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Remote Desktop Services Vs. Citrix XenApp

Managed services 10/09/2020 - 14:59 by Swami Nathan

Differences Between Citrix XenApp and Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

For companies increasingly opting for virtualization, many get frustrated about the multitude of options available for virtualization. Today we’re going to address and compare the two famous virtualization desktop solutions – the familiar old boy Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and the Citrix XenDesktop, a comparatively new entrant. This will help you understand which one will be the most suitable for your work.

What are Remote Desktop Services?

Remote Desktop Services (now simply known as RDS) was originally known as Terminal Services when it was first launched and is a series of technologies designed to offer thin client solutions.

Created by Microsoft, RDS enables users to connect to server-hosted applications or virtual desktops. As we said, this is a thin client approach, so the session of the user is always hosted and processed on the server – not on the local computer

What is Citrix XenApp?g

From an end-user viewpoint, Citrix XenApp provides many similar features to Microsoft RDS, enabling users to access their desktop or software on any computer from anywhere. Was that the main difference, then? Citrix has concentrated mainly on ensuring the user experience is better than using a conventional desktop and has built a central management platform that allows network scaling and monitoring simpler than ever before.

Remote Desktop Services vs. Citrix XenApp

These discussions say a lot about the long-standing Remote Desktop Services vs Citrix controversy that has been discussed everywhere for (literally) decades in IT organizations. It is a kind of an odd deliberation at face value since the XenApp/XenDesktop model requires Remote Desktop Services to operate. Considering the recent embrace of hosted virtual desktops by our industry, not as much as in the past, but the requirement linkage for many usage cases remains.


RDS allows only use of one program at a time. This does not require the use of several applications as a typical desktop or tablet does. There’s also a restriction on the software that you can run first. RDS does work for remote users, however, who only need to access a single application (instead of a full desktop).

Citrix offers a consistent experience across every unit. Upon loading the device, it has the same look and feel as a traditional desktop, where users can interact with as many applications as they need, wherever they are from.


Using Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, users communicate directly with the application, ensuring that they share the limited number of available resources. When more users log on, the output will then begin to drop, resulting in regular go-slows and likely crashes.

In comparison, Citrix provides a buffer between the users and the server. This buffer compresses the transit data, raising the server pressure, allowing more users to be online simultaneously, and providing a smoother, seamless experience across all devices.


Remote Desktop Services needs a reliable link to the Internet. If a link is unreliable, then the supposed users are at risk of being kicked off without warning or a chance to save their jobs.

Although Citrix also needs internet connectivity to operate, patchy links are much better dealt with, as it has a function called ‘Session Reliability’. This keeps sessions open despite any internet issues that may occur in the background and allows users to save any work they have open.


As already stated, when using Remote Desktop Services, users communicate directly with the servers. Therefore, no one else can sign in until the server exceeds capacity (and it’s not unheard of for those already logged on to be kicked off). A new server would need to be ordered, spooled, installed, and modified to maximize capacity, which is both expensive and time-consuming.

Everything that a company has to do with Citrix is demanding more money. This is it. Based on what is needed at the specific time, resources may be scaled up (or down) week by week, or month by month.

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services: Pros & Cons

The long and short story is that companies are looking to provide a full range of choices for providing applications to consumers – those companies today – have almost chosen for them. Remote Desktop Services provides a unique approach to delivering Windows Server operating system applications. RDS is great for user density; you can cram loads of user sessions together into a single server. At least more so, than what you seem to get from virtual machines and VDI.

But, for most, it’s “delivery options” that are the deciding factor. Delivering the applications that your users need often requires more than just a simple Windows Server and RDS installation in the way they need them. On server OSs, some programs don’t work; others don’t play nicely when users collocate on a single computer. Some are guided even by non-technical requirements which require a logical separation between user instances.

Citrix XenApp: Pros & Cons

The Citrix and XenApp approach is often the right approach for IT business today for those and other reasons. Yes, it’s more expensive, and yes, having XenApp installed correctly can be notoriously difficult. Also, yes, sometimes the moving parts of Citrix’s gazillion are unreasonably complex to fix problems when things go wrong.

But all these are the prices for those delivery options. A fully realized XenApp infrastructure offers more options for how an application is hosted and how its user consumes it. Complexity is the definition of, well, everything as the old saying goes. However, complexity is what will allow your organization to create and interrelate catalogs of desktop and server machines with all sorts of delivery groups that contain the applications that your users demand.

Back in those old conversations about Microsoft MVP, the topics of RDS and Citrix never got far apart because the technologies never got far apart. There’s never really been a dispute between RDS and Citrix you may say. Due to the powerful and long-lasting relationship between the two firms, I think that both of us usually viewed each other as a representation of the other.

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For companies increasingly opting for virtualization, many get frustrated about the multitude of options available for virtualization.