Citrix Cloud licensing is complicated, just like on-premises licensing

The everlasting Citrix licensing debate, with some notes from the field included.

Citrix licensing has always been a hot topic. The added value of the Platinum license—or the lack of—it is often heavily debated. Today, the same holds true when it comes to the various cloud service offerings and the corresponding Citrix Cloud licensing models. Let’s dig in a bit deeper, explore some of the options we have, and find out what the community and customers have to say about it.

First things first

With such a huge focus on cloud services, does it still make sense to discuss on-premises deployments? Yes, absolutely!

The push into the cloud is real and not to be denied. However, that doesn’t mean companies will start using it right away or abandon what they have now—they don’t necessarily have to, I know. It takes time, consideration, and careful planning. Many factors come into play and a lot of customers feel that the platform itself—Citrix Cloud in this case—needs to mature first before they consider it a serious alternative.  

As Jo Harder wrote earlier this year on BrianMadden.com, the adoption has been slow up until now. (Also, some of the comments made do not beat around the bush.) One way that Citrix is trying to fix this is with cloud Workspace Services and the upcoming Workspace App. It’s an interesting offering and I’m looking forward to hearing more details in the coming months.

Citrix licensing crash course

Before anything else, it’s important to know how licensing works and what some of the differences are when it comes to the various types and editions available, even if it’s just high level. If you want full details (calculation models included) on Citrix and Microsoft licensing, I’d suggest reading thisyou will need to login using your MyCitrix credentials.

To start, an on-premises Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop license is made up of three parts:

  1. The product ID, either XDT (XenDesktop) or MPS, which is old code for MetaFrame Presentation Server (in other words, XenApp)
  2. A license model, like User/Device or Concurrent
  3. And finally, an edition, i.e., Advanced, VDI (XenDesktop only), Enterprise, and Platinum

Depending on the edition you choose, more or fewer features will become available, and the product ID also speaks for itself.

As for the various license models available, XenApp (standalone) comes in Concurrent licenses only, while XenDesktop is available in User/Device and Concurrent. However, if you purchase XenApp as part of XenDesktop, your XenApp license model will be the same as your XenDesktop license. This way, you will be able to leverage User/Device licenses for XenApp as well.  

Customers can choose between a Current Release version of XenApp or XenDesktop, with updates every three to four months, or a Long-Term Service Release, which updates every two to three years—you get stability over new features.   

When you purchase XenApp and/or XenDesktop, a Customer Success Services (formerly known as Subscription Advantage) contract is mandatory for the duration of at least one year. After the first year, it’s optional to renew.

Finally, as of version 7.14, you have the ability to combine license models, meaning User/Device and Concurrent, and Product IDs (not editions), i.e., XenApp and XenDesktop as part of the same Site.

As you can imagine, all this does tend to make some heads spin from time to time.

Workspace Services and App

I already highlighted Citrix Workspace Services. It’s kind of an important one since Citrix is pushing hard to get everyone on board. The announcement of the Citrix Workspace App hasn’t gone unnoticed, and I must say, I like the idea of aggregating and accessing everything from a single interface and the “twist” they’re giving it. I think it will be the main driver to get (more) people interested in Citrix Workspace and the Citrix Cloud portfolio in general.

But how does this relate to on-premises customers? To be able to leverage the full capabilities of the Workspace App, it needs direct access to the Workspace experience service, which will be part of all other cloud services offered by Citrix—this is what takes care of the resource aggregation highlighted earlier.

Kevin Binder, principal product marketing manager for XenMobile EMM at Citrix, answered a couple of FAQs (make sure to check out some of the comments made) on the Workspace App. Among other things, it states that, if you are using XenApp or XenDesktop on premises combined with, at least one Citrix Cloud service like the NetScaler Gateway Service or XenMobile service you will be able to access all of your Virtual Apps and Desktops from a single interface.

Not using any cloud services, or don’t want to? Well, unfortunately you won’t be able to take full advantage of what the Workspace App has to offer, at least not today. Your experience will remain as-is—something to consider.

The potential added value

Determining the added value of an edition, like Platinum, or the abovementioned Workspace Service, for example can be tricky and will partly depend on the use case at hand, the person to whom you are talking, and so on. Any smart consultant will probably tell you that “it depends.” Are you looking for any specific features or functionality? Does it fit your budget and/or is it worth the investment ? What does your current environment look like?.

Also, the (list) price gap between Advanced and Platinum is significant; you could consider other third-party products—depending on what you need. I know of vendors whose entire suite would fit right in, with money to spare. You might even get a better product for it, although, that’s a matter of personal preference and opinion.

While some customers might agree that they are getting their money’s worth, others say that the gap between Advanced, Enterprise, and Platinum is simply too big, feature and price-wise, and they would love to see some of the “extras” become available for the Enterprise, Advanced, and Citrix Cloud licenses, as well.

In fact, if you look at the Citrix Edition feature matrix it can be hard to figure out where your “sweet spot” lies, so to speak. If you compare that to the Citrix Cloud services subscription overview(s) here and here, you could argue that you have a more granular choice of options and features when compared to the on-premises editions.

From the field

Citrix is known as a company that listens to its customers, at least that’s what we keep hearing, and I must say that there’s some truth in there, something I noticed first hand as a member of the Citrix CTP program. Here are some thoughts from the field:

For on-premises:

  • The Platinum edition is too expensive and the feature/price gap between the other editions is too big as well.
  • Make it more granular; like offer a base edition with optional add-ons, truly pay for what you use, or offering more flexibility. For example, hundreds of customers have Platinum licenses simply for PVS.
  • The ability to mix and match edition licenses within the same site—according to many, this would make a great addition. As mentioned, you don’t need all features for all of your users, all the time. To some extent, this applies to cloud licenses as well.
  • Make it less complicated. For some specific (sub) features (App Layering, WEM) you also need a Customer Success Services contract. This should go for all features, or none—keep it simple.

For cloud:

  • Too expensive, although marketing will tell you otherwise.
  • Customers do not want to purchase another product/service on top of what they already have just to be able to leverage the latest cloud features.
  • Prices and subscriptions are based on a year per user, with the best price shown based on a three-year commitment per user, and/or a minimum amount of licenses—we need more flexibility.
  • It’s not straightforward. For example, getting started with the Citrix Essentials bundles takes more work than anticipated. It’s not as easy to setup and manage as it sounds in theory or looks on paper.
  • Administrative tasks done via the Citrix Cloud management pane (Studio) take forever. This is very counterproductive.
  • When new services are introduced, the documentation needs to be more specific and clear on what customers can expect. This goes for on-premises editions, as well.

Do you have anything to add?

Conclusion

We have to be realistic, even though it may not seem that way, for Citrix Cloud it’s still early days. Is there room for improvement? Definitely. However, I think that Citrix has a tight focus on customer satisfaction and a good ear when it comes to the more technical-focused communities, so let’s give them some (more) time, agreed? Although, when it comes to on-premises licensing that ship might have sailed already.

Furthermore, Citrix is in the middle of transitioning from being a perpetual license software company to a subscription-based one, which has its challenges. Think about compliance issues, revenue recognition, lifecycle, and more. I know that we as customers and product users shouldn’t “suffer” from this, but being such a big and influential company like Citrix, I think this is inevitable, whether we like it or not.

I do hope that with all this going on, the traditional ways of implementing Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop keep getting the attention they deserve. For many customers, this is still the preferred way to take care of business.

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Nice article, thanks. You wrote: "For example, hundreds of customers have Platinum licenses simply for PVS." - I don't know reasons why choosing Platinum only for PVS. PVS is available in other Editions as well, or I am misinformed?
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Hi Jonny. It is for XenDesktop, not XenApp. Thanks. 
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Although, when it comes to on-premises licensing that ship might have sailed already. >> do you really think Citrix wants to fix this? Citrix is the blockbuster of the VDI industry. Late fees is same as complicated licensing.
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3 year commitment in the cloud?
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No, you're right - this should be corrected. The pricing they show is based on three years, the minimum is a year per user. Thanks for pointing out. 
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Can you share some adoption data of the express cloud editions? Like how many customers in production?
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It's essentials and a home run success.
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