Now that XenApp can power on/off VMs, who needs XenDesktop?

Citrix's XenApp and XenDesktop products have always had an artificial and somewhat arbitrary separation of features. The more expensive XenApp delivers desktops from terminal server and apps from terminal server, VDI, and streaming servers, while the less expensive XenDesktop is used to deliver desktops from VDI (but not terminal server and no apps.)

Citrix's XenApp and XenDesktop products have always had an artificial and somewhat arbitrary separation of features. The more expensive XenApp delivers desktops from terminal server and apps from terminal server, VDI, and streaming servers, while the less expensive XenDesktop is used to deliver desktops from VDI (but not terminal server and no apps.)

A year-and-a-half ago I wrote that this was a de facto “app tax” for Citrix customers, since if you just wanted desktops you could use XenDesktop by itself for about 1/3 the price of XenApp. (Citrix has since reduced the impact of this “tax” a bit by bundling XenApp into higher end editions of XenDesktop.)

Conceptually I’m okay with this. Citrix has a monopoly in the application space so they can charge whatever they want. But there are a lot of options in the desktop space, so Citrix’s desktop product is cheaper than their application product. That would be totally fine if it truly was “XenApp for apps and XenDesktop for desktops.” But while the XenApp part is true (since XenApp can deliver TS apps, VDI apps, and streamed apps), XenDesktop is not the only “desktop” option, since XenDesktop only delivers VDI desktops and offline streamed desktops. If you want TS-based desktops, you have to go back to XenApp!?!

Actually, maybe I shouldn't say "you have to go back to XenApp." Maybe I should say "You can get these TS desktops with XenApp?"

A few months ago, Citrix hired a guy named Harry Labana (blog, LinkedIn, twitter) to be the CTO of their XenApp/XenDesktop group. Harry is super-experienced, having architected VDI for Goldman Sachs (his previous employer) long before VDI really existed. How? He simply used XenApp! (Or MetaFrame or whatever it was called then.) In other words, he still gave each user their own single-user VM, except in his case it just so happened that each VM was actually a copy of Terminal Server running MetaFrame. Harry didn’t need to wait for Citrix to create a VDI product, he just used their existing TS product like it was a VDI product!

In his case the single-user terminal server fulfilled the same requirements as VDI. If it was persistent then it would support user-installed apps. And since there’s only a single user then thre's no worry about the TS app compat issues. Really the only thing you didn’t get with the whole “using XenApp for VDI” is the ability to connect to the VM host to dynamically power on and off VMs for each user.

That all changed yesterday, though, with the release of Feature Pack 2 for XenApp. FP2 introduced a new feature called Power & Capacity Management (PCM) which I wrote about a few weeks ago. PCM can connect to a VM host to power on or off XenApp VMs on-demand. In other words this is exactly what you’d need if you wanted a whole bunch of XenApp servers to be used by only one user each.

My point I guess is that it seems like the only value that XenDesktop brings to the table on top of XenApp now is the ability to run streamed OSes locally on bare-metal clients. If you just want to use XenDesktop for VDI (either VMs or blades), I feel like you can do that no prob with XenApp and just save yourself the extra costs. Heck, Citrix even consolidated the “receiver plug-in for hosted desktops” (the fancy new name for the ICA client) so that the XenDesktop and XenApp clients are one-in-the-same.

So nothing against XenDesktop, and the whole streaming OS to devices thing is cool, but I think I'll stick with XenApp across the board, even for my hosted VDI desktops.

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Hi Brian,


I like the idea of XenApp based VDI with a TS or VM hosted solution. You should maybe paraphrase what you say above to "I would prefer XenApp over any VDI solution because of ...... benefits" :)


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For hosted desktops won't it be a lot more expensive to buy a Windows Server OS lic + TS CAL + XenApp lic for each user compared to VECD + XenDesktop lic?


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I really like the choice to get access to a "desktop then application" and in another hand get access from "application to a desktop"... At last, you have choice based on where you start and where you want to go...


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@Ron, You're absolutely correct on the licensing. I actually forgot to mention that I was assuming that the customer had some kind of agreement for the number of server licenses they had.


For CALs, at least you wouldn't need to deal with VECD. Actually, I wonder if you would even need to have TS installed or if you could just use Remote Desktop? .. I guess XenApp probably wouldn't install though...


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@Brian


Xenapp will not install if you don't have the terminal server role installed.


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One product would solve all the confusion.


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The licensing issue is addressed by using WIndows Server Data Center edition licenses for each Virtualization host, then you can run an unlimited number of OS instances on that hardware. With modern servers you can get quite a few "one user TS/XenApp" machines on a single host!


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I think you completely missed the point on VDI. By the way, why didn't you include VMware in the same breath.


It's no longer about apps. In fact, it might not even be about the desktops if Google were successful when its OS comes out next year.


Can you tell me in all these years with TS or XA, has any of these products solved the desktop management problem? The answer is a profound NO.


You don't have a solution. Your only claim of fame is XA. It's time to step foot into the future before your entire practice get left behind.


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I disagree with rebecca.vanderbilt's comments. The blog wasn't "what are the only VDI solutions to offer", it is a discussion of the merits of one Citrix product over another. if you want to discuss VDI overall (ie cpompare VMware to Citrix to MS to Quest to whoever), then I bet Brain Madden would be happy to oblige in a blog (or I'll do it).


I think the base comments of Brian and most posters are on track. However, I would throw out something even more critical that seems to be missing. The bottom line question, assuming you just want to deliver a published desktop, is this - what OS do you want your apps to run on top of for your users.


You see VDI is built on 3 components: the OS, the apps, and the user personalization. While the latter two may be similar (if designed correctly) between XA and XD, the OS will be different. While I personally have never run across an application I couldn't make run in XA (or any of it's former names), I have heard stories from clients about apps they could not run in a TS environment. Having the ability to serve up a XP or Vista (or Win7) OS as your published DT, while still leveraging hosted apps with your XA for Virtual Desktops lisc, makes a compelling case.


After all, you are serving up workstation apps. One way I have always described server-based computing to new students - it's just a big honkin' workstation. It runs workstation apps, so treat it like a workstation. I recently saw a blog by Harry Labana (new Citrix CTO for XA) that shows he understands how this relationship works - see: community.citrix.com/.../Desktop+Virtualization+is+not+Server+Virtualization


In the end, the user could care less whether you deliver a Win2003, 2008, XP, Vista, or Win7 desktop to them. They just want to run their apps, do their job, and go home at night. The Citrix architecture allows you to deliver the applications (full DT or not) to them for this goal.


Bottom line - there is no need to choose one over the other ahead of time. Look at the design criteria, and choose the solution based on these simple principles.


-Robert Morris


rmorris@agsi.us


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@Robert Morris


100% Agreement here


> The bottom line question, assuming you just want to deliver a published desktop, is this - what OS do you want your apps to run on top of for your users.


While I'm sure some people will find reason to want desktop OS interface features that are not available on a server OS; in the end it is all about the app.  The app is the portal to the data that defines the business.  Without one the other is useless.  Our role is, or should be, to facilitate the connection between user and data.  We do that though applications. If business users require apps that require (even if only to ensure vendor support) a specific desktop OS, then we MUST deliver that desktop OS. It doesn't really matter if desktop delivery is driven by technology coming from Citrix, VMware, Desktone,  Virtual Bridges or any one else.  


I'm not discounting the need for user environment management here, although I view this (for the most part) as just an extension of requirements as they pertain to the app.  


As an aside, I'm working on a XenApp delivered application today where the vendor will not support their app running on ESX. They don't care that Citrix will support XenApp on ESX, they will not and that's the end of the story. And so we deploy physical servers when a VM might do the job just as well.


Oh yes and @rebecca.vanderbilt


Sorry you're wrong; it is ALL about the app and it it always will be. Citrix worked this out along time ago and VMware have not been slow to buy or buy into companies where this understanding is embedded in their DNA. Google will not change this; all they will is provide another platform to host the application on. That platform may be physical, virtual or cloud based but in the end all it will do is deliver an app to the user.


Regards


Simon


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Aside from the whole licensing issue, this is a goofy idea because everyone is wanting VDI because of near 100% appcompat and vendor support of apps.  Toying with the idea of single-user TSs is not all that different than multi-user TSs, you still have the app compat issues and you still have the vendor support problems.


Shawn


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