Citrix lowers CWC pricing, but why is it still so much more than XenDesktop or Hybrid Mode?

In January, Citrix announced they were going to reduce CWC pricing, but stopped short of actually saying what that price would be, presumably waiting for more intel from VMware.

Back in December, I wrote that Citrix’s seemingly outrageous price tag on Citrix Workspace Cloud left room for VMware to significantly undercut them when they finally released Enzo. In January, Citrix announced they were going to reduce CWC pricing, but stopped short of actually saying what that price would be, presumably waiting for more intel from VMware. Now that Enzo has dropped in the form of Horizon Air with Hybrid Mode, Citrix has adjusted their pricing accordingly, though not as much as you might think.

Let’s back up for a minute. From its launch, Citrix Workspace Cloud has been the only platform like it on the market, and Citrix priced it based on the fact that there was no competition. There are three “Packages” of CWC:

  • Virtual Desktops
  • Virtual Apps and Desktops
  • Integrated Apps and Data Suite

Comparing those packages to Citrix’s traditional on-prem product line, Virtual Desktops is essentially on par with XenDesktop VDI Edition, Virtual Apps and Desktops is most similar to XenDesktop Enterprise, and Integrated Apps and Data Suite is closest to Citrix Workspace Suite because it includes all the mobility components as well as ShareFile.

The most common product I run into is XenDesktop Enterprise, and if we compare the pricing of that to CWC Virtual Apps and Data, you can start to see a rather large gap. XenDesktop Enterprise retails for $116/user on a yearly subscription license, or just under $10/month per user. Prior to the pricing adjustment, CWC Virtual Apps and Data cost $35/month per user–$25 MORE PER USER than XenDesktop. Sure, there are added costs that Citrix absorbs by hosting the management infrastructure in the cloud, but I found it hard to believe that that hit worked out to $25/month per user.

When VMware released Horizon Air with Hybrid Mode, they called Citrix’s bluff and released it for $18/month per named user ($16 if you already had a vSAN entitlement). Advanced math shows that’s nearly half the price of CWC Apps and Data, and as Rob Beekmans pointed out in his blog post comparing the two products, Hybrid Mode’s price includes UEM and AppVolumes.

(You might say that CWC gives you EMM and ShareFile, but that’s another pricing tier. Since I’m trying to keep this as apples to apples of a comparison as possible, we’re sticking with the Virtual Apps and Desktops package)

Armed with VMware’s pricing, Citrix turned around and slashed CWC’s prices. In the case of the Virtual Apps and Desktops package, they found their way back into the ballpark by lowering the price to $22.50/month per user. It’s still quite a bit higher, than both VMware and the monthly license for XenDesktop Enterprise, though, so what gives?

Honestly, this is probably about saving face more than anything else. If Citrix lowered their price all the way down to $18 to match VMware, customers would feel like they’d been fleeced for the past year. Lowering pricing just enough to get it in the same conversation (and allow room to wiggle on larger deals) allows them to stay competitive until they make some sort of “breakthrough” (wink wink) on their end that makes their infrastructure cheaper.

That ignores the other part of the conversation, though. The gap between CWC pricing and on-premises XenDesktop pricing, though more favorable, very much remains. The ~$10/month per user XenDesktop Enterprise license still clocks in at $12.50/month cheaper than CWC. Is it worth $12.50/month per user to have Citrix take the management off your plate? Remember, CWC doesn’t come with a DaaS desktop or any other desktop container–you have to get that just as you would have to with XenDesktop. (For the record, Hybrid Mode doesn’t come with a desktop container either.)

VMware hasn’t published a monthly subscription price for Horizon View, so it’s hard to make the same comparison with them. I can imagine that there’s a healthy margin for them, though, too.

So, what’s this all mean? I’m not concerned that vendors are charging more while providing a service that takes a lot of pain and suffering off the plates of IT. Companies should be willing to pay for that. I just find it interesting that when you compare the differences in the prices of doing it yourself or letting someone else handle it, the numbers can be quite large. A 500-person company would spend $5,000/month buying XenDesktop Enterprise, and $11,250 by using CWC, and neither of those prices includes a desktop! Sure, to do it on-premises you have to buy hardware and keep it up to date, but that doesn’t cost anywhere near $6,000/month. VMware’s pricing ($9,000/mo) is much more conducive to getting companies to say “Meh…let’s just let them handle it.”

I think we’ll see some more price adjustments over the next year as Citrix and VMware compete. Both platforms will likely inch closer to each other in terms of capabilities as time goes by, and as that happens price will become a key differentiator. Until then VMware is in the driver’s seat with the lowest price, not to mention the addition of UEM and AppVolumes, and will probably remain that way until Citrix feels its customers won’t get angry at another price drop. While all that plays out, you have a decision to make: How much is it worth to you to have VMware or Citrix take the virtual desktop management infrastructure off your plate?

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CWC pricing is still crazy. To be clear, they're asking customers to pay $12.50 per month, per user, for what, exactly? The management plane? But what is that really? An IIS server and a SQL server? That's the price for an AWS micro instance which includes the Windows, IIS, and SQL Server license.

But wait, how many users can an AWS micro instance support? I'll bet it's more than one! :)

To be clear, ONE user license of CWC costs the same, per month, for one user, as an AWS bd.t2.micro instance. The additional cost for 2 users of CWC is the same cost as an AWS small instance, a medium instance is the cost of 5 users, etc...

Yeah, those numbers are running SQL Server Express.. it gets higher as you run standard and enterprise, etc., and you have to figure out the AD and connectors and stuff. But even getting into SQL Server standard on large instances is still about $750 per month which is the CWC cost for just 60 users, and I'm sure a SQL Server standard instance on large can support can support hundreds, if not thousands of users.

Yeah yeah.. I understand that if you run your own SQL and IIS then that's more that you have to run, but Citrix has been making this easier every year, and really the hard part of XenApp, XenDesktop is the actual images and Windows stuff (which you have to do with CWC anyway.. it's not like going to CWC means you can let a junior engineer build your Citrix environment now.)

So I dunno.. still seems like CWC is about 5x too expensive (in terms of per-user costs). I'd love to see it like, "You pay X per user for the XA/XD license, for $2 more per user, we'll run the IIS and SQL and management plane for you." But for $12.50 per user, per month, just to run a database and a web server??? What am I missing here???

You are missing the development costs and associated costs (support and other parts that sustain Citrix), the cloud management costs, the profit and maybe more. No company is going to give you their products for only the cost of the raw material it takes to make their product because it is not the only thing it takes. Also, every company has the goal of maximizing profit, so they will charge as much as they can to stay in business and maximize the profit. Sometimes it is hard to value software because it is not physical but a good product that has taken 15+ years to develop has also its cost for the effort it has taken to develop.


It's way more than a single server. See the architecture diagram from Bas Van Kaam:

Now, imagine if you had to run a 1000 copies of this infrastructure in your data center? Not for the faint of heart.


I run XD on site like I have been for 5+ years now since XD5 and it's hardly any management at all.  As BM said, it's all about the image.  I still think the pricing is ridiculous, the only benefit I see is being "evergreen" but seriously the upgrades are so freakin easy now it's a joke to click next 10 times over the course of an hour.  The other thing that bothers is no desktop is included so $10+ per month per user for the management plane is a joke.  I'd like to hear 1 use case from someone running onprem who thinks moving to CWC is a benefit for the price being paid.  Those IIS, SQL, DDC and NSVPX's barely use any active ram and cpu at all, they idle 99% of the time except during an upgrade.  Going to the cloud isn't always a benefit and this is a good example of why.  


Brian, You are a smart ninja. Smarter than appdetective! But you are dead wrong this time amigo.

With CWC or any cloud service, OpEX is a major win. If done correctly.

You don't have the painful upgrades, maintenance and availability issues. You are not installing DBs, backing them up, installing SSL certificates, etc. So for a large organization if you reduce OpEx by half - you want to charge for that. Why leave the $$s on the table?

I think CWC is the wrong architecture. It's automation of "hosted XenDesktop and XenApp" and not a true multi-tenant Office365 like stack. If Citrix fixes the architecture, provides automated updates of all the pieces including the VDA's they have a winner!

They should continue to charge a premium because of the OpEx savings!

Cloud Service Cost > On-Prem Software Cost [because of OpEx reduction]


nickcasa - you into professional services or a CTP? How much do you charge for XenApp 6.5 to 7.6 migration?