Is Windows 2012 Remote Desktop Session Host better than Citrix XenApp?

Is Windows 2012 Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) better than Citrix XenApp? Citrix XenApp 6.5 is a market-leading product. Citrix XenApp may well be the first product businesses consider when deploying applications or desktops from a centralised service. Windows 2012 is very new. Windows 2012 RDSH, as a new service, doesn’t have the same number of partners or administrators with detailed experience.

Still, it’s a very good question.

It’s a very good question because Microsoft has worked hard to ensure that RDSH is a solution viable not only for large enterprises, but small and medium scale businesses and not-for-profit organizations, as well. Windows 2012 RDSH builds on a mature technology, a technology that is the most-deployed centralized desktop virtualization solution.

Yet, are you going to end up reading this article and get to an “it depends” answer?  Let’s see.

At Citrix Synergy in Barcelona, a number of partners were reporting that their customers were asking this very good question. Was it because people had read our article on Microsoft Windows 2012 RDSH vs Citrix XenApp – PV to get its own Murderball?


Many Terminal Services/RDS users maintain their Citrix XenApp Subscriptions Advantage payments. Many don’t. As organisations move beyond their existing solutions, or as new customers and new projects come on-line, there is an opportunity to consider alternatives, especially as minimising costs is an important consideration.

Is Windows 2012 Remote Desktop Session Host better than Citrix XenApp is a question more and more users are going to ask.

Key components of that question will be:

  • What doesn’t Windows 2012 RDSH do for my business? There have been a number of improvements in terms of configuration and management. Still, organisations are looking to embrace support for application and data access beyond the traditional network. There is a desire to support complimentary devices such as smartphones and tablets or delivery mechanisms such as HTML5 enabled browsers. What happens when I have applications that are Mac or Linux based?
  • Is RDP good enough? The latest Microsoft RDP protocol version has had a number of enhancements to improve performance over the WAN. But do all your devices support this version? What end devices can you not use? How does your peripheral support work?
  • How much does Citrix XenApp cost me? License renewal costs can always seem like a big number. Yet, there are a number of additional services and functions that Citrix adds to the core service in Windows 2008R2: tools to assist help desk users determine issues with user experience; tools to improve the application/desktop experience for tablet/smartphone users; services to assist with printing.
  • What alternatives are there? There are more players in this market than Citrix and Microsoft.

To help, we’ve updated our Presentation Virtualisation Solutions white-paper.  The white paper has been updated and considers Presentation Virtualisation solutions from the following vendors:

  • Aqua Connect Terminal Server
  • Citrix’s XenApp 6.5
  • Dell (Quest’s) vWorkspace
  • Ericom’s PowerTerm WebConnect RemoteView
  • Geniut’s ThinWorx
  • GraphOn’s Go-Global
  • Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Session Host
  • Propalms’ TSE
  • Systancia’s AppliDis Fusion
  • Ulteo Open Virtual Desktop v3
  • 2x, ApplicationServerXG

Is Windows 2012 Remote Desktop Session Host better than Citrix XenApp? I think a number of organisations will find that with Windows 2012 RDSH, there is less need for any third party tool. That’s not necessarily because of “better”; rather, the features available may be “good enough”. Still, third party vendors continue to add features to the core Microsoft offering and, of course, provide a platform to support and manage Microsoft Terminal Service/RDS offerings prior to Windows 2012.

Ah“, you may say, “Have I got all the way here and still ended up with an ‘it depends’?”.

You are best suited to understand your environment and business needs, and the Presentation Virtualisation Solutions white-paper is intended as a resource to help you fit the solutions to your context.

So in the main, yes, yes you did.