Why RemotePC is not VDI and how you can still use CPS for physical desktops (just buy XenDesktop!)

I gave a presentation at BriForum Chicago entitled "Doing it without VDI: How to get VDI functionality without actually doing VDI." The session was based in part on an article that I wrote last year which details all of the different one-off products you can use to satisfy many of the goals of VDI.

I gave a presentation at BriForum Chicago entitled "Doing it without VDI: How to get VDI functionality without actually doing VDI." The session was based in part on an article that I wrote last year which details all of the different one-off products you can use to satisfy many of the goals of VDI. After the session, I was approached by a Citrix representative (who I'll leave nameless because he's just doing his job) because he thought I left out a few things that deserved to be in the discussion: Remote PC and Citrix Provisioning Server. To be fair, I did mention Provisioning Server, but not in the way Citrix wanted to hear. I wanted to share my thoughts on both of the points that he brought up.

Remote PC

Remote PC was announced in May at Citrix Synergy, then released as part of XenDestop 5.6 Feature Pack 1 in June. The idea behind it is that, rather than hosting your desktops in the datacenter, you can instead use physical PCs in cubicle-land in a sort of distributed VDI scenario. Essentially, the XenDesktop Virtual Desktop Agent (VDA) is installed on regular PCs, which makes them communicate with the XenDesktop connection broker. Then, when a user logs in, they can be directed to their computer.

In my mind, this boils down to a remote access solution, which is great and is probably a useful feature in some organizations, but is more of a long overdue add-on to XenDesktop than a strategic tool for moving desktops into the datacenter as Citrix has it positioned. I think it's a great solution for remote access to the same desktop you have at the office without deploying an expensive, complex VDI solution or an annoying locked down TS solution for remote access. Ever since PortICA was revealed years ago (the bits that would run ICA in client versions of Windows that eventually was incorporated into the XenDesktop VDA), I hoped that this sort of thing would be released. Citrix can call it a bridge to VDI if they want, but even if you just install Remote PC and leave it alone I think it can be useful.

Nonetheless, one of the benefits of VDI is the uptime and reliability, so running your VMs under the cubicle where there's no redundancy and any jackass can walk by to turn off the power (or worse) isn't exactly giving me the benefits of VDI. It's the opposite actually, and if I ever do a session called "Doing VDI Without Getting VDI Functionality", it will be on the list.

Provisioning Server

My mention of Citrix Provisioning server was in the context of describing OS image streaming solutions that were once available to purchase as standalone products but are, for whatever reason, gone. This list includes DoubleTake Flex, Dell's OEM of that product called Dell Flex, and Citrix Provisioning Server. In fact, the only solution for streaming OS images on the fly today is Wyse WSM, which is now part of Dell.

My rationale for this was that, prior to November 2009, you could purchase license of Provisioning Server for Desktops that would allow you to use Provisioning Server on physical PCs without anything else in the mix. With the release of XenDesktop 4 in November of 2009, Citrix pulled the SKU for Provisioning Server for Desktops so that you couldn't purchase it by itself. 

After my session, I was informed that you could, indeed, use Provisioning Server for Desktops to stream OS images to physical machines. All you have to do is buy XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum licenses for each user and you can use the PVS portion do whatever you want to do. Plus, then you get all the other things that come with XenDesktop.


First, in this context, I don't care about all the other things that come with XenDesktop. The session was about getting VDI functionality without doing VDI, not about getting VDI functionality by buying one of the top two tiers of a VDI solution. Second, and this is the one that you can build a business case around, is that this method for using Provisioning Server is at least 50% more expensive if you're just going to ignore all the other pieces. Citrix XenDesktop Enterprise is $225 per user/device, Platinum is $350. Dell Wyse WSM, on the other hand, is $150.

Citrix's argument is that for $75 more per user, you can get all the other functionality associated with XenDesktop. If you were already a XenApp shop, perhaps that works out since you'd get the XenApp license, too. However, if you were only using XenApp, you were probably using a standalone XenApp license for concurrent users. That means that you'll either have to buy more XenDesktop licenses than you had XenApp licenses to get the cheap per user/device price, or you'll have to buy XenDesktop concurrent licenses that retail for $500 for Enterprise and $700 for Platinum. Yikes! 

It breaks down like this when using retail prices:

1 User

100 Users

Wyse WSM



XenDesktop Ent User/Device



XenDesktop Ent CCU



XenDesktop Plat User/Device



XenDesktop Plat CCU



Obviously, those costs are before discounts, so the gap could change in either direction. My point is that, when talking about getting VDI functionality without actually doing VDI, buying a VDI solution for one aspect, then ignoring the VDI bits doesn't make much sense. I talked to a few people about this at the show, and they agreed that it would be beneficial to them if Citrix would still have a standalone version of PVS. 

Obviously, if you need anything more than OS streaming, perhaps this is the way to go. I also talked to people at BriForum that were doing this exact thing. But, if you don't already own XenDesktop licenses, weigh out the cost buying them and potentially changing your licensing model from concurrent to user/device. There are some huge gaps in the price difference there.

So, I'll give it to Citrix that you can still use Provisioning Server for physical desktops, and I'll be happy to add that to my session. But, I'm also adding this chart, because while the capability may be there, buying a VDI solution isn't necessarily the best option for people trying to avoid deploying a VDI solution. On paper, the only time it makes financial sense is if you already use XenApp and you can switch to a user/device licensing model.

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Maybe at the next BriForum you should do a session called "Buying VDI licenses and not using them" instead.

Also, call the Remote PC type functionality what you want, I personally find it to be very useful (though obviously I use our own product rather than XenDesktop). My laptop has hardly left my office desk during the past several months - I connect to it remotely from an iPad, Chromebook, home computer, whatever is around.



Just as info, I believe Remote PC will do automatic power on for shutdown systems.



@Dan - that's the use case I see, too. To me, though, that's just remote access.

I guess I could add it in there because I do talk about remote access solutions in the presentation. I mention GoToMyPC and LogMeIn. Still, it's not like RemotePC is a standalone product, and you'll need to buy XenDesktop to get it anyway.

I should also mention the catalyst for this whole session was because I saw what Wanova was doing, and the fact that they could satisfy many of the same goals people have for going to VDI. So, in my mind, if the solution requires me buying a VDI solution to implement a singular feature, it was off my radar.


Gabe I get what you are saying.  Remote PC by itself doesn't justify buying XenDesktop Enterprise, Provisioning Services by itself doesn't justify buying XenDesktop Enterprise, Remote and Provisioning Services together doesn't justify buying XenDesktop Enterprise either.  Remote PC is not VDI.  What about the combination of XenClient, Provisioning Services, and Remote PC?  I think paying $75 more than Wyse WSM is not bad to get those features.  With acquisition of Virtual Computer, XenClient HCL expanded.  Having XenClient on the desktops and streaming a Provisioning Services image down to it makes image management a lot easier.  You are not making images based on different hardware or trying to make a common image because XenClient would abstract the hardware differences.  That being said the hardware still has to be supported by XenClient but if the environment has newer PCs that are supported then why not.  You can VDI like benefits without all of the backend hardware costs.  Execution is local and if some jackass messes with the local PC, then go logon somewhere else.  You get flexibility, portability, and remote access.

I do agree Provisioning Services only coming with certain editions of Citrix products like XenDesktop, XenServer, etc makes the Provisioning Services only route too expensive.  I do think Citrix needs to look at their XenDesktop editions and redo them, especially after purchasing Kaviza.  You pretty much have two VDI edition products that compete but that's a rant for another day.



I see Remote PC as an additional tool in the arsenal of a VDI project, rather than a VDI solution itself. It's also a great get out of jail free card for those difficult users that will require allot of time and effort, allowing you to focus on the quick wins.

I had a rant about this recently:



RemotePC via XenDesktop Enterprise user licensing is less expensive than buying GotoMyPC www.gotomypc.com/.../gotomypc_pricing if you compare it over 3 years. Maintenance, server virtual machines, netscaler might bring it closer to equal but you also get so much more in the XenDesktop suite, better control, and and much better user experience using RemotePC's HDX.


As Dan said, the reason Remote PC is VDI is because it eats up VDI licenses. I think it's a great solution for the XenDesktop trade-up license shelfware problem.



we are using provisioning server, Xenapp and Appsense together to give good VDI experience. we using provisioning server to stream desktop&applications and appsense carrying user profile settings.