Ask anyone at Citrix, any Citrix partner, or any Citrix customer, and they will likely have a strong opinion about XenApp. Despite being the “core” product of Citrix through much of its history under names like WinFrame, MetaFrame and Presentation Server, XenApp holds a value to customers that runs deep. In fact, to just call it a form of desktop virtualization probably misses the point. XenApp was around long before anyone called anything virtualization.
While the new XenApp 7.5 is built on the same FlexCast architecture as the now more inclusive XenDesktop, to a new generation of IT professionals who may equate desktop virtualization with VDI, or the replacement of physical desktops, it is more important than ever to keep the XenApp brand alive and well.
The rationale and value behind delivering apps IS different than desktops. A virtual desktop is a type of workspace where users “go” to do work. A desktop is a walled garden of sorts that can be provisioned and managed with apps and data. Virtual desktops assume that a user is replacing the “desktop experience” already managed by IT. With apps, there is no assumption about the workspace. Apps can be consumed in a traditionally managed desktop environment; they can be provisioned to devices, subscribed to, accessed and updated. Applications aren’t a workspace, but they do help create one.
I was recently working on some internal training about XenApp for new employees and thought these 5 truths would be useful to the broader community as well.
Truth #1: XenApp allows apps to run on devices that otherwise wouldn’t run them
In 2014, we throw around terms like BYO and mobile as they are certainly big challenges and opportunities for IT, but sometimes it’s easy to miss the fundamental truth that XenApp allows Windows apps to be used on devices that would never otherwise be able to run them, from Macs to mobile devices to Google Chromebooks. But even more than the over one billion devices supported, XenApp also helps apps run that won’t otherwise run on Windows desktops as well. It might be supporting a particular version of Internet Explorer with just the right Java plugin or managing conflicting versions of Excel. This fundamental truth also extends to powerful 3D apps that can’t run on ordinary desktops or laptops but now can with direct GPU support with nVidia GPU technology in XenApp.
Truth #2: XenApp makes client server apps run faster
To many professionals that specialize in desktop virtualization, “performance” and “user experience” typically jump right to a protocol discussion about how virtual desktops can look almost as good as physical ones. To a XenApp user, however, performance isn’t necessarily about the visual appearance (though, of course, it has to look good) but more importantly how long does it take them to get work done. In many large dataset client/server applications and enterprise web applications, chatty apps can take many seconds to complete a transaction or rebuild a web page or build a report when transacting over wide area networks. This time adds up to minutes and even hours over a day and can make the difference between excellent real-time customer service or having to depend on inefficient offline, back office workflows. XenApp puts the client right next to the data in the datacenter to tame poorly performing applications.
Truth #3: XenApp keeps data safe in the datacenter
In 2014, we talk about containers, encryption, kill pills and policy enforcement, but it is an undeniable truth that if data is on a device, it can be compromised with either malicious intent or user carelessness. While there are no guarantees in security, keeping the data in the datacenter and permitting conditional access to interact with that data is an extremely strong and well understood approach to reducing exposure.
Truth #4: XenApp keeps unmanaged devices off of the corporate network
Perhaps the corollary to the point above, if users don’t have to put their devices on the corporate network to use apps and the associated data, then you don’t need to grant VPN access to anyone who simply needs to work remotely. With XenApp, users simply install a Citrix Receiver on their device, or navigate to their company’s StoreFront where they can authenticate and run apps within their HTML5 compliant browser. The Receiver with StoreFront and a secure, NetScaler gateway allows seamless, secure authentication and configuration requiring no more knowledge than their own email address. XenApp doesn’t require a full VPN connection to enable users to be productive again reducing attack vectors and decreasing exposure.
Truth #5: XenApp speeds deployment and management of apps
If you are a desktop admin presented with the challenge of rolling out an application update to 7,000 users on 62 different OS builds distributed over 3 continents, while still onboarding an acquisition and the 1400 desktops they brought with them… You might think this fundamental truth should be at the top of the list. Existing XenApp shops don’t think twice about these challenges. Updating or rolling out a new application is as simple as certifying a single image and provisioning the workloads required for the app. While XenApp doesn’t replace best-practice PC lifecycle management, app packaging and tools like System Center Configuration Manager or Altiris, the best managed PC practices are only going to work for a percentage of the problem; maybe 80% at best. Teams will still spend weeks or even months chasing down the devices and users that couldn’t take the update for whatever reason. No IT shop is standardized or homogeneous enough to make these practices work with the efficiency needed for business. By concentrating on publishing an application as a service, you can ensure 100% of the user population can get the right version of the app almost immediately.
On behalf of the many hundreds of engineers, QA, architects, service, support, designers, educators, marketing and product management professionals who work to build a better XenApp every day, we invite you to check out the new XenApp 7.5, a revolutionized, simplified architecture designed to help bring organizations into the cloud era built on these 5 simple truths.
For more information about XenApp 7.5, check out the following blogs: