Citrix Netscaler VPX Express (free but powerful)

An often overlooked resource (free) for small environments or for deployments with low requirements is the use of the Netscaler VPX Express. This is a very powerful device, and the VPX express gives you the features of a Standard Edition VPX express platform but has a few limitations.

Use Cases:

  • Load Balancing a small XenDesktop or XenApp Farm
  • Load Balancing Citrix PVS tftp
  • Load Balancing AD request
  • Load Balancing DNS
  • Load Balancing just about any web site or service…
  • Unlimited ICA Proxy connections to XenDesktop/XenApp (still bound by 5 Mpbs throughput)
  • Remote access to Citrix XenDesktop and Citrix XenApp (Access Gateway)
  • Load Balancing a VMware View deployment (more to come on this one…)
  • Full VPN tunnel for up to 5 concurrent users
  • Clientless access to Web Sites or File Shares
  • External access to Exchange or other web sites and file shares.


  • Netscaler Standard Edition Features
    • Load Balancing
    • Access Gateway
    • Content Switching
    • Web Logging
    • Content Filtering
    • URL Rewrite
  • Pay as you grow – VPX has all the same features and is only limited by licensing, can pay for a higher edition to expose new features and increase your total throughput
  • Netscaler includes 5 free Access Gateway Enterprise Edition concurrent licenses (what does that give me…?)
    • Full VPN Tunnel
    • EndPoint Analaysis
    • Policy Based SmartAccess
    • Clientless access to Web Sites and File Shares

I think you get the idea, so what are the major limitations of the Netscaler VPX Express? This sounds too good to be true..

  • License only last one year.. (bummer), “but wait there’s more..” but its free and you can just request another license for the next year
  • 5 Mbps throughput (this applies to all traffic and can be upgraded with a simple license purchase)
  • No SSL offload (this is try of any VPX Netscaler) The Netscaler physical appliances offer SSL offload to dedicated hardware for encryption/decryption. This improved the performance of the box as the CPU doesn’t have to handle the SSL encryption/decryption.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for what the Netscaler can do and the free ones main limitation is the bandwidth which can be upgraded with a license purchase. You can also deploy as many of these appliances as you need to handle the workload, each pair would have the 5 Mpbs limitation. It may not sound like much bandwidth but that is per second.

Test it out, deploy the VPX Express yourself and see what your workload throughput is by putting it through the Netscaler and you may be surprised, maybe the VPX Express will be right for you… The Netscaler VPX Express is easy to deploy and can run on VMware vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer, there are appliances for each of these hypervisors.

8 Responses to Citrix Netscaler VPX Express (free but powerful)

  1. Good post! I indeed will try Express when I get my home lab setup.

  2. It would be nice to have some sort of "magic number" for X of users should be able to run with VPX Express. Have you tested the VPX Express against a certain set of users by any chance?

  3. Tom,

    I wish there were an easy answer. Barry Schiffer wrote a good post on sizing the Netscaler both MPX and VPX platforms. The answer is really that "It Depends" however there is good information out there to help you find that answer.

    There are also two blogs that you may find useful on on the bandwidth side of the equation.
    How much bandwidth do I need for my Virtual Desktop
    Blog Series – XenDesktop Bandwidth

  4. Good post!
    At the moment we use Citrix Secure Gateway with our Citrix XenApp farm with Citrix Webinterface.
    In our new environment we will use storefront in combination with the free VPX.
    What options will we miss in with the free VPX solution?

  5. I am currently using Xenapps 7.6 with Storefront and Netscaler VPX Express. When users are logged in they use 1 of the Gateway User Licenses. So, currently I can only have a Maximum of 5 users logged in at any given time. Is there another way to configure Xenapps and/or Netscaler VPX Express to get more than 5 users in Xenapps at 1 time?

    Can I have multiple Netscaler VPX Express Instances going to 1 storefront? Can I configure it so In Domain Users don't use Netscaler since they already have a trust?

    Currently I only have 15 Xenapp Licenses and it seems like Netscaler VPX 10 at $1500 is a lot to spend, let alone over kill for only an additional 10 users max.

    Any help is appreciated.

  6. Matt,

    This is probably a bigger discussion than a comment on my blog

    You would need to set your Netscaler Gateway to Basic mode vs Smart Access to have more than 5 Users.

    You can set it up to only go to 1 StoreFront though two would be recommended for High availability.

    You could have more than one VPX Express set up to go to one storefront..

    Are you asking if you could do Passthrough from the Netscaler or are you asking if the users can access StoreFront internally and bypass the Netscaler?

    If this is for production, it may be worthwhile to purchase the VPX as you would also get support on the Netscaler as well. That would be the biggest benefit from you purchasing the product.

  7. Thank you for your post. However, I'm pretty sure the VPX Netscaler editions can do SSL Offload. It's just not as efficient as their physical counterparts for reasons you have stated.

  8. I believe you're not in basic mode. If you edit the session profiles, make sure ICA Proxy is on. I've got the same setup but with 30 users, they don't consume any licenses on the VPX.