A comparative analysis of application delivery methods – XenApp vs. ThinApp vs. App-V

13 Feb

What is application virtualization? I am attempting to answer this oft-asked question here. Besides application virtualization, let us look at various other methods of delivery too. The minor differences between vendors and their capabilities often confuse our decision-making. Let us see how my blog helps in addressing these questions and more.

Let us first understand what the different types of Application Models are.

Traditional Application Deployment

Session Hosted Applications (SHA)

Application Virtualization (AV)

The application is installed locally on to individual desktops and laptops, either using manual or ESD methods

The application is installed on the server and only the screen pixels, keyboard and mouse clicks are sent back and forth between the server and the client

The application is separated from the OS, aka profiling, and installed in a virtual container. The entire package is stored at a fileserver from where it is streamed to the client or the server

Streamed to Server – The applications are put in profiles and stored on a file server; however, when launched, they stream to the server

Streamed to Client – The applications are put in profiles and stored on a file server. When launched, the files required to execute the application are streamed to the user device

All the compute processing takes place on the local desktop and laptop

All the compute takes place on the servers within the datacenter

All the compute may take place on the server or the client, depending upon the streaming method selected

Application compatibility required for various endpoint operating systems

There are chances of application conflicts as multiple applications are hosted on the same server

Application Isolation can be achieved and no fear of application conflicts

Application updates required for individual desktops and laptops using manual or ESD techniques

Application updates required on all remote desktop servers hosting the application within the datacenter

Application updates required on the single application profile


Vendor – XenApp

Vendor – XenApp, App-V and ThinApp


There are mainly three popular vendors within this space: Citrix XenApp, VMware ThinApp, and Microsoft App-V.

Citrix XenApp: Industry’s oldest and no. 1 vendor for application delivery since last 23 years. The biggest differentiator that XenApp holds over its competition is the Session Hosted Applications, which is a proven and effective delivery method for incompatible, complex and cost effective applications. This delivery method is delivered using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Service. XenApp is also capable of application virtualization. This tool is considered to be an end-2-end application delivery. This software integrates with XenDesktop to provide Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) in which applications (SHA and AV) and desktop both can be seamlessly delivered to an end-user.

VMware ThinApp: A VMware tool used to perform application virtualization. The biggest differentiator that ThinApp holds over its competition is the Offline application delivery, Agentless, and portable apps in USB and removable storage devices. This software is integrated with View to provide Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) in which AV and desktop both can be seamlessly delivered to an end-user.

Microsoft App-V: A Microsoft tool used to perform application virtualization. The biggest differentiator that App-V holds over its competition is the centralized consoles and its marriage like integration with SCCM and other Microsoft products. This software is often the best choice with respect to cost ratio (if, and only if, you want to do application virtualization) and can be head-on compared against ThinApp.

Comparison of XenApp VS App-V VS ThinApp: (Source PQR Application Virtualization Smackdown v4 2013):


Important Note: The complete comparison is not detailed here. Whatever seemed important enough functionalities to me, I have listed them here, which can be used as a cheat sheet. However, the complete comparison can be found here; thanks to Ruben Spruijt, CTO – PQR  for developing such a document for the public.

My Recommendations

After going through the various application delivery methods and features comparison, I would recommend understanding the various business cases the customer is trying to solve. Few of my recommendations are as follows:

  • If you are looking for an end-2-end application, delivery product then there is only one player, XenApp, as it can do all Hosted Session Applications and Application Virtualization (there may be few pros and cons, but that’s true for every product)
  • If you plan to use XenDesktop, then using XenApp for application delivery makes better sense as the complete integration works like a charm
  • If you plan to use View, then using ThinApp for application delivery is a good choice. However, you will miss the favorite and most used feature of XenApp – Session Hosted Applications. The complete integration is a good choice.
  • Do not mix n match these products like XenApp and ThinApp, as this would unnecessary increase the cost and add more complexity to the solution. One or two feature trade-off is normal but think about ongoing maintenance and unknown issues going forward due to integration of multiple vendors!
  • Costing is another crucial factor in making the choice. I would recommend, weigh the pros n cons of each vendor and then make your choice based upon the features and business problems you are trying to solve
  • If you cannot afford expensive products like XenApp and ThinApp, I would highly recommend using App-V would be the best bet for value for money.

If you like this post and find it useful, please drop in your comments here.

Best Regards,
Aresh Sarkari

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3 Responses to “A comparative analysis of application delivery methods – XenApp vs. ThinApp vs. App-V”

  1. vignezh February 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Nice and informative Article !!

  2. Gurpreet Singh February 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Great article… just what I needed!

  3. Sunny Rakshe July 11, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Information shared here is simply great ..if you want more comparison reports please visit alternative to citrix. hope you get here relevant stuff!

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