It’s been about a year since I first wrote about Citrix’s “app publishing tax” (and how they’ve tried to address it). Since then they’ve done countless promotions, bundling options, deals, and repackaging. But the fundamentals of the problem remain: Citrix XenApp (their Terminal Server-based solution) allows clients to connect via ICA to both full desktops and seamless published apps. Citrix XenDesktop (their single-instance host-based solution) only allows users to connect to full desktops via ICA. Citrix XenApp allows applications to be streamed for local / offline use, but not full desktops. Citrix XenDesktop allows full desktops to be streamed for local / offline use, but not individual apps. (Although XenDesktop does allow you to build individual apps into your desktop bundles, which can be provided remotely via ICA or streamed for local / offline use.)
So far Citrix’s explanation to all of this is that XenApp is TS-based and geared towards task workers, and XenDesktop is single-user workstation OS-based and targeted towards more intense users. But then if you want to stream apps to desktops to run locally, you need XenApp, regardless of whether you're targeting knowledge workers or task workers.
The result is that there’s this really weird overlap / matrix of features and use cases. If you’re talking about apps, you use XenApp. If you’re talking about desktops, you use XenDesktop. Unless your desktop is for a task worker, then you’re talking about XenApp. It’s just a total tangled disaster!
And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that XenDesktop is about half the price per user as XenApp. So XenApp is the solution for the easier task-based workers, except it costs twice as much as XenDesktop?!? Oh wait.. no, it’s twice as much because it supports apps too. Unless you want to use it with XenDesktop, then it’s free, but only for the users who have XenDesktop licenses. (And only if they bought the expensive ones.)
And if you just want to do desktops, why do you have to pay 2x to use XenApp for hosted desktops than XenDesktop for hosted desktops? It’s like Citrix is saying, “Hey, since you can save so much money on hardware by using TS instead of VDI, you might as well give us the money you saved in the form of a more expensive Citrix product!”
The bottom line is that Citrix needs to sort this all out and make a Windows desktop and application product strategy that doesn’t make people want to poke their eyes out when they hear it explained. (I think we can do a Jeff Foxworthy-style thing here. “If you have to have an entire session at your conference explaining how licensing works... you might have a complexity problem!”)
What the community wants is a much simpler model. We want a product that lets us deliver a desktop—local or remote—and deliver an application—local or remote—without having to resort to all these crazy product decisions. We shouldn’t be forced to use one architecture over another because one method is cheaper to license or because Citrix has to protect a sacred cow.
But maybe a bright future is in sight. Citrix recently renamed the ICA Client software to the “XenApp Plugin for Hosted Apps.” But the new beta version (the 11.1.1. version that’s a plugin for the new Citrix receiver) is called “Citrix online app plug-in.” So it’s the “CITRIX online app plug-in,” without the word “XenApp” in it. Is this because XenDesktop will allow online apps too? Is this because Citrix will finally fix their crazy Windows desktop and app product matrix?
Or am I dreaming?