As users of Azure RemoteApp I was tasked with finding a replacement due to the product being retired.

We used the service primarily as a remote access solution, allowing users to RDP to their desktops (assuming they were turned on).

The preferred solution recommended by Azure is Citrix Xenapp Express, a cloud only version of XenApp. This was trialed internally and vetoed almost straight away after deployment as it lacked two factor authentication – this is a huge oversight in my opinion. While views on this will vary company to company, I personally feel that ALL external applications should be protected by two factor authentication. It’s simply not good enough to rely on a username and password.

I decided to take a look at the Netscaler VPX appliance. It is available in the Azure Microsoft and can be deployed to any ARM environments.

Pros

  • Clientless access (although you need to have the Microsoft terminal services client installed – native in Windows, you need to install it on MacOSX, Android etc)
  • Works on every device I’ve tried – Includes iPhone, Android Tablets, MacOSX etc
  • Much cheaper than RemoteApp. A Netscaler VPX enterprise license (which you need for RDP Proxy) and 200mb throughput will be ~£8000 per year + Azure VM costs. We were spending circa £15,000 for 200 or so users.
  • Good user experience – web portal is fairly straight forward.
  • Performant – test users report their desktops are much more responsive than publishing RDP over Remote App.
  • Feature Rich – supports web bookmarks, load balancing, DDoS protection

Cons

  • I wouldn’t say Netscaler VPX is very intuitive to administer/configure. I think it’s more than just a lack of familiarity with the system.
  • IaaS – you need to maintain the system, patch it, and make sure it’s configured correctly
  • Supports any authentication methods you can think of. We are using radius in conjunction with the Microsoft multi factor authentication server.

The system is being trialed by our I.T department but it’s so far proved to be really good.