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XenDesktop 7 is XenApp 7: The missing ingredient at Citrix Synergy

By Gunnar Berger | May 23, 2013 | 6 Comments

A few weeks ago I sat down with Citrix to discuss their upcoming announcements at Citrix Synergy. Due to my coverage area I was very interested in many of the changes made in XenDesktop 7. As many of you are now aware Citrix has completely overhauled this solution and attacked the complexity issue straight on. However a great conversation broke out at this meeting between myself and Vishal Ganeriwala (@VishalG), Director of Technical Marketing at Citrix, that really made the changes in XenDesktop 7 clear to me.

I don’t remember how this conversation started but most likely I was going on my rant about the separation of virtual desktops from session based desktops (VDI vs SBC) a common point of discussion when I’m sharing a table with the folks at Citrix. My argument is that the infrastructure and the OS are very different between these technologies so blurring the market is confusing clients and its why we at Gartner call VDI, SHVD or Server Hosted Virtual Desktops verses SBC (Server Based Computing). In any case, I’m sure I was in the middle of this discussion/rant/argument whatever you want to call it when Vishal interrupts the conversations and says:

Vishal: The architecture behind XenApp has radically changed. All that it takes to setup a XenApp server is just an agent.

Gunnar: So you no longer have 20 dependencies to install it?

Vishal: Exactly. All you have to do is install the VDA agent.

Gunnar: Is this the same VDA that’s used on XenDesktop.

Vishal: Similar, but under the covers there are differences, but its just an agent.

Gunnar: The installation of XenApp only requires VDA… that’s it…

Vishal: That’s it.

In Gartner this is what we call the “ah ha” moment.

I’m not sure if this has been well explained at this conference, in fact the only mention of XenApp was XenApp 6.5. But the fact is XenDesktop 7 is actually XenApp 7. The proof of this is found in the architectural designs Citrix is sharing at Synergy:

Here is XenApp 6.5 and XenDesktop 5.6:


Now take a look at “XenDesktop 7”:


As you can see XenDesktop 7 includes the server OS, which means XenDesktop 7 includes a new architecture for XenApp, thus it IS XenApp 7 as well. Also you can see my ah ha moment, that both XenDesktop and “XenApp” only require a VDA.

The idea that we manage XenApp or XenDesktop through the same console and we install and deploy these very different solutions in the same fashion, is a major change for Citrix. Its a change every administrator out there should know about. It changes my opinion on XenApp, moving from a very complex solution to something that has the potential to be easy to manage and deploy (I’ll have to play with it more to finalize my opinion on that comment).

To me this moment was lost in the keynote of Citrix Synergy. If I were Brad Peterson, Chief Demo Officer at Citrix, I’d have done a demo of the installation of XenApp and shown that all was required was a single agent. Furthermore I would have made this point of the blending of XenApp and XenDesktop. This is such a major shift in the approach to XenApp it finally makes me question my own argument. Citrix has been blurring the line between SHVD and SBC for a long time. With the advent of a VDA agent for both XenDesktop and XenApp, I feel their argument has some merit .. at least from the software side. The argument on the infrastructure is still valid… just warning you Citrix, I’m not done fighting this battle. 😛

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Leave a Comment


  • Dennis says:

    Who cares about the underlying infrastructure? VDI and SBC can both provide the end user with a remote desktop. One is locked down, the other is not (or doesn’t have to be). From a user perspective, they are more or less the same. I’ve had users running on a virtual desktop on windows server 2003/2008 and 2008r2 and most users never really noticed the difference.

    From a administration point of view one of these models promises to be easy but is in IMHO a nightmare to manage. The other is regarded as complex but is surprisingly easy if you know how.

    I think Citrix is doing the right thing here. It’s not Citrix who is blurring and confusing clients. Gartner is doing a pretty good blurring job themselves by coining HVD, SHVD and what not on top of VDI and SBC.

  • Anon says:

    Dennis, I agree with you.
    Xenapp provides much better bang per buck also IMO.

  • Bjoern says:

    VDA as only agent? What’s in case of using provisioning? The target device software will be necessary, isn’t it?
    Thank you.

  • aditya kumar says:

    The best thing I found, if we deployed it for Hosted shared and later on want to add hosted VDI, it’s very easy to scale the same and manage from single site.

  • Doug says:

    Upgraded xenapp from 6.5 version to 7. Any idea if there is a way my xenapp as maps to a 7.0 version of xenapp or do I now have to buy xen desktop?

  • Ben says:

    XD7 is the coolest thing ever to come my way.
    I work in a place that was running around 500 XA6.5 servers on Blades.
    With XD7, we have the same 500 servers virtualised and running on 250 blades and have doubled the user capacity.
    The simplicity of managing a single master image and using snapshots to stage changes is…fantastic. This new method of deployment has allowed us to cut down on develop time and time to deploy.