Earlier today Citrix made a slew of announcements about XenDesktop 4, the latest version of their desktop and application delivery suite. The critical facts from the announcements are:
- XenDesktop can be used to deliver any kind of desktop, not just VDI (except for the lowest end XenDesktop “Standard” edition)
- XenApp and XenServer are fully included in all editions of the product (again, except for Standard)
- HDX is more than just a protocol
- XenDesktop licensing is now per-named user instead of per-concurrent user
- Current XenApp customers can “trade up” their XenApp licenses to XenDesktop licenses in a limited-time 2-for-1 deal
Let’s dig into the details.
Citrix “FlexCast:” any desktop, any app, any way
Gabe and I have struggled the past few years to come up with a name for the “new desktop.” We’ve tossed around terms like xDI, VDI+, and just plain “desktop virtualization.” Citrix has decided to use the term “FlexCast” to show how XenDesktop can deliver more than just VDI.
The new XenDesktop product bundle can now deliver (err, “cast”) the following types of desktops and apps:
- Traditional terminal-server (remote desktop session host) remote desktops
- Hosted virtual machines (VDI)
- Blade PCs
- Streamed OS on bare metal
- Virtual apps which are streamed and run locally on a client
- Hosted apps from a remote terminal server
- Hosted apps from a remote single-user VM
- and soon, client VMs that run on a XenClient client hypervisor (with offline support)
That’s a seriously impressive list, and moving forward, you get any combination of any of these app and desktop delivery technologies for each user license of XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum that you buy. Not too shabby!
XenApp is now built-in to XenDesktop
I’ve always thought it was silly that Citrix had a separate XenApp and XenDesktop product. (My reasoning came from the fact you could deliver certain types of desktops from XenApp too, so why have two products? I wrote about this as recently as last week.)
One of today’s announcements is that the Enterprise and Platinum editions of XenDesktop now include XenApp for use in a completely unrestricted way for your XenDesktop users. So your single XenDesktop license will allow you to provide remote apps, streamed apps, desktops... you name it! (That’s the whole “FlexCast” thing from above.)
It’s important to note that this “FlexCast” feature is only part of XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum. If you look at the XenDesktop product edition feature matrix, you’ll see that the “Standard” edition is sort of an old school “VDI-only” product, while Enterprise and Platinum combine everything.
Switching from concurrent user to named user licensing
Certainly the biggest buzz around XenDesktop right now is that Citrix is switching from a concurrent user to a named user licensing model. From a technical standpoint this actually makes a lot of sense since XenDesktop is not typically used in a concurrent way—It’s not like people really buy desktop licenses based on concurrency. Instead people usually think, “Ok, I have 300 users so I will buy 300 licenses.” They don’t usually think, “ok, I have 300 users, but I only expect that 200 will be online at any given time, so I’ll just buy 200 licenses.”
Switching to per user makes even more sense as XenDesktop evolves to support offline users, since the concept of concurrency is kind of moot in an offline world. (Can you imagine if workers were not allowed to work from home in the evening because someone else was using their license?) The “per-named user” approach is also in-line with how Microsoft licenses their desktops and VECD, and it’s how all the other major players (VMware, etc.) license their desktop products.
Of course whether the switch is theoretically good or not is irrelevant if you're hurt by it, as certainly some people will be. Most notably are folks in the education sector who buy licenses for students and classes. Nothing is final yet, but the word is that Citrix may very well offer a concurrent user model that’s only available to customers in the education sector.
Trade your existing XenApp licenses for XenDesktop licenses
In perhaps one of the strangest announcements in recent memory, Citrix is offering a 2-for-1 XenApp-for-Xendesktop license trade-in deal if (1) you act fast, (2) you pay a small(ish) one-time fee, and (3) you trade ALL your licenses!
The deal is that if you’re a current XenApp customer and you’d like to move to XenDesktop, Citrix is offering a one-time deal where you can trade your XenApp licenses for XenDesktop licenses. Since XenApp has historically been more expensive than XenDesktop, Citrix is offering a 2-for-1 deal, where you get two XenDesktop licenses for every XenApp license you currently own. The cool thing about the trade-up is that you get the full XenApp product license for all XenDesktop users so when you trade-up, you don’t “lose” your ability to use XenApp.
To get this, you’ll need to pay a one-time fee of $45 (Enterprise) or $60 (Platinum) per XenApp license for the trade-up, as well as adding your newly doubled XenDesktop licenses to your Subscription Advantage ($50 per year). (These prices are only valid in the US. I don't know what it looks like in the rest of the world.) There's a catch, though. You can only get this 2-for-1 deal if you trade ALL your XenApp licenses, and then you're sort of locked in with the new named user pricing forever. If you want to just trade a subset of some of your licenses, you can, but you only get a 1-for-1 exchange. (Citrix has a trade-up calculator online, so you can check your specific costs. Unfortunately in order to use it, you have to provide your full contact information, so I would assume you're adding yourself as a 'lead' when you use this thing. I can just imagine the Citrix sales reps salivating over the emails from this thing! "Bob in Ohio just ran a calculation for trading up 1,200,000 XenApp licenses!")
The good news there is that the trade-up is optional, so if you don’t want to trade for XenDesktop, you don’t have to. XenApp is still available on a per-concurrent user basis and Citrix made it clear that they have no plans to end-of-life the product. (Although I wish they would and just have it all built-in to XenDesktop.)
My sense is that moving forward, everyone will buy XenDesktop licenses on a per-named user basis and then be able to deliver apps and desktops as needed.
XenDesktop 4: Focus on HDX
From a technical standpoint, the big news for XenDesktop 4 is Citrix’s focus on HDX and the user experience. Citrix’s marketing is that “good user experience is more than just a protocol.” This is clearly a preemptive strike against VMware since VMware View 4 (which is expected later this year) will include the software-only version of Teradici’s PC-over-IP protocol. The new HDX features of XenDesktop 4 deserve their own article, which is something we’ll write about later this week.
XenDesktop 4 pricing and availability
Most of the XenDesktop 4 components are available now in Tech Preview, with the final code becoming available on November 16. Pricing will be USD $75 per named user for the Standard Edition, $225 for Enterprise, and $350 for Platinum.
By the way, I know I’ve said this before, but I just love love LOVE the fact that there’s a “dare to compare” section on the XenDesktop 4 website. I love the fact that Citrix has actual competition now, and that that competition is driving Citrix’s development, pricing, and product feature strategies. Yay for competition!
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