5 Reasons to consider RDS over HDX

Author: Jimmy Chang

Publish on: Dec 17, 2015 3:49:55 PM


Should I use Microsoft RDS or Citrix HDX to deliver apps? 

I’ve been asked this question time and time again. The most correct answer is “it depends” on your specific use case.  Here are 5 reasons I would consider before deciding to use RDS versus HDX.

 5. Tools for managing the farm

Microsoft Citrix

System Center 2012 RDS Management Pack provides a single pane of glass for:

  • Remote Desktop Session Host
  • Remote Desktop Licensing
  • Remote Desktop Web Access
  • Remote Desktop Gateway
  • Remote Desktop Connection Broker
  • Remote Desktop Virtualization Host

Multiple independent consoles

  • Studio for configuration
  • Director for troubleshooting, helpdesk, usage
  • Provisioning Services
  • Storefront
  • License server
  • hypervisor management tool

Both products come packed with consoles for IT admins to manage.  However, Microsoft has an edge here with the RDS Management Pack for System Center 2012 allowing admins to manage RDS from System Center. Although System Center is a separate purchase, you’ll likely want it if you are managing even a modest sized server farm.  Citrix doesn’t have a single pane of glass requiring an additional purchase of a management console, such as System Center.  Microsoft has done a better job integrating the stack.


4. Supported Client OS

Microsoft Citrix      
  • Windows
  • Mac
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Windows
  • Mac
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • HTML5 / Chrome
  • Blackberry / QNX

Citrix dominates based on sheer number of clients. I even left a few older and niche clients off the list.

The list is impressive, but ask yourself: which OS will my users use?


3. Protocol performance

Before RDS on Windows Server 2012, RDP performance over the network lagged behind HDX.  Since then, Microsoft has continually improved the performance of the protocol. For example, Microsoft claims up to 50% better bandwidth usage between RDS 2012 and RDS 2012 R2.  Microsoft’s investment in their remoting protocol is narrowing the bandwidth performance gap to Citrix. Citrix holds the performance edge for very high end graphics users such as CAD engineers.  But for delivering access to productivity apps, RDP more than meets the challenge. 


2. The next upgrade

Let’s face it, you will have to upgrade the Windows Server infrastructure in the future -  app compatibility, security patches, support, avoid cost of extended maintenance contracts, etc.  Thus upgrading Microsoft is mission critical for your infrastructure.

Citrix is another layer on top of Windows Server infrastructure and requires an additional IT program to upgrade Citrix when you upgrade Windows Server. So ask yourself: is the Citrix layer mission critical for your business? 


1. Cost

Citrix is an additional $150-$350 per user on top of RDS in the first year and then additional $35-$210 in annual subscription advantage and software maintenance costs.  Some folks refer to this as the "Citrix Tax".

Microsoft licensing requirements Citrix licensing requirements
  • Microsoft Server CAL
  • Microsoft RDS CAL
  • Microsoft VDA
  • Microsoft Software Assurance
  • Microsoft Server CAL
  • Microsoft RDS CAL
  • Microsoft VDA
  • Microsoft Software Assurance


  • Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp 
  • Citrix Subscription Advantage
  • Citrix Software maintenance


The actual TCO is highly dependent on your use case and deployment. The main takeaway here is to ask yourself: 

1. What's the reason not to use a product you already purchased?

2. Does the additional cost for Citrix deliver $150+ per user of benefit? 


Summing it all up: Should I use Microsoft RDS or Citrix HDX to deliver apps? 

"It depends". With RDS in Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft has produced a well-performing product at a very compelling price. 

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