Citrix XenDesktop pricing is out-of-whack (or, The $175 per-user Citrix "Application Tax")

Now that the May 20 release date of Citrix XenDesktop is getting close, it's worth having a conversation about some strange pricing that works out to a $175 per concurrent user (CCU) tax on application publishing. [Note: I made a factual error in this blog.

Now that the May 20 release date of Citrix XenDesktop is getting close, it's worth having a conversation about some strange pricing that works out to a $175 per concurrent user (CCU) tax on application publishing.

[Note: I made a factual error in this blog. In it, I wrote that Citrix XenDesktop supports publishing desktops from Terminal Servers in addition to VDI desktops. (You know, since that was the whole marketing message around v1 of the product.) But thanks to the commenters I learned that Citrix removed that feature from the version of XenDesktop that will ship in a few weeks. However, I'm keeping this blog intact, as I think that fact does not change my main point, which is that Citrix has a pricing "tax" for application publishing since Presentation Server is so much more expensive per CCU than XenDesktop.]

Background Information

Let's first start with some background facts. Citrix Presentation Server is available in three editions: Advanced, Enterprise, and Platinum, for $350, $450, and $600 per CCU each, respectively. Without going into the full details of the differences per edition, you should at least know that application streaming (whether to Presentation Servers or offline users) is only available in the Enterprise ($450) edition or above.

Citrix XenDesktop will (on May 20) also be available in Advanced, Enterprise, and Platinum editions, for $75, $175, or $275 per CCU each, respectively. The $75 version does not include Provisioning Server (Ardence), so no one will probably buy that, and the $275 version includes EdgeSight and other things that are nice, but not crucial, so for the purposes of this article, the $175 per CCU Enterprise version of XenDesktop is probably the version that most people will be buying. (All three versions include PortICA and XenServer, by the way.)

Presentation Server and XenDesktop both connect users to remote sessions via the ICA protocol. Presentation Server connects users to single applications published seamlessly as well as full published desktops, although the "catch" is that both must be running from Terminal Servers.

XenDesktop connects users to full desktops only, although they can be running from Terminal Servers or single instance Windows XP / Vista running on blades or VMs. XenDesktop's "catch" is that it can only connect users to full desktops--not single seamless published applications.

Citrix's Wackness

The problem is that neither product offers single application seamless windows publishing from a single-user VDI desktop. (This is something that Ericom and Provision Networks / Quest have offered for a long time.)

It's weird because Citrix supports the concept of single app publishing (Presentation Server), and they support the concept of single-user hosted computing (XenDesktop), so they can't logically say there's no business case. But why don't they let you combine these both into a single product?

It's simple: Presentation Server costs more than XenDesktop. A lot more. Minimum $175 per USER more if you compare XenDesktop Enterprise (the minimun usable version) to Presentation Server Advanced (the cheapest version). If Citrix simply added single application seamless windows publishing to their $175 per user XenDesktop product, why on earth would anyone spend $350 per CCU for Presentation Server?

Think about it. The main argument against VM-based VDI (today) is about user density. Given the same hardware, you can fit many more users on a server running Terminal Server than you can on that same server running a bunch of Windows XP VMs.

However, the difference between $350 for Presentation Server and $175 for XenDesktop is a lot of money. (Remember, this is PER USER!) Imagine if the average Terminal Server could support 100 users. That's a $17,500 "tax" on that server just to publish seamless apps! (It's a "seamless app tax" because if you just wanted to publish desktops, you'd use the $175 XenDesktop with Provisioning Server and be done. Sure, you'd have to buy more hardware to support those same hundred users, but $17,500 can buy a lot of cores and RAM. And I'd argue that even if you had to spend ALL the money you saved on extra hardware, I'd still go for the XenDesktop solution because then I could use a single Windows XP image for all my users--local and remote.)

(Oh, and it's funny. I was telling someone at Citrix about this, saying "why would anyone buy Presentation Server anymore if XenDesktop offered single-app publishing?" and his response was "streaming," since people can use Presentation Server to stream apps that can run locally on clients. But to get streaming, you need the Enterprise version of Presentation Server which is $450 per CCU, or $275 MORE than XenDesktop Enterprise PER USER. So now you're talking about a difference of $27k for 100 users. But really who would buy Enterprise just for streaming since you can buy SoftGrid from Microsoft which is much better for less money.)

Back on topic, so the reason Citrix can't add single app publishing to XenDesktop is because doing so would cannibalize their Presentation Server sales which still make up the lion's share of their annual revenue.

So what else could Citrix do? They can't raise the price of XenDesktop, because VMware's all-inclusive VDI solution is $150 per CCU, and Provision Networks / Quest's solution is $100 per CCU, so raising the price of XenDesktop over $175 would put them right out of the game. (And you know if they did offer a single app publishing feature they would make that part of Platinum or Super Platinum or whatever which would probably be at least $275.)

Maybe Citrix could just add a feature to Presentation Server where you could also use Presentation Server to publish seamless apps from single user Workstation OSes? (Essentially "build in" the XenDesktop features to Presentation Server.) But this is weird now because XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum include Citrix Provisioning Server, but Presentation Server does not. (Even Presentation Server Platinum does not! But that's an article for another day.)

Rock, hard place: meet Citrix.

The bottom line is the fact that XenDesktop is so cool yet so cheap is really going to come back to haunt Citrix. And they're stuck. They can't raise the price because they have to compete with VMware and Quest. Quest already has the single app VDI publishing feature, but no one is paying too much attention to them (yet). But can you imagine what would happen if VMware added single-user app publishing to their VDI solution? And if they kept the price down to under $200 or so? What would Citrix do then? Talk about game-changing!

By the way, if you currently use Citrix Presentation Server just to publish desktops, I would immediately throw that away and buy Citrix XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum when it comes out. Depending on which version of Presentation Server you use, you could save $75 to $425 PER USER.

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in this debate, we must add the OS licence price in the comparison between the VDI and the SBC infrastructure.

In VDI, the OS licence per user cost in very highter than the SBC.

VDI licence cost : ~175$(VDI) and ~200$(OS) total 375 $

SBC licence cost : ~350$(XA) and ~15$ (OS) total 365 $




I am a little bit surprised about your positioning. According to my informations published TS Desktop will not be included in XenDesktop - it was only included in Desktop Server 1.0.





You are a little bit off the mark here. and it's not so black and white as you suggest.  XenDesktop isn't beeing positioned by Citrix as a TS desktop replacement in the first place. You will still get much better TCO from using Terminal Services in combination with XenApp as a published desktop platform to run apps from. For those users that can't be served with a SBC based desktop, you build an additional XenDesktop enviroment next to it.

Secondly you don't need an XenApp Enterprise license for every user you want to stream apps to, if they use a VM based desktop. This just requires a Desktop Streaming Add-on License which is much cheaper than a full blown Enterprise of Platinum CAL. You could in essence buy 1 Enterprise Lic to get the XenApp server up and running, and then use only streaming licences to stream apps to the VM's, which is comparable in price to using Softgrid, but with the added features and integration of XenApp.

I work at a Citrix partner and we advise our customers to go for a hybrid solution. First build a terminal services XenApp environment (which covers pretty much all users), and then for those special cases where a SBC desktop doesn't suffice, build a XenDesktop environment next to it. The cool thing is all the management and web interface stuff integrates so its very easy for the admins to handle and the users to access.  Pricewise this is a very good solution, and compared to other vendors we see a significant value add in terms of manageability. It might not be the cheapest solution out of the box, but it is certainly the most bang for your buck to go for Citrix's XenDesktop thing. We have 4 beta PoC's running (XenApp + VMWare VDM and XenApp + XenDesktop) and all 3 customers have already comitted to buying the (Enterprise) product when it comes out. Price was not an issue at all for these customers. The one that went for VMWare did so because they had low spec requirements and already had VMWare in place, so we could only support their decision is not going for XD. Then again, XD also support VMWare, so we might be seeing this customer back once he wants to remote his desktops over the Internet :P


with the OS licensing,

VDI users can buy microsft VECD lics, i think its around $70 for vista licenses.

 And i guess we should include TSCals for SBC ?



although i agree and we also usally position VDI as an excellent addition to an environment to fill the user emporwement gap for SBC.

I think this was an interesting read, and wonder if the cost of XenApp, especially in smaller environments could speed the uptake of provision?


If you read carefully, that FAQ says nothing about XenDesktop supporting TS desktops.  Instead, it describes TS as one type of desktop virtualization.

Desktop Server 1.0 supported TS desktops, but this was removed in XenDesktop 2.0 to prevent confusion (and revenue cannibalization) on the XenApp vs. XenDesktop story.



You left out a huge cost  difference of VDI- HARDWARE.


Services with Citrix PS is ALOT more scalable (especially 64 bit) than
any hypervisor running  Windows desktops. You can get 100 or more
concurrent users on a dual proc with SBC. How many Vista or XP VMs
would that support? 50? 30? With dual proc/dual core, you can likely
get 175 - 200 users on SBC with X64. Even if you go nuts and get 30 XP
VM's per core, that is only 120.

Isnt the whole reason server
virtualization is the hottest IT market is because the power and
cooling of servers is so incredibly high? And now we want to buy a ton
more servers and run both the desktop OS and apps on serverS?

VDI solution will need many more servers than SBC. And for every dollar
you spend on buying servers, you spend 50 cents buying power and
cooling infrastructure (according to IDC). Not to mention datacenter
space costs about $1000 per  foot, or $2400 per server (also IDC). 
Then you have to pay the monthly power and cooling bill. Have you seen
the price of oil lately?


The whole justification for VDI
supposedely is many apps will not work in SBC. That is BS in my
opinion.  I you have any real clue in what you are doing, it is not
that difficult to get an app to work on TS. It can be trickier to get
the isv to support it, but that can be done.


I think any
VDI cost model has to look at the cost of more servers and the power
and cooling costs of running those servers. I can't see any way VDI
will ever be as scalable as SBC, because you have OS overhead for every
user. Vista and XP are not designed to get away with the bare minimum.
I laugh every time a see a vendor study that list using only 256 MB of
ram per XP user (I even saw one only go for 128 MB). That is just


The only time I recommend VDI in my consulting
business is for developers. You can get alot of benefits for that (and
there are real app issues on SBC for that). You might be able to come
up with a couple more narrow niches from my perspective. 


If you want a valid price comparison, you
have to include the difference in cost of hardware AND Power and
cooling at a minimum.  Software licensing is not the only concern.

I do not agree, because with TS, you need a TS CAL which is MSRP $119. With VDI, you only need a VECD license, which is MSRP $78. Both of these assume you already have a Vista license.
Good point. When you do SBC with Citrix, the majority of the overall cost of the implementation is Citrix. When you do VDI with Citrix, the majority of the overall cost goes to Microsoft and the hardware vendor. Just because XenDesktop is siginificantly cheaper per concurrent user than XenApp (hence Brian calling it a tax), the overall costs of a VDI solution is still more per concurrent user than an SBC solution. Given that I completely disagree with Brian's recommendation that "if you currently use Citrix Presentation Server just to publish desktops, I would immediately throw that away and buy Citrix XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum when it comes out." That could cause concurrent use costs to increase.
The major benefit of VDI is not power or cooling savings, it is management savings. Through profile managment, folder redirecton and application streaming an organization can realize the benefit of the OS being simply a file that can be deleted and recreated on the fly. The user is impacted none as his/her files, settings and applications no longer exist in the VM. This, of course, assumes that you can virtualize your apps. If you use Citrix's tool, you probably won't, but with Softgrid and especially thinstall (before the aquisition) you can see a good majority of your apps, and possibily all, virtualized. I have customers who are doing exactly this. It is a complete paradigm shift in the way "desktops" are managed. The storm is coming.
I don't think I left out the hardware cost. My feeling was you could buy a lot of hardware and power for the money you saved on Citrix licensing.

You should come see our "Why VDI" at Briforum.

Hardware and datacenter costs are only a part of the overall cost in delviering an application.  How much money is spent on the 1000s of PC out in the field?  Not just procurment costs.  They have power and cooling costs associated with them in addition to support costs.

I don't agree with you statement, "The whole justification for VDI
supposedely is many apps will not work in SBC. That is BS in my
opinion.  I you have any real clue in what you are doing, it is not
that difficult to get an app to work on TS. It can be trickier to get
the isv to support it, but that can be done."

That kind of statement is arragant, it shows that you lack experience.  I'm guessing that you've never worked on a project at a school, hospital, or finacial institution.  If your really that good,  I'd like to see you get Camtasia or ScreenRecorder to work inside a Presentation Server desktop.

Then there are support costs. The company has to invest in two different processes for delivering the application.  One for convential workstation and one for Terminal Servers. 



Where did you get these numbers?

VCED license is $23 and SBC requires a terminal server license which costs ~$75 per device/user.



Where is the SAN cost , the san management and the backup solution you must have for VDI infrastructure ?


Wow, interesting! I definitely did not realize this, and I only installed the beta on Windows XP VMs. So I need to change some things in the article. BUT, that doesn't change the main point, which is that Presentation Server is really damn expensive, so I wonder whether that negates any potential savings you have by a TS versus a VDI solution?
We had a conversation about VECD at the MVP Summit a few weeks ago. Maybe one of the other MVPs can fill me in, because I didn't remember that VECD required a TS CAL? And if it really is $23 instead of $78 (for rich clients), then woo-hoo! .. That's even more license saving in the VDI model.
Citrix VDI solutions do not require a SAN, since they use Provisioning Server / Ardence. As for VMware solutions, well, they ARE owned by EMC, so perhaps they're less excited about thousands of users sharing the same disk image? Although they have solutions that let users share single images too (just not as sophisticated as Citrix).

You did cover it briefly, so I should have been more clear on my opening. I apologize for not stating it more plainly.

cost of acquisistion of hardware is not the only cost. Power and
cooling are a major cost in owning and operating server hardware. Those
costs are a huge factor in driving the server virtualization market.
Those same costs apparently are not being considered in the desktop
virtualization market by the software vendors or the analysts. I think
that if you want a real comparison of the mdel, you have to talk about
scalability, power and cooling costs, and admin costs of all thos
additional servers. IDC also says that you spend $8 in maintenance for
every $1 in infrastruture.




includes server admins, software monitoring, power, cooling, and every
other operating expense. All these numbers are quoted when talking
about the business case for server virtualization. Does any one doubt
there is a real issue with the cost of more servers in the datacenter?
VMWare uses these numbers on their own website.


servers cost you $4000 to buy. That is another $2000 in power and
cooling infrastructure on average, so now that is a $6000 up front
capital expenditure. ( using the mantenance numbers from IDC and
VMWare, then you add in another $48,000 per year in operating costs. If
you keep your servers 5 years, you pay a total of $6000 to get it in
the door then $240,000 to own it for five years. And that is at today's
energy cost, and assume they do not rise (that is a huge assumption). 

means more servers as well, of course. But how many compared to VDI? Is
VDI 50% as scalable? 70%? 90%? Those are the real numebrs you have to
look at to determine if it is the right solution for you. I do not see
how any financial comparison of SBC/VDI or physical desktops can be
done without looking at these numbers. Am I missing something here? I
use these numbers in consulting with customers, so I definetely want to
know if there is another factor that makes VDI so much more compelling
the SBC.





One more point -

Check out this quote from Dr. Dobbs Journal -

According to a recent AMD study
conducted by Jonathan Koomey using IDC data, the electricity used by
servers in the U.S. -- including servers, cooling, and auxiliary
equipment -- was approximately 45 billion kWh, resulting in total
utility bills amounting to $2.7 billion in 2005. The study estimates
that the total worldwide datacenter power
and electricity cost $7.2 billion annually.

But that's not the scary part. The study goes to project that, based
on current trends, worldwide server consumption from 2005 to 2010 would
require an additional capacity equal to more than 10 additional 1000 MW
power plants. Now that's a lot of electricity.


VDI will mean many more servers than this forecast includes. These numebrs drive server virtualization. Desktop virtualization with VDI looks to go in the opposite direction. I think SBC is a much better solution in most cases.


If you are going to do personal attacks, you should probably at least spell the word - "arragant" - correctly. 

So you have so many request for Camtasia that you have to use VDI in many cases? Why not use SmartAuditor instead?You think that one example is compelling enough to justify all the additional server costs?


See the post above about $8 in maintenance for every $1 in server infrastructure. SBC and VDI both have this cost, but SBC is much more scalable in my experience, and accrording to every scalability test I have seen by server vendors. Do you think the additional support costs of TS is really that much more? Don't you think there are additional support costs involved in supportting so many more servers, hypervisors and connection brokers?




So why not use Softgrid with TS and Citrix ( or pure TS)?  If you throw Provisioning server in the mix and one of the profile solution from Appsense, Sepago or others, you get many of these same benefits and it is still more scalable and less costly in terms of power and cooling.


How can yanyone tell a cusotmer that power and cooling is the reason to virtualize servers, but ignore its impact on desktop virtualization? 




No.  The TS License and VCED are two different things...  I was just referring to MAX's numbers.  ($200 for OS and $15 for TS OS)

Anyways, the $23 is from Citrix Summit.  It was in one Sumit Dhawan's sessions.


How ironic is it that the VMware link talks about the costs savings of server consolidations, but then when they talk about delivering desktops, they only have a VDI story with no TS option?

It's not a personal attack.  Please do not take it as such. It simply was an arrogant comment

Camtasia is not SmartAuditor.  They have two seperate distint purposes.

Camtasia is just one of many example I can give...  I was just at a customer that runs a 16-bit application that require Administrator rights to box.  Before you throw ACT and SUA my way, they don't work well with 16-bit apps.

TS/Presentation Server is not the end all anwser to everything.  You can't make a square peg fit in round hole.




It really depends.  TS virtual desktops will (in most cases) require fewer servers and far less storage infrastructure, so you have to factor that into the equation.  Once you include everything, both approaches are expensive though still cheaper than traditional desktops.


Ah.. you said "and SBC requirese a TS CAL." Right.. my fault!
Absolutely, TS is a great answer to certain use cases. Just not all. However, as Brian has pointed out, Citrix has a very expensive solution to addressing multiple application delivery scenerios.  You'd be ill advised to not take a look at Quest Software's offerings, in my biased opinion.

We must define personal attacks differently then. No matter.


say TS is not the end all answer to everything. Do you think VDI is? I
would argue the 80/20 rules applies here. TS and Citrix cover at least
80% of the situations needed (especially with Provisioning Server and
profile solutions). If you do have developers or some users who need
Camtasia, VDI may make sense for that subset. 


Based on
the costs of datacenter infrastructure, the annual maintenance costs,
and the rising cost of energy, I just cannot see how VDI is going to be
nearly as big as SBC until it is as scalable. 


If you
use Brian's $17,500 number above for server hardware, that means
another $8750 in power and cooling infrastructure up front (at 50 cents
for every $1 of server cost). That is a total $26,250 in capital
expenditures to start.

 Then $210,000 a year in maintenance costs (using IDC and VMWare $8 in maintenance for every $1 in infrastructure).

That is $1,050,000 in maintenance costs over five years (with NO increase in energy prices). So that additional  hardware costs you $1,076,250 over five years.  How many licenses could you buy with that?

math is relying on the exact same numbers VMWare uses to sell server
virtualization. Does the math not apply when it is desktop
virtualization? When VDI is as scalable as SBC, the numbers may be
different. It is hard to see how it ever will be though, considering
every users gets their own OS, and each new desktop OS from MS needs
more ram than the last.

I just do not see how you can reconcile the pitch to reduce servers with server virtualization and dramatically increase servers with desktop virtualization (except in small niche needs).


There are two VECD subscriptions 

- VECD for SA - Devices capable of running a full Windows OS - $23
- VECD - Devices in-capable of running a full Windows OS - XPe, CE, Linux, ThinOS based devices


Sorry,  the intent was not personal.  I simply called out a comment.  I expect people to do the same.  If was a personal I wouldn't have made the effort to login.

I agree with the 80/20 rule...  Some customers it may be 100/0 and other 0/100.  It all depends on the context and needs of the customers.  But for the most part a 80/20 or 70/30 average seems be the sweet spot.

In some respect you are shifting costs from one area to another.  Power and Cooling will be one of them.  How much do you save by putting thin clients instead of PCs on the floor?  How much do you save by allowing your power users to work from home?  How much of an environmental impact?

Again, power is one aspect...  There also aspect of Management/Administrative Skill Sets/Compliance Issues/Application Isolation/Application Compatibility/Security/End User Experience/etc.



Finally!!!  We're now starting to discuss the VALUE of VDI vs. TS.  Couple comments:

1.  Where do all you people buy your hardware from that you're getting capable hypervisor servers for $6000???  I don't know about most of you, but my customers want to see Dell, HP or IBM in their server racks, not white-boxes.  I've yet to get a respectable ESX server in the door for under $15,000 (including the ESX license)

2.  Mr. Madden, I like your Softgrid argument, but SoftGrid is only cheap if you have Software Assurance on your desktops.  A lot of mid-sized companies buy OS licenses OEM from the desktop/laptop vendors.

3.  I don't care how you slice need a SAN.  Provisioning server only fits a small percentage of use case scenerios.  You'll never have 100% utilization on public desktop images, you'll have your one to one VDI to user mappings.  Don't forget the additional costs of FC HBA's, Fiber ports on your switch or TOE cards for iSCSI.  Judging by all the neat NetApp plugins I've seen the the XenDesktop Beta, I think Citrix wants you to use a SAN too!  Why would they include snapins for ASIS if they didn't forsee a number of single users VM's in the future?

4. Mr Shonk - I enjoy you're BriForum sessions, but in my experience there are just some apps that don't play nice in Terminal Server.  I've worked at a school, hospital and financial institution, I think I know Citrix pretty darn good.

Lastly - I heard a rumor that if you were a Presentation Server Platinum customer, you got XenDesktop for free...any truth to this?


Brian - VECD is now even cheaper at $23 or $24 retail.


 I agree, power and cooling cost of desktops should absolutely be considered when looking at a SBC or VDI solution. In many cases, you cannot do a whoelsale replacement up front because of the exisitng life left on PC's. Many want a phased approcach. You may find scenarios where a thin client is easier to sell with VDI becasue of whole sales desktop replacement, but the scalability numbers still have to be measured.


The $8 in maintenance costs for every $1 in datacenter infrastructure costs includes the costs of server management, server admin and labor, and software for maintenance and montioring.  IDC also states that the average company has 1 server admin for ever 20-30 servers.

I do not dispute that VDI has its niche uses. But those niche uses will cost you alot on both captial and operating costs. Any CIO that does not seriously look at those costs is going to have trouble in the long run.


Since there has been disucssion of the costs of TS Cals and VECD on top of power,cooling and annunal maintenance, it would be interesting to see a complete five year  model of costs for both solutions with all of the costs included on top of software costs. 

You would have to put in scalability assumptions for SBC and VDI, but it would be interesting to see what everyone agreed upon for both models.





I think the momentm is changing whereby VDI architectures address most use cases, and then you add TS to fill the gaps.

1. With XenDesktop you dont need the ESX license - XenServer license is included in XenDesktop.

Lastly - not true - but there will be a (free) XenDesktop Express Edition later with up to n XenDesktops on each server.


Thanks,  and I agree.  There are just some apps that don't play nice.

Steve and I have session at this BriForum that will cover just this.  I expect to get a lot of heat on this topic but it will be fun none the less.


But can you suspend and shutdown a TS desktop the way you can do it with VDI to save on resources.  If you have 3 VMware servers hosting desktops and the current load only needs two servers, isn't it ideal to move all live desktops onto two servers to save power...
I'm pretty sure the PN VDI solution is only $50 per CCU.  I think their Enterprise Edition which also supports TS is $100 per CCU.

XenDesktop costs $175 and Application Streaming $60 per ccu, with the purchase of a couple of hundred licenses you would get 25% off these list prices ($131+$45). What you can't stream you can publish with TS/Citrix.

I think there would be too much components to maintain if we would have a VDI solution and a TS/Citrix solution behind it for applications. The customer will surely opt for a simpler solution based on VDI plus streaming or thininstall type of application infrastructure.


Correct...I've gotten Enterprise for under $90 with support.  Cheaper depending on quantity

Citrix does not own the VDI space like they do the SBC space. Their first desktop product was an terrible due to a lack of ICA support on desktop operating systems. Provision released the first viable VDI solution. It was barebones, but it worked pretty well. VMware recently released their VDI solution. Now Citrix is entering the market as the third company to release a VDI solution. They are forced to price within reach of their competition. It would be too hard to justify spending five times as much for a Citrix VDI solution when other proven solutions exist that are a fraction of the cost.

Where Citrix has the advantage is in user experience. Both Provision/Quest and VMware rely on RDP. If the desktop server is attached to the same high speed LAN your computer is connected to then RDP runs well enough. But deploy your virtual desktop solution across the country(or world) using just RDP and you will be hearing from your users on a regular basis about how applications runs so slowly. Especially if they try to surf the web or watch any kind of media.

Of course Microsoft has their recent acquisition of Calista that has the potential to provide tremendous improvement to the multimedia experience in hosted application environments, but no promises have been made from Microsoft as to when those features will be available and what they will look like when they finally ship. So, unless Quest or VMware do something very soon to address the user experience issues with VDI there will still be a compelling reason to choose Citrix for SBC or VDI deployments.

Now, I do think Citrix should be chastised for doing very little to improve profile management in their solutions. I don't understand whhy you spend several hundred dollars per user for the XenApp solution and then you are left to look for another solution (from AppSense or RES, etc.) to better manage the user's profile and user environment. Provision deserves kudos for having this built-in to their solution. Their's is not the most robust profile management solution, but it works for most needs.

Again...VECD is for SA only.  So if your a select customer and want to run Vista VDI w/ Softgrid streaming, MS bends you over a chair and.......
Someone buy this man a beer.....
Provision is releasing, this month, extensions to the RDP client to add bi-directional audio, multimedia redirection and local text echo
Obviously you haven't seen the PN solution.  We set up the latest 5.9 build about 3 weeks ago, and we were stunned to see app publishing, seamless windows, true mlti-monitor support, 2-way audio, latency reduction.... a far cry from saying PN depends on RDP.  It looks better than my CPS implemetation with ICA.

Are you replying to Kelly? cause I'm pretty sure he's seen it.



I have seen the PN solution, been running it for almost three years. Running 5.9 build 13 right now for 150+ users. When were the latency reduction features and two-way audio added? These were listed on a to-do list by Provision a year ago, but public announcements on their releases over the last several months have been little to non-existent. The release notes text file that used to be included with each build was nice, but I have not seen that in ages.

I am wondering how your Citrix deployment went so horribly wrong that its performance is so bad.

Will the multimedia redirection experience be similar to SpeedScreen experience?

I agree with Joe.

If you've got experience and mindset (too stupid to give up :-)) to port applications to SBC/TS it's a great challenge and for 98% of the applications it's doable. Stuff like Softrgrid has made life hugely easier in terms of the ease of rolling out applications on TS/SBC but anyone who's ever done a major TS rollout will freely admit (if they're honest) that it takes a lot of effort to port applications from the desktop to a terminal server environment.

It's by far the most efficient way to give people remote access to applications/desktops but it's NOT easy. And if you've got to do stuff like Cisco Presence, it just doesn't work multi-user at all. TS isn't an option.

If the predominant skills in an organization are about managing desktops, and the knowledge of how to get apps going on TS isn't there, TS can be a disaster. How many organizations have had their fingers burnt dealing with terminal services because their implementation partner and internal IT weren't up to the task?

It's in those scenarios where VDI makes a huge amount of sense. If we talk about the costs and effort required to, for example port 200 applications to TS vs doing the same thing with VDI, the VDI port can be as simple as P2V of an SOE workstation, clean up the image and deploy it. Use your exisiting management infrastructure for application deployment and it's all done.

Admittedly it'd be smart to do some work to improve the scalability of an out of the box implementation and add stuff like profile management, driverless printing, cpu resource management etc, because the end result is user/hardware platform scalability that can approach 30% or more of the user density on TS.

VDI costs less to implement because it's easier. It doesn't move people out of their comfort zone. It doesn't need anything special done with applications or the application environment. With the exception of hardware specific software, eg stuff requiring a GPU etc, anything that runs on a fat desktop will run on VDI, without you having to do a thing.

If you HAVE to run applications as local administrators you can, even if it is a gloriously dumb idea. It's not the total disaster it can be on TS.

VDI uses more hardware, but it's still heaps better than an equivalent number of fat desktops, and you can do stuff like turn VMs on and off as makes sense to save power, move VMs around at the end of the day so that active user sessions are consolidated on to a smaller number of servers etc to save power.

While I'd love to be able to do the same in the TS world, I can't (note I said active sessions). I also note that not everything runs on x64, and I'm still a bit uncomfortable with running hundreds of user on the same TS server. After all it's still a Microsoft operating system ;-) 

The  best possible solution has to consider every cost involved in rolling out a remote access/desktop replacement solution: implementation, licensing, hardware, power utilization, infrastructure and management overheads. We used to have only one viable solution, now we've got at least 3. Use TS where it's appropriate, VDI where its appropiate and DDI where it's appropriate.

The world has changed.




No, it will be exactly the same as if the multimedia content were executed locally on the client device, as we are redirecting the multimedia stream to the client CODEC, instead of degrading the quality of the content to make it play well over a low bandwidth connection.  It is not great for a low bandwidth connection, but for a connection with decent bandwidth a client can display HD Quality video in a VDI or Terminal Services Session, as it is playing locally on the client, instead of being rendered via RDP.  I believe Citrix is creating similar technology.

One clarification to Brian's excellent article is that Quest's Provision Networks Virtual Access Suite - Desktop Services Edition is $50 per concurrent user, and includes every feature of our $99 enterprise suite except the ability to connect to apps or desktops hosted on Terminal Services.

In my experience when dealing with customers deploying VDI, the reasons for virtualizing the desktop are as follows, in order of importance;

1.  Ease of  management - Apps are running on the OS on which they were designed to run, are centrally managed and supported by the desktop support staff and helpdesk instead of a specialized Terminal Services GURU.  While we still recommend locking down the desktop as tightly as possible, it is very easy to provide a one off configuration that is not possible on TS.

2.  Security - Desktops and data are now hosted in a secure data center, so risk of data theft are reduced, if not eliminated.  This can be done on TS, but it is less common for all apps to be delivered via TS, in an enterprise deployment.  I am not saying that all desktops can be delivered via VDI, but for the percentage that can be, security is greatly improved from a typical desktop deployment.

3.  DR - Most enterprise customers have some DR plan, and remote data center.  They are doing some sort of SAN Replication, or backup to their DR site of their servers, but do not have an enterprise wide strategy of how to access this data that is replicated to DR.  Yes applications can be   accessed by TS that is virtualized, but most customers are not virtualizing TS (yet), and not all apps are delivered via TS.

4.  Slow the desktop refresh cycle - just like with TS, client devices only need to be able to run the vendor's client software, so a PII/PIII machine that is useless as a fat client workstation can be ridden until death as a thin-client conversion.  Granted PXE booting a PC is not a perfect solution for all use cases, but it is an appealing option that lots of our customers have asked about, and we are delivering this month.

When I started working for Quest I was (and still am) a Terminal Server Rocket Scientist, mening if an app can be configured to run on TS, I can usually figure it out, as can a lot of people on this website.  I was not sure if VDI was a niche solution, or if it would explode.  Four months later I can say with complete honesty that virtually every customer I have met with is looking to start using VDI to either supplement or replace TS.  The reality is that while imperfect, it is a simpler solution for them to wrap their heads around than Terminal Services is, and they don't need specialized staff to support the environment.  This is assuming they are already doing server virtualization.  For SMB customers that have no virtualization experience, learing VMware, Hyper-V, Virtual Iron, Virtuozzo, XenServer... is still challenging, but once it's up and running is fairly simple to maintain, compared to Terminal Services.

Am I saying that VDI is going to completely replace TS & Citrix XenApp, no (at least not in the near term).

Am I saying that customers should give up on working TS environments in favor of VDI?  Only if they do not have sufficient expertise to manage TS, or if TS is just not flexible enough to meet their business requirements.

Customers now have a choice, and Citrix is NOT the only option, and in the VDI space it is not the market leader.

As for ICA, it is still a better protocol than RDP, which is why we are working hard to extend RDP, redirect multimedia and offer optional support for other protocols, i.e. RGS and Net2Display.

As for the whole Ardence (Provisioning Server) technology, do I think it is great technology, absolutely.  Do I think it is a perfect solution, no (scaleability being my concern when considering support of thousands of virtual desktops).  Are there alternatives, yes.  Those alternatives are emBoot's sanFly & winBoot, or any number of SAN vendors that offer Thin Provisioning capabilities.


These are part of 5.10, which is being released at the end of this month.  The multimedia redirection technology is scheduled for Q3/Q4 of this year.  All of these features, as well as future support for non-RDP protocols will be available in an optional User Experience Pack for TS or VDI. 

I'm actually running the latest 5.9 build and I have 2-way audio and latency reduction in there.  I was told the official release will be in 5.10 but that it was package in 5.9 for beta use.  Your guys also gave me the multimedia code.  All I can say is your stuff rocks!


Provision's roadmap schedule is not credible.  As the previous poster indicated, originally it was announced that these RDP enhancement features would be available in Q2 2007.

Provision was doing a lot at the time with limited resources. Then they were acquired by Quest. Hopefully the acquisition will help them walk the walk and good as they were talking the talk.

Is support for non-RDP protocols going to include protocols like VNC, VMware Client console, and XenServer console connections. I believe it is LeoStream that supports connections to these types of protocols using their connection broker. Would be nice to be able to connect directly to a Linux system or the console of a virtual system, in addition to those with RDP support.
Will the redirected multimedia overlay the terminal or vdi session, or will it open up Windows Media Player, to play a video stream for instance, separately from the hosted environment.

When it is released it will lay over the RDP session. In its current incarnation it plays outside RDP presentation. And I stand corrected, multimedia redirection is planned to be finalized and available in August.



Other display protocols = HP RGS and IBM Net2Display.  As far as the roadmap credibility, I would agree with you that up unitil the Quest acquisition more was promised than could be delivered, but now that we are part of a publicly traded company that is not the case.  We have a solid roadmap that is on course and 5.10 is scheduled to be released this month.  5.10 is the code we demonstrated at MMS last week, that includes the following new features:

Complete Hyper-V Integration (including power management and cloning), Task Scheduling Framework (delete VM, enable VM/Group, Disable VM/Group, restart OS, power-on, power-off, suspend, resume, logoff, reset session, reset VM, deploy MSI, run script, run application on desktop), MSI Deployment, true multi-monitor or support for seamless apps and full desktops, power management for ACPI physical machines (power on, power off, hibernate, resume...), PXE Boot Client, bi-directional audio, Latency Masking (local text echo), Managed Desktop Group auto-expansion (auto cloning of new VMs), Disable Desktops, or Disable Complete Desktop Groups, free space verification (on VI datastore) before creating new VMs, secure ticketing authority, configuration database relica, realtime enumeration of running processes on each VM....


Offer XenApp and XenDesktop combo license for
Standard/Advanced: $125.00
Enterprise: $200.00
Platinum: $275.00

Make that single unit pricing and you will increase revenue by opening your product to environments of all sizes, and not just fortune 500 mega companies. Why not? Come on, I dare you...


You can save on SAN disk space (and $) with Provisioning Server, but you are still going to want a very good SAN infrastructure to stream the images.  So you're going to shell out $$ for HBA's, fibre channel switches, etc.  This is a cost that you don't incur with a TS approach.


Ok, I can't resist :-)

My company, VCIT Consulting, provides small/medium business with a fully managed remote desktop solution. We have a VMware virtual infrastructure running in a colo facility. Our VMs are not VDI instances but instead are Citrix Access Essentials virtual servers. Licensing costs are quite affordable and tied to our monthly cash flows (SPLA license program). With SPLA licensing, we also have an option to use SoftGrid for TS to further manage app deployment and isolation. As well, we use flex profiles, GP, folder redirection, etc to further manage the user environment.

We believe that many small businesses are going to see the value in having someone else manage their IT systems and access it over the web - true "software as a service". After all, we all make use of an extremely complex global phone system, yet as end user we only need to know how to plug in a phone. Our goal is to provide the same sort of simple plug and play computing for small businesses that want reliable, always-on, fully managed IT systems.

Ease of management becomes our headache, all customer data resides in our secure data center, DR is assured by our multi-level backups of VM state and FLBs as well as off-site replication.

As you can probably tell, I'm still not sold on VDI - at least not for my purposes as I see it being more management heavy and a higher TCO than what we've got.

I think this model could really take off as it gives companies the benefits of virtualization and remote desktops without having to have the in-house expertise to understand and manage it all. Imagine if a company like Google starting offering this sort of solution (unfortunately, I'd lose my shirt if they did!)

For large corporations, they can use a similar blended approach of running 32-bit Windows TS VMs running on top of a HA virtual infrastructure with all data on a HA SAN infrastructure. As long as they lock down their TS environment, manage user profiles and data properly, and isolate problem apps then management costs will be less than either traditional desktops or VDI (IMHO). Where necessary, they can add VDI instances for the oddball apps and power users.

Sorry, that all sounded like a sales rant :-)

BTW Brian, thanks for bringing up this topic and getting everyone's ideas flowing - great read!


Does Provision Networks require a Windows client for the multimedia redirection?

If so, Wyse would seem to have a better solution with TCX.


What about the cost of storage?

VM is good, but all you are doing is saving on space,heat, power ..etc and spenidng on a shed load of tier 1 storage (VM's, clones..etc), that is NOT cheap!  Storage vendors are laughing all the way to the bank!

POTENTIALLY Provisioning server looks to solve this, but the demo we saw, it is still in its infancy to a degree (or maybe tehnology trends/practices, rather than the product).

I do agree, the licensing cost adds up per CCU for PS...sorry XenApp


To do a full comparison, would be a task in itself - licensing, hardware, software cots, pros, cons.. and would be a hot topic to say the least!

Getting back to the main idea in the article, why is "single application seamless windows publishing from a single-user VDI desktop" attractive? VDI can certainly present some things better, like whole desktops, or sensitive applications, but a single app?

Indeed we find that delivering the entire desktop is more common, but shouldn't it be a customer's choice?   Sometimes one uses VDI as a one-off configuration where a single app or multime seamless apps are delivered from a hosted XP or Vista machine because the apps are only supported on that OS, or because it is easier to maintain on that OS (Google Earth).  Why lock someone into delivering a desktop for one app (or a set of apps) when all other apps are delivered seamlessly.

We treat virtual and physical desktops as single user terminal servers, and see no reason to artificially limit the functionality and flexibility available to the administrator.  We offer the same tools and application publishing features to users on VDI that we do on TS.

Citrix surely has their reasons for doing what they are doing, and if it works for them, that's fine. 


The game has changed Brian. Go talk to your Citrix contacts about XD pricing now!!!

Be interested in your take on this.

yes, pricing will increase, but they will add... xenapp functionality to XD! (so, you wont need to buy XA for stream or virtualize apps.... just XD to do eveything...). Not sure yet, but we have to wait few days...

Great content.. and great comments!

I would respectfully like to add:

TS versus VDI is really all about the use case. The cost comparison is also driven by use case. In a shared environment, VDI or TS, each user and application now carry an associated weighted cost. VDI supports the classic use case of developers who need local administrator access can't be supported in a shared TS environment. A single developer who starts and stops IIS services would impact all users. Non TS Aware applications can also be a game over situation and only solved by VDI.

TS scalability is driven by the applications and the use cases. User-land applications all share different scalability metrics. The lack of isolation in a shard TS environment means a single user/or applications performance can directly impact all of the users on the box... worse a single app can BSOD the box directly impacting all users. In a VDI architecture, the only user and service affected by a bad app is the single isolated XP VM.
Scalability is relative. Use SBC will have higher scalability characteristics, given 64bit to utilize a large memory footprint, however do all 32 bit user-land applications perform equally well running in 64bit???

With VDI, scalability becomes a function of VMware infrastructure. Using DRS and Resource Pools, metrics can be assigned to specific VM's, based on use case and application set. If the performance is not met on a specific server, VM's will dynamically Vmotion off the box to ensure those performance requirements are met. Lots can be managed internal to VMware such as NIC teaming, VM assignments to specific internal switches or VLans and traffic shaping capabilities to manage bandwidth. Memory management via the ability to oversubscribe is also an economic and scalability factor using VMware.

In terms of storage, not all storage is created equally... VM's can be trimmed down with file systems access allocated, again based on use case, to different levels of storage... T1, T2 and T3 storage including less expensive IP based storage.. so not everything needs to land on $$$$ storage. With 3.5 the ability to manage swap file placement can also have a direct cost savings on storage.

So my point is that the devil is in the details of the architectures... NLB, and session directory services add complexity for scaling, as do the aforementioned architecture discussions surrounding VMware infrastructure.

In my opinion, any SBC or VDI solution is a compromised solution over a nicely configured PC or Workstation. SBC/VDI is intended to save money via management costs, power, cooling etc. It should be treated as such and a properly designed architecture will support all...

Right on! Synergy will bring some interesting news! A new product will be announced.
Thats pretty much what I heard. XenApp functionality wont be 'added' to XD, just a licensing cost model which allows you to publish/stream XenApp's to Xen Desktop.

I am the Director of Products at Citrix for XenDesktop and I led the XenApp team before XenDesktop.

Some of you seem to be passionate about using one more or the other! There is no single right answer for all scenarios. The trick is to identify the best use case for which the product is designed and best suited for - when it comes to user experience and TCO.

I have written up a blog article on this topic to add more color to the discussion and how Citrix is designing our products. 

Finally, this will be THE topic of discussion at this year's iForum (part of the Citrix event Synergy) that you can attend next week.  


Hello I have a desktop application for work. When I bought a new PC with windows 8 I don't seem to be able to access the program. I get to a point and cannot complete. I think it's related to Windows 8. It's Citrix, we call it  remote desktop. I'm looking for any help....thanks, James