This content is part of the Essential Guide: A complete guide to XenApp and XenDesktop vs. Horizon

Citrix Secure Browser is a new way to deploy Web apps

Citrix's Secure Browser tool is a smart way for the company to repurpose existing technology to provide IT with full-service, hosted XenApp environments, available as Web applications.

Citrix's new browser tool allows IT to publish Web applications without using any on-premises infrastructure.

With Citrix Secure Browser, users can access their work applications through URLs in their browsers, and then interact with apps via clientless HTML5. This makes Web applications accessible from anywhere without the need for Citrix Receiver or VPNs.

Citrix Secure Browser replaces the Browser Apps feature in the company's cloud-based management platform, Citrix Workspace Cloud (CWC), but there is one very significant difference. With CWC, a company subscribes to the management components for a Citrix environment, but the infrastructure that actually hosts the desktops or applications themselves is up to the customer. IT can have Citrix host desktops and apps in the cloud as an additional service or deploy them from on-premises infrastructure, but those costs are not included in the $15 to $28 per user per month for CWC.

Instead, Citrix now offers its Secure Browser service as a standalone product in two versions. At a cost of $20 per user per month, the Workspace Cloud Secure Browser allows organizations to publish as many fully-hosted applications as they want, and Citrix provides the infrastructure. IT also gains access to the CWC core platform. If an organization wants to take care of the infrastructure itself, Citrix now offers the XenApp Secure Browser starting at $150 per user or device for a perpetual license.

With the Workspace Cloud Secure Browser service, Citrix hosts applications as part of the subscription. In this case, the "application" is a secure Internet Explorer (IE) browser that accesses a Web app. An organization basically pays Citrix to host a full XenApp environment that only publishes to IE.

Is Secure Browser worth it?

This could be a solid product that uses existing technology in a unique way that appeals to more customers.

With that in mind, is this useful to anyone? It's an easy and seemingly inexpensive way to securely deploy Web apps to just about any device with a browser, but isn't that the point of using a Web app? If it's already accessible via the Web, why would IT run it through XenApp first?

The first use case that comes up is kiosks. It would be better to access apps via the Secure Browser than to do it directly from an unmanaged machine.

Another scenario that could make sense is for internal Web apps that businesses don't want to expose to the public. Ordinarily, employees would use a VPN to connect, but that's cumbersome. Secure Browser makes that app available to users without actually exposing the Web server to the world.

Finally, IT will be able to deploy apps designed for IE to any browser regardless of prerequisites. If the browser supports HTML5, it will display whatever app is sent to it.

Crunching the numbers

Comparing Secure Browser's per user price to XenApp's concurrent user price is an apples and oranges situation, but for reference, the $240 per user yearly cost of the Citrix Secure Browser service is $135 less than the upfront concurrent user pricing for Citrix XenApp Advanced edition. Shops only pay maintenance for XenApp after that initial purchase, though, and multiple users can share the same pool of licenses. Odds are, Secure Browser is more expensive in the long term than regular XenApp, but remember, Citrix hosts the entire application delivery infrastructure.

A better comparison for Secure Browser would be Microsoft Azure RemoteApp, which costs between $17 and $23 per user per month for the lowest two tiers of hosted app service. The average of those is $20, which is right in line with Citrix's Secure Browser pricing. Of course, Azure RemoteApp lets IT run any apps it wants, but users have to access them with the Azure RemoteApp client software, which only runs on certain devices. Citrix Secure Browser uses HTML5 only, so users can access apps from anywhere.

It's not a microphone-dropping move by Citrix, but I think this could be a solid product that uses existing technology in a unique way that appeals to more customers. It could open up new use cases to organizations hesitant to roll out their own platforms, or prove useful in niches around companies -- think departmental XenApp servers. If nothing else, it's just another tool for IT's belt.

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