Understanding the Citrix Product Portfolio

February 21, 2011

For a customers I am currently designing a new infrastructure based on the latest Citrix products. Citrix product portfolio currently consists of many products and all these products can be quite overwhelming. It may be hard to understand the function of all these products and their relationship witch each other. In this blog article I will try to explain the major components of the Citrix portfolio and their relationship.

Citrix XenApp. Citrix XenApp is Citrix oldest product and is a server based computing solution. Citrix XenApp is formerly known as Citrix WinFrame Server, Citrix MetaFrame Server and Citrix Presentation Server. Server based computing is the practice of hosting a server operating system on a centralized server and using session based technology to let users connect to applications or desktops session on the server. Session based technology is a capability of Windows server to create multiple sessions on single instance of the operating system. Presentation virtualization, which is one of the core virtualization technologies, makes it possible to connect to a session from any location and many devices. To accomplish this, Citrix uses their proprietary presentation layer protocol called Independent Computing Architecture (ICA). With server based computing a central server can be used by multiple users. With the release of Citrix XenDesktop, Citrix positions XenApp as an application delivery solution, however Citrix XenDesktop can also deliver desktops.

Citrix XenDesktop. Citrix XenDesktop is a relatively new product and is a desktop virtualization solution. Desktop virtualization is the practice of hosting a desktop operating system within a virtual machine (VM) running on a centralized server. Using presentation virtualization a user can connect to the desktop from any remote location. To accomplish this, Citrix uses their proprietary presentation layer protocol called Independent Computing Architecture (ICA). Citrix XenDesktop is a hypervisor independent product and runs on Citrix XenServer, VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. With desktop virtualization a central desktop virtual machine can be used by only one user. Citrix positions Citrix XenDesktop as a desktop delivery solution.

Citrix XenServer. Citrix XenServer is a type 1 (bare metal) virtualization solution. It’s a server-side hypervisor that allows you run multiple virtual machines on a single physical server, with each virtual machine sharing the resources of that one physical server. Citrix XenServer can host Citrix XenDesktop virtual machines and Citrix XenApp virtual server machines.

Citrix XenClient. Citrix XenClient is also a type 1 (bare metal) virtualization solution. It’s a client-side hypervisor that allows you run multiple virtual machines on a single physical client device, with each virtual machine sharing the resources of that one client device. Citrix XenClient can extend the benefits of desktop virtualization to laptop users by allowing to transfer the virtual desktop machine to the client device for offline usage.

Citrix Provisioning services. Citrix Provisioning Services is a deployment solution. Citrix Provisioning Services enables you to stream a single server or desktop image to create multiple instances on one or more servers in a data center. This facility greatly reduces the amount of storage required compared to other methods. Citrix Provisioning Services can be used to deploy instances of XenApp servers or XenDesktop virtual machines.

Citrix Web Interface. Citrix Web Interface is a web based portal solution. Citrix Web Interface provides users with access to content, XenApp applications and XenDesktop virtual desktops through a graphical presentation on a Web Interface. With a click of the mouse, a user can access his resources.


To enumerate the resources available to an user, Citrix Web Interface interacts with a XenApp or XenDestop environment. To deliver resources to the client device, Citrix Web Interface depends on de Citrix Online plugin. Using the Citrix Online plugin and Citrix Web Interface XenApp applications can also be dynamically presented in the users start menu on the client device.

Citrix Receiver. Citrix Receiver is an universal client technology that delivers desktops and applications as an on-demand service to users on any device, anywhere. These desktops and applications are provided by Citrix XenDesktop or Citrix XenApp. It does this by providing all the necessary client software to the user device to connect to these desktops or applications. These pieces of client software are called Citrix Receiver plugins. The Citrix Receiver client downloads all necessary plugins and maintains any updates to these plugins or configuration of the plugins. Citrix Receiver is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS (iPhone and iPad) and ChromeOS.

Citrix Merchandising Server. Citrix Merchandising Server allows you to ‘merchandise’ applications and desktops everywhere. Merchandising Server provides distribution of the Citrix Receiver client and plug-ins to your end users. By providing a two click installation through a web interface, users can install the Citrix Receiver.


Citrix Merchandising Server and Citrix Receiver for Windows work together to streamline the installation and management of application delivery to the user desktops.

Citrix Dazzle. Citrix Dazzle is a plugin for a client device, which can be delivered by Citrix Receiver, and provides an enterprise application store. This enterprise application store allows users to select for themselves the resources that they need. The simple and intuitive user experience draws on familiar concepts such as stores and subscription that users will recognize from buying music and other products on the Internet. Once users have selected and subscribed to their resources, shortcuts are added to the Windows Start menu, just like locally installed applications. The Dazzle self-service model means that users no longer need to contact IT when they want access to an application. The Citrix Dazzle plugin connects to Citrix Web Interface to enumerated and aggregated the published XenApp applications and XenDesktop desktops available to the user.

Citrix Self Service. Citrix Self Service is a plugin for a client device, which can be delivered by Citrix Receiver, and is a rebranded version of the Citrix Dazzle plugin. It extends the function of the Dazzle enterprise application store by integrating with the new Citrix Delivery Services component, which provides services for user authentication and resource enumeration.


Citrix Self Service plugin no longer requires Citrix Web Interface to enumerate and aggregate the resources available to an user.

Citrix Delivery Services. Citrix Delivery Services is an authentication solution for Citrix Receiver. It authenticates users of Citrix Receiver with the Citrix Self-service Plug-in to XenDesktop sites and XenApp farms. The resources available are enumerated and aggregated by Delivery Services into stores that are displayed in the self-service view of Citrix Receiver. The Delivery Services database records details of users’ subscriptions and resource shortcuts to enable application synchronization. Citrix Delivery Services has been made to extend the functions of the Citrix Self Service plugin.

Citrix App Request. Citrix App Request is a Citrix Delivery Services snap-in that enables the self-service application request feature in Citrix Receiver. With Citrix App Request configured, end users can use Citrix Receiver for Windows version 2.1 or higher to search for applications available from a Citrix XenApp farm and then request access by clicking a Request button. A workflow-based approval process then emails the user request to a manager. A link in the email directs the manager to approve or deny the request. The manager’s response triggers a workflow that processes the response by sending an email to the requestor and updating the Receiver interface. Users can view approved and pending requests in the Receiver window.

Citrix Access Gateway. Citrix Access Gateway is security solution to secure publish applications and desktops to the internet and make them accessible from everywhere. It does this by providing authentication, authorization and network access protection services. The most typical deployment configuration is to locate the Access Gateway appliance in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Citrix Access Gateway typically connects to a Citrix Web Interface to present XenApp applications and XenDesktop desktops to the user. 

Citrix Edgesight. Citrix EdgeSight is a performance and availability management solution for XenDesktop, XenApp and endpoint systems. EdgeSight monitors applications, devices, sessions, license usage, and the network in real time, allowing users to quickly analyze, resolve, and proactively prevent problems.  

I hope this article give some more information and understanding of the major components of the Citrix portfolio and their relationship.