Citrix has just released the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.15 Long-Term Service Release (LTSR). With this version, upgrading is both a technical and business decision, and IT departments must consider the LTSR program in general.
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Let’s take a look at the Long-Term Service Release considerations, as well as are features that are—and are not—included with XenApp/XenDesktop 7.15.
What is Long-Term Service Release?
The advantage of LTSR has been touted as a way to keep up with enhancements to Citrix products, but at a more moderate pace. With Citrix releasing new versions of XenApp/XenDesktop quarterly, many IT organizations simply cannot keep up. Large organizations in particular must undertake extensive efforts to plan and find resources for upgrades; thus, from a business perspective, the stability associated with the LTSR program may be more suitable.
Under the LTSR program, Citrix states that customers with Software Maintenance will be provided with mainstream support for five years, and then extended support for another five years. Because some interim fixes become necessary, cumulative updates are made available every few months; however, the cumulative updates do not include any feature enhancements.
LTSR maximizes the stability of an environment because numerous associated components must be based on specific versions. As such, potential incompatibilities from newer versions of various components are not a problem.
While LTSR may be palatable—and even advantageous—from an IT management and business perspective, Citrix customers need to consider whether it is suitable from a technical angle. For example, if a desired XenApp/XenDesktop version or feature becomes available post-LTSR, it should not be implemented in the environment, as it may introduce compatibility or compliance issues.
Citrix has committed to releasing LTSR versions every 12–24 months. It’s been two years since Citrix released the first XenApp/XenDesktop LTSR, which was based on version 7.6. At that time, feature parity between XenApp 6.5 and 7.6 still had not been achieved, and those that elected to implement that LTSR were unable to take advantage of some later features. For example, COM port redirection and Universal Print Server load balancing were introduced in XenApp/XenDesktop 7.9, and thus unavailable for LTSR environments.
What’s new with XenApp/XenDesktop 7.15?
Unlike many previous releases, XenApp/XenDesktop 7.15 includes only a few feature enhancements, including application failure monitoring via Director, as well as Citrix Licensing display information. Although Citrix issued a respin of XenApp/XenDesktop 7.14, the revised release (version 7.14.1) was known to have numerous issues.
Based on the lengthy Fixed Issues list, as compared to the scant What’s New list, Citrix obviously focused on addressing issues when creating this long-term release. From a technical perspective—especially for those that installed version 7.14.1—upgrading to version 7.15 should provide stability and general improvements.
Along with new features, Citrix has also announced that some capabilities will be deprecated. A key item is focused on upgrading XenApp 6.5 servers based on Windows Server 2008 R2 to XenApp 7.x. By removing the XenApp 6.5 software and installing the XenApp 7.x VDA, these servers can be enabled to function as part of a XenApp 7.x site.
While upgrading XenApp servers is certainly the easiest route compared to reinstalling applications onto a fresh server operating system, adopting LTSR will likely provide the longest life span for these servers and may be the best business decision.
However, for those that use AppDisks (a basic app layering technology) and Personal vDisk (a user-specific add-on drive), be aware that these features are not covered under LTSR. Overall, the adoption of AppDisks was low, but PvD was widely used with XenDesktop, and the new App Layering feature (formerly Unidesk) requires a rip and replace.
Upgrading to XenApp/XenDesktop 7.15 is not just a technical decision, but a complex business one as well. While version 7.6 LTSR two years ago might have had some issues, now that feature parity has been achieved, version 7.15 LTSR is compelling, especially for upgraded XenApp 6.5 environments.