Citrix XenDesktop

Citrix XenDesktop is a desktop virtualization product from software vendor Citrix Systems. The product provides IT control over and user access to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) desktops.

With VDI, end users connect to remote desktops hosted on virtual machines that run on a server in a data center or in the cloud, and they can view and interact with them using a remote display protocol.

Citrix XenDesktop workloads can include Microsoft Windows desktops, Windows Server and Linux operating systems, as well as physical desktops. These workloads can run on a variety of hypervisors or public cloud infrastructure offerings.

Thanks to recent advances in graphics technology, workloads can access dedicated or virtualized graphics processing units (vGPUs) and take advantage of GPU-accelerated graphics.

Product history

The traditional packaged software edition of XenDesktop is known as XenDesktop Current Release, which Citrix updates every few months. The company also offers a Long Term Service Release version with less frequent feature updates.

XenDesktop and XenApp deployment
XenDesktop and XenApp deployment

Since 2016, Citrix has offered a hosted version of XenDesktop known as XenDesktop Service. With XenDesktop Service, Citrix provides and maintains all the back-end components in a software-as-a-service model. Virtual desktop workloads can reside anywhere, either in an on-premises data center or in a public cloud.

In 2017, Citrix began offering another edition, called XenDesktop Essentials, which hosts back-end components as a service and desktop workloads in Microsoft Azure.

Core features

Citrix HDX, a suite of technologies that includes the Independent Computing Architecture remote protocol, data compression and multimedia redirection, provides users with connections to desktop workloads. HDX also supports the use of Microsoft Skype for Business in virtual desktops.

End users view their desktops through the Citrix Receiver client, which is available for various operating systems, including Apple macOS and iOS, Google Android, Windows, and Linux. Users can also connect to virtual desktops with web browsers or thin client devices.

Administrators can set security and management policies such as blocking certain client devices, disabling the clipboard and setting up printer access.


Citrix offers two main licensing options for XenDesktop. The first is a per-user model known as user/device licensing. With this approach, the licenses follow users from device to device so they can access their virtual resources on as many devices as they want.

The other option is device licensing, where the license is specific to a particular device. In this model, any number of users can access virtual resources on a specific device.

XenDesktop vs. XenApp

XenDesktop is a companion product to Citrix XenApp. The two products share many features, except XenApp provides control and access for multiple users connecting to applications or session-based desktops on a shared Remote Desktop Services server.

With XenDesktop, each client receives its own instance of a desktop, and the desktop instances are not shared between users.

This was last updated in May 2018

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