Windows Terminal Server 2003 and Citrix XenApp: An Overview Comparison


In the last few weeks I’ve met with a couple different clients that use Windows Terminal Server to provide applications to their end users.  While their environments worked pretty well and were very cost effective, they still have some pretty common problems.  Performance was usually an issue depending on how many people were connected and what apps they were using.  Servers often had to be rebooted affecting all the users with connected sessions.  The conversation of whether to move to Citrix XenApp and why often comes up so I thought I’d put together a high level summary of some of the performance and end-user experience benefits of using Citrix over Terminal Server 2003.

First let’s start with Overall Performance.  Terminal Server is great for smaller environments and smaller numbers of users but if you have multiple servers that need to be clustered and support larger numbers of concurrent users XenApp wins hands down.  Here’s why:

          Virtual Memory Optimization:  XenApp performs DLL rebasing for application to reduce memory conflicts.  This improves your application performance and can enable a single server to support more concurrent users.

          Session Sharing:  Apps launched by a user automatically share the underlying terminal services session which gives you better server utilization.

          Universal Print Driver:  Reduces bandwidth and memory use and increases print times.  Advanced print options are also added.

          Session Bandwidth Tuning:  Enable the ability to fine tune a users experience.  This can be very effective when dealing with low-bandwidth challenges.

Application Response is the 2nd big advantage to using a XenApp solution.  Some of the advantages include:

          SpeedScreen:  Improves the performance of multi-media content and delivers synchronized audio and video to the client.  It also improves the web surfing experience with pages that contain Flash content.

          Session Reliability:  XenApp can keep sessions visible even when the network connection is lost.  This can be important especially if you’re using wireless for some of your endpoint devices.

          Smart-Card Support:  Auto-detect for apps that are smart-card enabled.

          Content Redirection:  Application can be automatically redirected to a local browser for better performance. 

          Native Multi-Monitor support

          Pass-thru authentication for Terminal Services sessions

Finally, Mobility is yet another advantage that XenApp has over standard Terminal Services.  These include:

          SmoothRoaming:  Allows users to move between different devices and maintain their sessions.  Support for SmartCards is also provided.

          Dynamic Display Reconfiguration:  XenApp automatically adjusts the session to the existing display which is usefully if users are moving between heterogeneous endpoint configurations.


These are just some of the advantages a Citrix XenApp environment can provide.  There are many more reasons to consider moving to a Citrix XenApp solution including advanced configuration options, compatibility, management, security and scalability.  So if you are currently using terminal services as a solution or considering it you should really look in to what Citrix has to offer and how it can provide an excellent ROI for your company.


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One Response to “Windows Terminal Server 2003 and Citrix XenApp: An Overview Comparison”

  1. Pirsey Says:

    Hey, nice tips. Perhaps I’ll buy a glass of beer to the man from that forum who told me to go to your blog 🙂

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