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How Citrix Workspace Cloud compares to XenApp and XenDesktop

Citrix Workspace Cloud includes XenDesktop and XenApp, but it also contains other features, such as mobile device management capabilities, and it's easier for IT and workers to use.

Citrix Workspace Cloud offers much more than XenApp and XenDesktop alone, but just because it's a newer product...

doesn't mean it's a better fit than the platforms organizations already have in place.

The company in 2015 released Citrix Workspace Cloud (CWC), which provides centralized, cloud-based management of users' virtual desktops, apps, mobile devices and data. Citrix presented it as an alternative, or even an improvement, over its desktop and application virtualization platforms XenDesktop and XenApp.

CWC is based on XenApp and XenDesktop, plus other Citrix offerings such as XenMobile for enterprise mobility management (EMM) and the company's ShareFile enterprise file sync-and-share product. That means Citrix Workspace Cloud customers can use the same components included in XenApp/XenDesktop -- for example, the Citrix Director monitoring and management console and the StoreFront enterprise application store.

It is tempting to dismiss CWC as a product created solely for marketing purposes, but Citrix has done more in CWC than simply moving management of user resources to the cloud. CWC isn't a game-changing upgrade, but companies just getting into EMM and desktop and app virtualization, or looking to update from an older version of XenApp/XenDesktop, might find it a worthwhile investment.

MDM and ease of use

It is tempting to dismiss CWC as a product created solely for marketing purposes.

In addition to allowing IT to manage XenApp/XenDesktop instances, Citrix Workspace Cloud provides mobile device management using XenMobile EMM. Over the last several years, the number of mobile devices in corporate environments has increased exponentially, and IT faces the challenge of providing secure access to company resources from those endpoints. CWC includes comprehensive EMM capabilities that enable device management and security regardless of whether a user is working with a personal or corporate-owned device.

Citrix Workspace Cloud also makes life easier on IT. For starters, Citrix pushed the control plane into the cloud, which means Citrix itself manages tools such as StoreFront and Director. Admins can interact with the various services to make desktops and applications available to end users, but IT pros do not have to deal with low-level configuration tasks or ongoing maintenance. Gaining device control and eliminating maintenance are both tangible upgrades over using XenApp/XenDesktop.

CWC is cloud and device agnostic

Workspace Cloud really delivers in terms of flexibility. Users can work from any device, and they can access their virtual desktops, apps and data from almost anywhere. Citrix is trying to adopt a device-agnostic and cloud-agnostic approach to desktop and app virtualization.

With CWC, the actual XenDesktop and XenApp platforms live in the Citrix cloud, but other resources -- for example, virtualized apps -- can reside on a public cloud such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS), or in an on-premises data center. More importantly, Citrix does not lock companies in to a single infrastructure location. IT can mix and match data centers and cloud providers according to its own needs. For example, admins might connect CWC to an application running on AWS, another application running in their own data center and perhaps Office 365 running on Azure.

This capability raises the question of how CWC handles authentication and access control if resources are scattered across locations. To make everything work together seamlessly, regardless of location, Citrix uses a component called the Cloud Connector. The Cloud Connector connects the software running in the Citrix cloud to resources running in a company's data center or in other clouds. With this approach, Citrix allows IT to use their local Active Directory for authentication and access control, even though XenApp and XenDesktop run in the cloud. Similarly, the Cloud Connector can link to applications running on public cloud servers.

Whether a company should use Citrix Workspace Cloud instead of XenApp/XenDesktop depends on a few factors. First, is the organization running the current versions of XenApp and XenDesktop? Does the XenApp/XenDesktop deployment function properly and meet IT's needs? If the answer is yes to both, CWC probably isn't worth the time and money it takes to make the switch. If IT is considering implementing desktop or application virtualization for the first time, or if it currently runs an older version of XenDesktop or XenApp, then it may very well be a good idea to switch to CWC.

Next Steps

How much do you know about Citrix Workspace Cloud?

VMware enters the cloud-based management battle

Citrix adjusts CWC pricing to compete with VMware

This was last published in April 2016

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Essential Guide

A complete guide to XenApp and XenDesktop vs. Horizon

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Is Citrix Workspace Cloud an improvement over XenApp/XenDesktop, and why?
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Brien - note that Citrix recently re-named this simply to "Citrix Cloud" to reflect an even broader set of services beyond workspaces.
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