During some recent company events/workshops, some discussions around the licensed features for XenApp and XenDesktop product editions got me thinking about how Citrix could add more value to the products. It also has me thinking, is the value of Platinum edition diminishing as it stands today? In this blog post I am going to write about some ideas on how Citrix could revamp the licensing for XenApp and XenDesktop.
I have been involved with Citrix products since the MetaFrame 1.8 days and liked how Citrix has added new features and functionality with each new release of their application and desktop virtualization products. Over the years acquisitions have been made to also provide more value to the product editions of XenApp and XenDesktop. Think about some of the acquisitions of the years.
- Net6 – Access Gateway
- Orbital Data – Repeater/Branch Repeater
- Reflectent – EdgeSight
- Ardence – Provisioning Services
- RingCube – Personal vDisk
- Virtual Computing – XenClient
- XenSource – XenServer
- Kaviza – VDI-in-a-Box
There have been other acquisitions as well. These are just a few off the top of my head. While most of these acquisitions or pieces of these acquisitions have made it into some of the product editions for XenApp and/or XenDesktop, others are still sold as separate products. If you look at what you get for a XenApp or XenDesktop Platinum license, is it really still worth the cost over purchasing the Enterprise edition of these products? Has the value of Platinum edition diminished compared to what Citrix has for other product offerings not included in Platinum editions of XenApp and XenDesktop today?
Let’s look at what you get in XenApp and XenDesktop Platinum edition today.
- Smart Auditor
- Single Sign-On/Password Manager
- Access Gateway Universal Licenses
- Provisioning Services (XenApp Platinum)
- Branch Repeater VPX 45 (XenDesktop Platinum)
- Branch Repeater Plug-in Licenses
EdgeSight – When EdgeSight was first released it was a very useful tool. It still is in some cases. Over the years EdgeSight has taken a back seat to other monitoring tools out there. EdgeSight also has some overhead that cannot be overlooked when sizing your XenApp and XenDesktop environments. Tools like Splunk, eG Innovations, and System Center Operations Manager with the ComTrade management packs are used instead of EdgeSight in some customer environments. There are others out there, these are just to name a few. In some cases Desktop Director is good enough for some environments because it is simple and easy to use for the help desk staff. I even still come across customers using Resource Manager because of the flexibility to customize it to their needs that EdgeSight doesn’t have. Even Citrix has conceded XenServer monitoring to System Center Operations Manager. Why not use their own in house product for XenServer monitoring? It seems over the last few releases/updates, not much development has gone into EdgeSight.
Smart Auditor – I feel this is one product Citrix missed some opportunities with. For some customers this is a hidden gem/easter egg. Most customers don’t know about it, but when they see it in demos they love it. That is until they ask about being able to record XenDesktop sessions and find out it is limited to XenApp only. Also there are limitations in XenApp. You have to think about which applications you are going to record then silo them off to their own application silo or disable session sharing. Two things that could make Smart Auditor more widely used are monitor for process launch instead of session launch and enable XenDesktop session recording. Also making the product more user friendly could go a long way. This is a great troubleshooting tool.
Single Sign-On/Password Manager – Single Sign-On is another tool that I used to work with a lot in the past, but don’t see it as widely used anymore. In most recent deployments, the main feature I get requests for and deploy is the self service password reset feature. Along with EdgeSight, it doesn’t seem like much development has gone into recent updates. Citrix could go a few different ways with this product. They could either stop doing single sign-on all together, move single sign-on into Cloud Gateway (at least the self service password and reset feature), or develop it further with a tap in and tap out solution. From my understanding Cloud Gateway won’t work with Windows/terminal based applications. This is where merging Cloud Gateway and Single Sign-On would have great benefits. Cloud Gateway would handle web based apps (being browser agnostic where current Single Sign-On today is limited to Internet Explorer) and have a Windows agent that would use the Cloud Gateway database for Windows/terminal based application definitions and credentials. I work with a lot of customers in healthcare throughout the midwest and this is one area where an opportunity is missed. Yes there are products like Aventura, Imprivata, HealthCast, etc that do more than just tap in and tap out, but if those products are purchased as add-ons then why not just go with Enterprise edition of XenApp or XenDesktop? Save the money in the licensing cost difference between Enterprise and Platinum to put that money towards the third party solution. Now I like solutions like Shared Workstations that integrate with Single Sign-On. I have a customer testing this now and results are good so far.
Access Gateway Universal Licenses – If you think about what the Access Gateway Universal Licenses offers, the use of these are a case by case basis. The features you get with these licenses are Smart Access, End Point Analysis Scanning, Clientless Access and SSL VPN. In most deployments I come across don’t use the majority of these features. With the introduction of the Access Gateway Platform license, I only see the Access Gateway Universal License used for SSL VPN. Smart Access, End Point Analysis Scanning, and Client Access have small uses cases. The OPSWAT integration with the Access Gateway (CAG) has renewed some interest in End Point Analysis Scanning, but the lack of integration with Access Gateway Enterprise/NetScaler hasn’t helped for NetScaler deployments. So that leaves SSL VPN. When SSL VPN is used, it is mostly only used for administrators/IT Staff. Instead of getting Platinum edition, why not just go with Enterprise and purchase the licenses you need for SSL VPN separately. If you think about, majority of users only need ICA Proxy which the Access Gateway Platform license provides and is included when you purchase a physical appliance, virtual appliance, or bandwidth license for NetScaler VPX. Appliance purchase still necessary. Majority of installs I have worked with purchase physical NetScaler appliances because they are consolidating multiple products from other vendors and are replacing it with a NetScaler application delivery controller.
Provisioning Services in XenApp Platinum – This speaks for itself. Probably one of the most widely used features in XenApp Platinum. If you think about it though, just get XenDesktop Enterprise licenses and you get Provisioning Services along with other features like XenClient, XenDesktop, Remote PC, etc.
Branch Repeater VPX 45 in XenDesktop Platinum – Now most customers already have a type of WAN optimization/acceleration device. In most cases Riverbed or Cisco is already deployed. Branch Repeater is evaluated but results vary based on what kind of traffic is being optimized/accelerated. In most deployments where Branch Repeater is used, physical appliances are purchased. Smaller deployments will use the Branch Repeater VPX included with XenDesktop, but this few and far between. After all, you will have to put a server at the branch office to host the Branch Repeater VPX to use it if you don’t have any.
Branch Repeater Plug-in Licenses – I honestly don’t see much use of these. Most deployments I come across are site to site with physical or virtual appliances or they already have a WAN optimization/acceleration device in place. For XenApp Platinum, an appliance purchase is necessary to use these.
What can Citrix do to add value to Platinum licensing?
XenApp and XenDesktop – Why not add entitlements for Cloud Gateway Enterprise, AppDNA, and Access Gateway virtual appliances with Platform licenses? This would immediately add value to Platinum licensing for XenApp and XenDesktop. I am not saying give them everything that Cloud Gateway Enterprise and AppDNA offer in Platinum editions, but give them some features of the products. Cloud Gateway Enterprise could just be the single sign-on pieces, but not the mobile application management or MDX technologies. AppDNA could be just the Standard Edition or the Enterprise Edition with a fixed amount of applications.
XenDesktop – Why not change the XenServer entitlement to XenServer Platinum edition equivalent in XenDesktop Platinum? That way XenDesktop Platinum licensed customers have the site recovery option. Along with XenServer Platinum, why not also add VDI-in-a-Box to XenDesktop Platinum? Adding VDI-in-a-Box to XenDesktop Platinum would give licensed customers the full flex cast model Citrix offers. This needs to be added to Enterprise edition as well, but I will address that below since this is about Platinum licensing.
What needs to change in XenDesktop licensing?
The entire XenDesktop editions licensing needs to be updated. VDI-in-a-Box and XenDesktop VDI edition are competing products. VDI-in-a-Box feels like the red headed step child at Citrix. Depending who you talk to at Citrix, some love it and some hate it. The main advantage of XenDesktop VDI edition over VDI-in-a-Box is the ability to license key upgrade seamlessly to XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum instead of a migration/forklift upgrade. Now if there were a better process of going from VDI-in-a-Box to XenDesktop, then XenDesktop VDI edition could just go away. Also let’s talk about one of the most talked about features of XenDesktop 5.6 Feature Pack 1, Remote PC. Remote PC has a lot of upside to it. Every time I talk about this feature or demo it to customers, they love it. The downside to Remote PC is that XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum edition is needed for Remote PC. I feel Citrix could gain more traction with Remote PC if they had a lower edition than XenDesktop Enterprise that included Remote PC. So with that being said here’s what needs to change with XenDesktop editions licensing:
- XenDesktop VDI edition needs to go away and VDI-in-a-Box needs to become the new XenDesktop VDI edition
- XenDesktop Advanced needs to be added that includes XenApp Advanced, Remote PC, and Provisioning Services to physical machines along with all the features in the previous XenDesktop VDI edition
- XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum have VDI-in-a-Box added
- XenDesktop Platinum has Cloud Gateway Enterprise (limited), AppDNA (Standard), Access Gateway VPX, and XenServer Platinum added
One last thought and this may sound a little out there, but why not just stop selling XenApp as a separate product and just have XenDesktop? If you think about what you get in XenDesktop versus XenApp along with the license options of per user/device and concurrent users, then why not just have XenDesktop? For a little more money (if buying concurrent) or less money (if buying per user/device), you get more value and flexibility for the licensing cost. I blogged about this in a past article – With the new XenDesktop CCU License options will XenApp only be sold with XenDesktop?
So that’s my take on how Citrix could revamp licensing for XenApp and XenDesktop. With Citrix Synergy Barcelona coming up next week, hopefully Citrix announces some licensing changes around XenApp and XenDesktop along with adding to/restoring the value of Platinum licensing.
If you have found this article interesting or if you have other insights, please feel free to leave comments on this article.