Yesterday, Citrix officially announced the latest version of XenApp along with XenDesktop 7.5, despite many leaks over the last few weeks. “XenApp?” you might say. “XenApp? I thought XenApp was dead, rolled into XenDesktop?” You’d be right, but now, according to a video from Citrix, they see more and more uses from Application Delivery since then, so they’ve decided to launch “the second generation of XenApp.”
Wait…”second generation?” Why call it that? What’s really going on here?
XenApp 7.5 is the new name for XenDesktop App Edition, which will be available as a separate SKU, just like XenApp always was. It will be based on FMA rather than IMA, so it is not at all compatible with XenApp 6.5, and there is no upgrade path. I honestly wonder if this was the plan the entire time…to kill it off for a year, then come back and have Gen 2 XenApp. I’d really like to think it wasn’t, but then again Citrix has been trying to get away from IMA for years, so maybe drastic measures needed to be taken. Of course, if that was the case, I think the go-to-market would have been a little better executed.
Naturally, there are issues with this re-re-branding. If XenApp 7.5 were the same or better as XenApp 6.5, migrating would just be a bigger project, worth it in the long run but kind of a pain in the neck during the move. XenApp 7.5, though, is only building on XenDesktop 7 App Edition, which was already behind XenApp 6.5 in terms of features. The gap has narrowed with 7.5, but it isn’t quite there. There’s also the OS support issue that arises when applications won’t run on Server 2008 R2 or above. Anyone still running older OSes will have to run XenApp 6.5 no matter what.
Regardless of the plans, how it went down, or even the differences, de-mothballing the XenApp name and bringing some of the focus back to applications is the right thing to do. It’s rather confusing, the way they’re doing it (especially with all the NDA leaks ahead of the announcement), but it’s still smart. By the time this is 100% ready, the world won’t care as much about desktops. The trajectory of the industry started off by delivering Windows desktops via Terminal Server, but it really took off when we were able to publish the applications. Then, we started virtualizing desktops more or less just because we could, but really all we ever cared about was the applications. Brian gets credit for figuring that out (at least on this site) because he wrote an article back in 2010 discussing the inverse bell curve of Terminal Server adoption.
That’s why this and Citrix’s other moves make sense. There’s a new Web Interface as part of this release Web Interface support has been extended, which is something that people have been clamoring for (Like, real Web Interface…the one that we thought they took away and replaced with StoreFront!), so those reluctant to introduce added complexity to their environment can hold off for a while longer. Don’t forget, too, that Citrix recently acquired Framehawk and are folding their LFP protocol into HDX. It all adds up to Citrix falling back on what it has done best–delivering Windows applications (and the occasional desktop) to anything–while updating it for modern use-cases.
Add to this all the talk about hybrid cloud provisioning, which utilizes local and cloud-based resources in a permanent or burstable manner, and you can see a solution taking shape that’s akin to some other solutions by MainFrame2, Amazon AppStream, add Microsoft Mohoro, which was described as “RemoteApp from the cloud.” VMware even changed their tune towards SBC this past year, so you can bet they’re on board, too.
I’m puzzled as to why they announced this so early before Synergy, where someone could have explained this in greater detail at an event that was not an NDA event (as Summit, a partner event, is). My guess is that Citrix wanted to strike while the iron was hot rather than wait for everyone else to have solutions that addressed this (both Amazon and Microsoft are expected to have their solutions solidified this half). Hopefully by Synergy we’ll get a more comprehensive view of Citrix’s strategy moving forward.