Is Citrix a virtual machine?

Citrix is not a virtual machine in the traditional sense. Rather, it is an application delivery and virtualization solution that enables hardware virtualization and allows multiple users to access apps and desktops remotely from any device.

Is Citrix a virtual machine?

Key features of Citrix virtualization:

  • Application virtualization – Deliver Windows, web, SaaS and mobile apps with a high-definition user experience
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – Provide secure, remote access to virtual desktops from any device
  • Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) – Manage on-premises and cloud-hosted virtual desktops with a unified control plane
  • Secure browser isolation – Isolate internet access via the browser for enhanced security
  • Unified endpoint management – Manage and secure mobile devices, traditional endpoints, and apps

So in summary, Citrix provides the tools to virtualize apps and desktops and deliver them as a service, but it is not a virtual machine platform like VMware or Hyper-V. The rest of this article explores Citrix virtualization in more detail.

How Citrix enables hardware virtualization

By abstracting apps, data and workspaces from the underlying operating system and hardware, Citrix increases flexibility and mobility. This allows delivering Windows desktops, Linux desktops, hosted apps, SaaS apps and mobile apps to meet diverse needs.

Key Citrix virtualization components:

  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops – Formerly XenApp and XenDesktop allows creating a virtual app delivery and virtual desktop infrastructure environment. Admins centrally manage infrastructure and policies from a unified control plane and deliver personalized digital workspaces to end users on any device.
  • Citrix Hypervisor – Previously XenServer is a server virtualization platform built on the Xen open-source hypervisor. It allows virtualizing Windows and Linux workloads and is optimized for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.
  • Citrix Gateway – Securely provides remote, context-aware access to virtual apps, desktops, SaaS and mobile apps from any device. Optimizes and accelerates mobile workstyles over any network.
  • Content Collaboration (ShareFile) – Enables secure access to data across platforms and locations while ensuring compliance. Allows enterprise file sync and sharing from mobile devices.

Together these create a complete digital workspace solution that enables users to access the apps, data and resources they need. It is an alternative to just using individual hypervisors and traditional VPN infrastructure.

Virtualization architecture

The core Citrix virtualization architecture consists of the delivery controller, virtualization resources, StoreFront store, Citrix Workspace app and Citrix Gateway.

The delivery controller authenticates users, manages virtual machines, apps and desktops and brokers connections. StoreFront aggregates resources into stores for users to access through the Workspace app. Gateway provides secure remote access from outside the internal network.

Key use cases and capabilities

Citrix has a wide range of capabilities and use cases that improve productivity, flexibility, manageability and security.

Flexible app and desktop delivery

Deliver Windows, Linux, web, SaaS and mobile apps or full virtual desktops to any device with a high definition user experience:

Virtual Apps

  • Publish individual apps for users to access through Workspace
  • Deliver Windows-based apps on multi-session Windows Server OS
  • Stream seamless Windows and Linux apps using app layering

Virtual Desktops

  • VDI – Host full Windows or Linux desktops in the datacenter and deliver them to users
  • DaaS – Manage on-premises and cloud-hosted desktops across locations

Optimized mobility

  • Enable productivity from mobile devices with touch-optimized capabilities
  • Ensure a native-app like experience on mobile devices
  • Secure mobile access from anywhere with Citrix Gateway

Enhanced security

Citrix provides a Zero Trust approach to security and robust protection:

  • Multi-factor authentication for all external access
  • Context-aware, granular access policies
  • End-to-end encryption across the entire connection
  • Built-in DDoS protection, SSL inspection capabilities
  • Watermarking stamps documents accessed through DaaS

By only exposing apps and selected network resources instead of the full corporate network, Citrix also minimizes the attack surface.

Flexible cloud solutions

Citrix solutions support flexible cloud capabilities:

  • Hybrid cloud deployments with a mix of on-prem and cloud infrastructure
  • Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) across cloud providers
  • Secure browser isolation powered by Cloud platforms
  • Integration with leading cloud providers like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud

High scalability

The platform can scale to support large enterprise organizations with thousands of apps, desktops and users:

  • Leverage MCS and PVS technologies to rapidly provision desktops
  • Ensure high availability with Zone Redundancy and multi-zone capabilities
  • Load balance delivery controllers for horizontal scalability
  • Monitor infrastructure status and optimize performance in real-time

In summary, Citrix provides a wide range of virtualization, mobility, networking and cloud capabilities to meet diverse digital transformation needs. It is not a virtual machine platform itself but rather enables strategic initiatives by virtualizing and delivering apps, desktops and workspaces.

Considerations around Citrix vs virtual machines

There are some key differences when comparing Citrix virtualization versus traditional virtual machines:

App Layering

Citrix leverages app layering to dynamically assemble apps, data and settings into logical layers. This differs from traditional virtual machines where apps are typically installed individually on each desktop.

Cloud Optimized

Citrix offers a cloud-centric, hybrid approach that provides flexibility. Individual hypervisors like VMware are primarily focused on virtualizing on-premises workloads.

Unified Management Plane

Citrix enables centralized management, delivery and orchestration across a wider environment, encompassing networking, endpoints and access. Individual hypervisors just focus on infrastructure management.

Broad Access Methods

In addition to delivering full desktops like VDI, Citrix enables more flexible application delivery, browser access, mobile capabilities and cloud interactions.

So while Citrix complements VM-based computing environments well, it operates at a higher layer, abstracting workspaces, apps and networks then intelligently delivering them to end users.

Key takeaways

  • Citrix is not a true virtual machine, but rather a digital workspace and app delivery solution that enables strategic virtualization initiatives
  • It abstracts and virtualizes Windows and Linux desktops, apps, networking and data then delivers them as a service to users
  • Core components include Apps and Desktops, Hypervisor, Gateway and Workspace to provide a complete solution
  • Use cases range from VDI and DaaS to secure browser isolation, cloud integration and unified endpoint management
  • Benefits encompass flexibility, security, mobility, manageability and cloud adoption compared to individual hypervisors

In summary, Citrix sits at a higher level, orchestrating diverse virtualization, mobility, networking and cloud technologies to provide users simple, secure access to the resources they need to drive productivity.


While Citrix is not a full virtual machine platform, it enables key virtualization initiatives around application delivery and desktop virtualization. By abstracting apps, desktops and workspaces from the underlying infrastructure, Citrix increases IT efficiency and user productivity.

Core Citrix solutions like Virtual Apps and Desktops, Hypervisor, Gateway and Workspace work together to deliver a complete digital workspace across devices and networks. This enables a broad range of capabilities from VDI to secure browser isolation and cloud orchestration.

Compared to individual hypervisors, Citrix provides smarter virtualization focused on access, simplified management, enhanced security and flexible cloud adoption. With a future-focused approach centered around delivering workspaces on demand, Citrix enables organizations to fully transform operations and business models.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is Citrix the same as VMware?
    No, Citrix is complementary to VMware vSphere and runs on top of hypervisors, orchestrating delivery of apps and desktops across infrastructure – both physical and virtual.

  2. Is Citrix a DaaS solution?
    Yes, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops provides Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) capabilities for both cloud-hosted and on-prem desktops across hybrid or multi-cloud.

  3. Does Citrix offer VDI?
    Yes, Citrix enables both Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) for virtual delivery of full Windows and Linux desktops and app virtualization for flexible delivery of office apps, cloud apps etc.

  4. Can you access VMs remotely using Citrix?
    Yes, remote users can securely access virtual desktops and hosted shared desktops powered by VMs over any network using the Citrix Workspace app and Citrix Gateway service.

  5. Is Citrix available on AWS?
    Yes, Citrix solutions like Virtual Apps and Desktops (CVAD) have native AWS editions and integrations that leverage EC2 elasticity and availability zones for cloud scalability.

  6. Does Citrix replace VPN?
    In many use cases Citrix can provide an alternative to VPN remote access by enabling secure, context-aware delivery of apps and desktops to users over the internet.

  7. Is ShareFile part of Citrix?
    Yes, Content Collaboration capabilities like secure enterprise file sync, sharing and data access are provided through Citrix ShareFile which is a core component of the digital workspace solutions.

  8. Can Citrix publish an application?
    Yes, a core Citrix capability is app publishing which allows IT to deliver individual Windows, web or SaaS applications on-demand to users through a centralized workspace.

  9. Does Citrix allow multiple users?
    Yes, Citrix is designed for enterprise scalability including delivery of published apps and shared multi-session desktops to thousands of users from a central site with cloud-scale capabilities.

  10. Is Citrix expensive?
    Pricing is tailored to each customer’s environment and needs. While advanced capabilities mean Citrix is more than individual hypervisors, concentrating infrastructure reduces costs compared to distributed PCs and apps.

  11. Does Citrix integrate with Active Directory?
    Yes, Citrix integrates tightly with Microsoft Active Directory for identity management, access control and policy enforcement based on users, groups and roles.

  12. Can you access a desktop remotely using Citrix?
    Yes, core Citrix capabilities include secure remote access to virtual desktops or hosted Windows/Linux shared desktops from any device using the Citrix Workspace app over the internet.

  13. Does Citrix allow multiple monitors?
    Yes, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops environments support multi-monitor capabilities including advanced config options for resolution, DPI and spanning. Useful for users, developers and power users.

  14. Can Citrix publish multiple applications?
    Yes, Citrix enables centralized publishing of tens, hundreds or thousands of Windows, web, mobile, Linux and SaaS applications then delivers these based on user identity and context for easy access.

  15. How does Citrix work?
    It centrally virtualizes then intelligently delivers apps, desktops, networks and data on-demand to empower today’s mobile, cloud-enabled workforce to access their workspaces from anywhere on any device.

  16. Does Citrix allow copy and paste?
    Yes, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops preserves important productivity capabilities like mapping drives, printing, clipboard redirection, webcam/audio and other peripherals for a native-app like experience.

  17. What are the components of Citrix?
    Core Citrix components enabling the digital workspace include Virtual Apps & Desktops, Hypervisor, Gateway, StoreFront Store, Workspace Environment Management and Workspace itself.

  18. Is Citrix compatible with Azure?
    Yes, Citrix offers tight integration with Microsoft Azure including Citrix Virtual Desktops service running on Azure, Citrix ADC load balancing for Azure apps and optimizing Windows Virtual Desktop solutions.

  19. What’s better Citrix or VMware?
    They are complementary – Citrix sits at a higher application and workspace delivery layer that can add intelligent orchestration, security and access on top of VMware server virtualization and hypervisors like vSphere.

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