it is necessary to install various client software products on user endpoint devices. For example, Citrix Receiver is installed on the client device for access to virtualized XenApp/XenDesktop resources, NetScaler plug-in is the client-side component for full VPN access, and Citrix Secure Hub (formerly known as Worx Home) is required for mobile application management. Especially with the expansion of endpoint devices that can now be used in conjunction with XenMobile/Endpoint Management, it’s clear to see why combining and streamlining functionality into a single client-side installation makes sense.

Citrix Workspace app client software will feature user accessibility to ShareFile files and resources, although this integration will apparently take a bit longer. Specifically, this means ShareFile drive mapper, desktop app, and sync.

The client software is optimized for Citrix Workspace Services (i.e., Citrix Cloud), but you will be able to use it to access any or all of Citrix’s products on-prem or in Citrix Cloud. There was some confusion about this, so just to make everything completely clear, I’ll say it again in another way: All Citrix customers will get to use the client-side Workspace App, even if you’re entirely on-premises. However, if you want it to do any of the new stuff, you’ll need to subscribe to Citrix Cloud, which will invoke new or different features in the client software.

Especially for those that install numerous individual client software packages in order to support multiple Citrix products, the combination of all client software into Citrix Workspace App will be welcomed… maybe.

What will happen if Citrix constantly releases new versions of Citrix Workspace App client software to keep up with Citrix Cloud, but your on-prem environment can’t or (or you don’t want to) keep up with frequent updates? Similar to the current Citrix Receiver update functionality, administrators can choose whether or not to allow auto-updates.

Workspace App (Citrix Cloud functionality)

From a user interface perspective, Workspace App boils down to what we’ve long known as StoreFront and NetScaler Gateway, appended with enhanced Citrix Cloud capabilities. Technically, StoreFront is an app, so I’ll loosely agree with Citrix on the name.

Several new features, including the embedded browser engine, Access Control, web URL filtering, and Citrix Analytics are touted as features of the Workspace app. Let’s delve into those deeper, including which specific features align with which products so that we can gain a better understanding of the composition. (Marketing people bundle; technical people unbundle.)

Former StoreFront
For quite some time, StoreFront has primarily been a mechanism for presenting applications and resources to users, and the user interface is being enhanced with some new features that we’ll discuss below. StoreFront in Citrix Cloud is now labeled Workspace App.

This is what users will see, touch, and feel, but in my mind, it’s a stretch to go so far as to call it the Workspace App. Just Workspace would have sufficed, but that name is already in use. Workspace Experience might have been a more appropriate name, but that’s not as marketable.

Former NetScaler Gateway Plus Enhancements (Access Control)
Although Citrix groups Access Control functionality under Workspace App, the single sign-on (SSO) and web app/SaaS capabilities are really functions of the premium NetScaler Gateway Service. As an example, if an administrator wishes to enable SSO for a web app such as Workday and make it available via the user interface, enabling accessibility and secure authentication to the application is entirely controlled via Access Control/NetScaler Gateway Service.

Likewise, policies such as watermarking can be applied to web/SaaS applications that are delivered via the Workspace App. However, these policies are controlled and administered within NetScaler Gateway Service/Access Control as well.

New Cloud Features

Next, let’s run down the newer cloud features. We learned about some of this all the way back at Synergy 2017, but most of this is new as of this year.

Citrix Analytics
Via machine learning, Citrix Analytics gathers data points about user connections, e.g., user IP address via Citrix Workspace App client software, and determines anomalies. If a user progressively pushes the envelope with regard to security or uncommon behavior, Citrix Analytics will likewise increase auditing and/or curtail the user capabilities.

Web URL Filtering
This is another capability that actually happens within Access Control/NetScaler Gateway Service in Citrix Cloud and not in the Workspace App client software. Thus, on-premises-only deployments can’t take advantage of this security feature.

The administrative options are to block all, enable some sites, or allow all. Those blacklisted or non-whitelisted web sites are then launched as designated, which may be either Citrix Secure Browser Service or Embedded Web Browser.

Embedded Web Browser
Behind the scenes, an embedded browser engine is contained within the client-side Workspace App, and it provides the ability to isolate untrusted internet access, which is configured via Access Control/NetScaler Gateway Service. The administrator can designate whether the app is opened within Citrix Secure Browser or the local embedded browser. The default is the local embedded browser, which is the local browser that is controlled by policies set by the administrator within Citrix Cloud. If there is no Workspace App (client software) available that supports embedded web browsers, then the website would be launched within Citrix Cloud’s Secure Browser Service.

Wrap-Up

Citrix Workspace App bundles several capabilities, i.e., the user interface, the client software, and new cloud features. Imagine two tech support reps talking about Citrix Workspace App not functioning properly. One person may be implying an issue with client software installation, and the other is referencing an application not being available to a user. While the technical features and strategy are positive, the ambiguity and overuse of the term Citrix Workspace App will just lead to confusion.

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