Citrix – What is it?

The term Citrix is commonly used to refer to a technology company called Citrix Systems Inc and it’s XenApp and XenDesktop products. Other popular Citrix products include XenServer, XenClient and NetScaler.


XenApp is software which allows users to use applications on a powerful computer (server) from their own computer. XenApp allows remote connections to the server and presents the applications from the server onto the user’s computer as though they were actually running on the user’s computer. When in fact, all application processing is done on the server where the application is located. User’s can also access the desktop of the server remotely and interact with it.


XenDesktop is software allowing users to access another computer remotely from their own computer. The user gets to see the desktop of the remote computer and interact with it.

The computer’s desktop is simulated by XenDesktop as a virtual desktop on the user’s computer and user interaction is relayed to the computer where the desktop actually resides.


XenClient is software which allows a desktop operating system such as Microsoft Windows 7 to operate on a computer without having to be installed and configured first on the computer.

A ready made package pre-populated with the Windows 7 operating system, applications, configurations and settings is deployed to the computer where the XenClient software allows the package to operate, as if it was already installed.


XenServer software allows computers known as virtual machines to operate on a single physical computer. XenServer provides a simulated environment, where virtual machines can be installed with operating systems such as Windows 2012 R2 and behave as though they were real physical computers. XenServer acts as a middleman controlling how the virtual machines interact with the physical computer, balancing hardware resources and intercepting calls to the hardware.


CloudPlatform is software used to manage virtualisation environments. By pooling computing resources and controlling the allocation of virtual machines along with their networking and storage requirements.


CloudGateway provides a web interface to display applications to users. Allowing users to decide which applications are displayed.


CloudBridge provides connectivity between private data centres and public cloud infrastructure, to make the public cloud appear as an extension of the data centre.

Allowing systems in the public cloud to use systems in the data centre, thereby retaining security of systems within the data centre.


CloudPortal consists of two components, a services manager which enables the management of services such as hosting and the ability to sell these services. Along with a Business Manager, which provides account management, usage monitoring, reporting to billing.


VDI-in-a-box is software which provides virtual desktops to users in the same way as XenDesktop. However, it uses grid architecture to provide redundancy. Where all servers are organised in a grid and are functionally identical.

If a single server fails, the other servers as they are functionally identical can continue to provide virtual deskops.


The Citrix NetScaler product provides load balancing, security and the optimisation of web traffic. NetScaler is available as a physical device (appliance) and also as a virtual device (virtual machine running NetScaler software).

Access Gateway

Access Gateway is a physical device which securely allows users to connect to applications and virtual desktops located on computers running XenApp, XenDesktop and other Citrix systems.

Access Gateway connects to authentication and authorisation services, allowing access to only applications and desktops, users have been given rights and permission to.

Branch Repeater

Branch Repeater provides caching on sites such as branch offices for applications provided by Citrix’s remote access protocol (Independent Computing Architecture – ICA).

Through optimisation of network traffic, this repeater can improve the performance of applications delivered using the ICA protocol.


Receiver is software installed on a device such as a user’s computer, which facilitates communication to the Citrix products such as XenApp. Citrix Receiver is available for different computer operating systems from Linux, Microsoft Windows to Apple Mac as well as for smartphones such as Android.


AppDNA is used to check application compatibility by assessing them for a particular operating system, such as Windows 7. A status of the applications migration capability is represented in an accompanying report based on numerous compatibility tests.

Photo credits:

Citrix Headquarters Santa Clara Calfornia USA CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bal Kang

Bal Kang is a technology expert based in the UK, with experience across a number of technology areas from phones, tablets, computers to gaming.

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