Citrix Managed Desktops


Citrix Managed Desktops is now Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops Standard for Azure. Although this earlier documentation will remain published for a short time, it will not be updated. We recommend using the Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops Standard for Azure product documentation.


Citrix Managed Desktops is the simplest, fastest way to deliver Windows apps and desktops from Microsoft Azure. This service offers cloud-based management, provisioning, and managed capacity for delivering virtual apps and desktops to any device.

The Citrix Remote PC Access feature (currently in preview) enables users to remotely use physical machines located in the office. Users receive the best user experience by using Citrix HDX to deliver their office PC session.

This solution includes:

  • Cloud-based management and provisioning for delivering Citrix-hosted Windows Virtual Desktops, and apps from multi-session Windows machines.
  • A high-definition user experience from a broad range of devices, using the Citrix Workspace app.
  • Simplified image creation and management workflows, along with Citrix-managed single-session and multi-session images that have the latest Citrix Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) installed.
  • Secure remote access from any device using global points of presence of the Citrix Gateway service.
  • Advanced monitoring and help desk management capabilities.
  • Managed Azure IaaS, including Azure compute, storage, and networking for delivering virtual desktops.

If you’re familiar with other Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops products, Citrix Managed Desktops simplifies the deployment of virtual apps and desktops. Citrix can manage the infrastructure for hosting those workloads.

Citrix Managed Desktops is a Citrix Cloud service. Citrix Cloud is the platform that hosts and administers Citrix services. Learn more about Citrix Cloud.

To learn more about components, data flow, and security considerations, see Technical security overview.

How users access desktops and apps

Users (sometimes called subscribers) access their desktops and apps directly through their browser, using the Citrix HTML5 client. Users browse to a Citrix Workspace URL that is provided by you, their administrator. The Citrix Workspace platform enumerates and delivers the digital resources to users. Users start a desktop or an application from their workspace.

After you set up a catalog of machines that deliver desktops and apps (or a catalog containing physical machines for Remote PC Access), the service displays the Citrix Workspace URL. You then notify your users to go to that URL to start their desktop and apps.

As an alternative to navigating to Citrix Workspace to access their desktops and apps, users can install a Citrix Workspace app on their device. Download the app that’s right for the endpoint device’s operating system:

Concepts and terminology

This section introduces some of the items and terms that administrators use in this service:


The desktops and apps that the service delivers to your users reside on virtual machines (VMs). Those VMs are created in a catalog.

A catalog is a group of identical machines.

  • When you deploy desktops, the machines in the catalog are shared with selected users.
  • When you publish applications, multi-session machines host applications that are shared with selected users.
  • When you use Remote PC Access (currently in preview), single-session machines in the catalog are accessed by users according to the configured user assignment method and selected users.

If you’re familiar with other Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops products, a catalog in this service is similar to combining a machine catalog and a delivery group. (The catalog and delivery group creation workflows in other services are not available in this service.)

Learn more:

Resource locations

A catalog’s machines reside in a resource location. A resource location also contains two or more Cloud Connectors.

  • When publishing desktops or apps, Citrix automatically creates the resource location and the Cloud Connectors when you create the first catalog.
  • For Remote PC Access (preview), the customer administrator creates the resource location and the Cloud Connectors before creating a catalog.

When you create more catalogs for published desktops and apps, the Azure subscription, region, and domain determine whether Citrix creates another resource location. If those criteria match an existing catalog, Citrix tries to reuse that resource location.

You can specify some resource location information when you create a catalog. Later, you can add more Cloud Connectors to a resource location. See Resource location actions.

Master images

When you create a catalog for published desktops and apps, a master image is used (with other settings) as a template for creating the machines.

  • The service provides several Citrix-managed master images:

    • Windows 10 Enterprise (single-session)
    • Windows 10 Enterprise Virtual Desktop (multi-session)
    • Windows 10 Enterprise Virtual Desktop (multi-session) with Office 365 ProPlus
    • Windows Server 2012 R2
    • Windows Server 2016

    The Citrix-managed master images already have a Citrix VDA and troubleshooting tools installed. The VDA is the communication mechanism between your users’ machines and the Citrix Cloud infrastructure that manages the service.

  • You can also import and use your own master image from Azure. You must install a VDA (and other software) on the image before it can be used to create a catalog.

The term VDA often refers to the machine that delivers apps or desktops, and the software component installed on that machine.

Learn more about master images, and how to use them.

Azure subscriptions

You can create catalogs for delivering desktops and apps, and build/import master images in either in a Citrix-managed Azure subscription or in your own Azure subscription.

See Deployment scenarios for information about using the Citrix-managed Azure subscription or your own.

Learn more about Azure subscriptions.

Network connections

When creating a catalog, you indicate if and how users can access locations and resources on their corporate on-premises network from their Citrix Managed Desktops desktops and apps.

When using the Citrix-managed Azure subscription, the choices are no connectivity, Azure VNet peering, and Citrix SD-WAN.

When using your own Azure subscription, there is no need to create a connection to Citrix Managed Desktops. You only need to add your Azure subscription to the service.

Learn more about Network connections.

Domain-joined and non-domain-joined

Several service operations and features differ, depending on whether the machines that deliver desktops and apps are domain-joined or non-domain-joined. Domain membership also affects the available deployment scenarios.

Both domain-joined and non-domain joined machines support any of the user authentication methods available in the user’s workspace.

Machines in Remote PC Access catalogs must be domain-joined.

The following table explains the major differences between non-domain-joined and domain-joined machines.

Non-domain-joined Domain-joined
Active Directory is not used for machines (VDAs). VDAs are not joined to an AD domain. Active Directory is used for machines (VDAs). VDAs are joined to an AD domain.
Active Directory group policies cannot be applied to VDAs. (You can apply local GPO on the master image that’s used to create a catalog.) VDAs inherit group policies for the AD OU specified during catalog creation.
Users sign in using single sign-on. When users sign in to their workspace using an authentication method other than Active Directory, they are also prompted for sign-in when a VDA (desktop or app) launches.
Do not need a connection to on-premises network. Must have a connection to on-premises network, using Microsoft Azure VNet or Citrix SD-WAN.
Must use a Citrix-managed Azure subscription. (Cannot use your own Azure subscriptions.) Can use a Citrix-managed Azure subscription and your own Azure subscriptions.
Cannot troubleshoot using a bastion machine or direct RDP. Can troubleshoot using a bastion machine or direct RDP.
Cannot use Citrix Profile Management. (Recommend: Use persistent catalogs.) Can use Citrix Profile Management or FSLogix.

More technical concept information

For more technical details, see the Citrix Tech Zone reference architecture and tech brief.

Deployment scenarios

Deployment scenarios for published desktops and apps differ, depending on whether you’re using a Citrix-managed subscription or your own customer-managed subscription.

There are differences in responsibility with Citrix-managed subscriptions and customer-managed subscriptions. For details, see Technical security overview.

Deploying in a Citrix-managed subscription

Deployment scenario with Citrix-managed subscription

Citrix Managed Desktops supports several deployment scenarios for connection and user authentication.

  • Managed Azure AD: This is the simplest deployment, with non-domain-joined VDAs. It’s recommended for proofs of concept. You use the Managed Azure AD to manage users. (This is a Citrix-managed Azure AD.) Your users don’t need to access resources on your on-premises network.

    Deployment scenario with Managed Azure AD

  • Customer’s Azure Active Directory: This deployment also contains non-domain-joined VDAs. You use your own Active Directory or Azure Active Directory (AAD) for end user authentication. In this scenario, your users don’t need to access resources on your on-premises network.

    Deployment scenario with customer's Azure AD

  • Customer’s Azure Active Directory with on-premises access: This deployment also contains non-domain-joined VDAs. You use your own AD or AAD for end user authentication. In this scenario, installing Citrix Cloud Connectors in your on-premises network enables access to resources in that network.

    Deployment scenario with customer's AAD and on-premises network

  • Customer’s Azure Active Directory Domain Services and VNet peering: If your AD or AAD resides in your own Azure VNet and subscription, you can use the Microsoft Azure VNet peering feature for a network connection, and Azure Active Directory Domain Services (AADDS) for end user authentication. The VDAs are joined to your domain.

    Deployment scenario with customer Azure subscription

    To enable your users to access data stored in your on-premises network, you can use your VPN connection from your Azure subscription to the on-premises location. Azure VNet peering is still used for network connectivity. Active Directory Domain Services in the on-premises location is used for end user authentication.

    Deployment scenario with customer on-premises network

  • Customer’s Active Directory and SD-WAN: You can provide Citrix Managed Desktops users with access to files and other items from your on-premises or cloud SD-WAN networks.

    Citrix SD-WAN optimizes all the network connections needed by Citrix Managed Desktops. Working in concert with the HDX technologies, Citrix SD-WAN provides quality-of-service and connection reliability for ICA and out-of-band Citrix Managed Desktops traffic.

Deploying in a customer-managed subscription

Deployment scenario with customer-managed subscription

The preceding graphic illustrates using a customer-managed Azure subscription. However, the Citrix-managed subscription remains an option for other catalogs and images, as indicated by the dotted outline.

Citrix Managed Desktops