We did it! Citrix modifies XenDesktop 4 license plans. Thank you Citrix!

As everyone reading this is painfully aware, Citrix’s XenDesktop 4 announcement was overshadowed by the fact that they decided to change the licensing model with this new release.

As everyone reading this is painfully aware, Citrix’s XenDesktop 4 announcement was overshadowed by the fact that they decided to change the licensing model with this new release. Previous versions were licensed based on concurrent users, while XenDesktop 4 would be based on named users.

I wrote two articles about this (one announcing XenDesktop 4 that mentioned the license changes in passing, and one that focused exclusively on the license changes). Those two articles were two of the most-read articles I’ve ever written over the past seven years, garnering over 14,000 views and 70 comments in under a week. Even the results of the reader survey we did about the license changes drew another 3,700 views and 30 comments.

Needless to say, most people were not happy with the change in licensing. (Read the articles, comments, and survey results to understand why.)

The good news, though, is that last night Citrix’s VP for XenDesktop Sumit Dhawan responded to the criticism and the community by announcing several changes to the way XenDesktop 4 will be licensed. The modified licensing plan is very fair and should make most people happy.

Before we dig into the details of the changes, I want to point out that this is a great example of Citrix listening to the community and doing the right thing. So congrats to Citrix, and thanks to everyone who made a fuss and affected change!

Now, about those changes...

Change 1: XenDesktop 4 will be available via “per named user” or “per device”

The first change that Citrix announced is that they’ll allow the XenDesktop 4 licenses to be assigned to a user or a device. (In other words, the licenses can be “per named user” or “per device.”) This is kinda sorta like the Microsoft TS CALs that could be bought for users or devices, although in Citrix’s case the single license will be able to be used for either. So this means if you have users to login from multiple devices, you can assign licenses to each user, and if you have users who share devices, you can assign licenses to the devices.

Everything else about the licenses is the same as what was previously announced. (Pricing, XenApp inclusion, opportunity to trade XenApp for XenDesktop licenses, etc.) It’s just that now you have the option of “per user” or “per device.”

Change 2: A “VDI only” edition of XenDesktop will be available with concurrent user licensing

The second change is that in addition to the “Platinum” and “Enterprise” editions of XenDesktop, Citrix will create a new “VDI" edition. The VDI edition will be for remote-hosted desktops only (i.e. no local device streaming or future client hypervisor) and will be available via a concurrent user model in addition to the user or device model like the other XenDesktop editions.

The reason for this is that Citrix was originally thinking that customers were going to use XenDesktop for all of their users (which is how Citrix originally justified the switch to “per user” from “per concurrent user”). While there certainly are a lot of customers who do plan to use XenDesktop for everyone, many other customers view their XenDesktop deployments more like an extension to their existing XenApp environments. For them. XenDesktop is a remote access solution or a disaster recovery solution or simply a XenApp add-on for non-TS-compatible apps.

So to address this need, Citrix is creating a “VDI” edition of XenDesktop that will only be for customers who deliver remote desktops from a datacenter. The "VDI Edition” will replace the “Standard Edition” of XenDesktop (which was never very popular anyway).

The only outstanding question about the “VDI Edition” of XenDesktop is how different that would be, conceptually, from a XenApp environment with a VM-hosted app where the “app” was the desktop. This hack/workaround/loophole was originally suggested by BrianMadden.com user AppDetective, who, in a comment last week, wrote that using the VM-hosted app capability of XenApp might be a way to get a “free” XenDesktop-like experience from the existing XenApp license.

I asked some folks at Citrix about this, and their exact feeling was that while this wasn’t what VM-hosted apps was designed for, they’re not necessarily going to do anything to prevent it. They figured it would take some tinkering to make work, but that if someone really wanted to publish a single-user desktop as a XenApp VM-hosted app, then go for it.

Change 2.5: A campus-wide education license

The final change that Citrix made was not an actual change, but a clarification on something they’d mentioned two weeks ago. When they first announced the switch to per named user licenses, Citrix specified that they were working on a special license for educational institutions since so many of them have shared labs. While they still haven’t finalized the details and pricing for that, Citrix did reiterate that they were working on some kind of per-student price for educational institutions that would be substantially different than the other pricing models. This program will be conceptually identical to Microsoft’s campus agreement programs.

The big price-comparison oversight: Is XenDesktop in per named user mode really more expensive than XenApp CCUs?

Last week I made a big deal about the new XenDesktop pricing because I felt that current XenDesktop customers with low rates of concurrency would get screwed. (Which was true.) I also wrote that moving from XenApp to XenDesktop, even with the two-for-one trade up, was potentially a bad deal because anyone who did the 2-for-1 deal would double the number of users under SA.

What I didn’t realize is that SA prices are based on a percentage of the full license price. I also didn’t really consider that XenDesktop is substantially cheaper than XenApp. So if you have a bunch of XenApp Platinum users with current CCU licenses, you probably paid $600 for your XenApp CCUs, but once you switch to XenDesktop you’re only talking about $350 per device or user. So as long is you were getting better than a 7:12 concurrency ratio (350:600), then you’d still come out ahead, even with the per device / per user licenses instead of CCU licenses.

That said, every scenario is different, so now you need to look at your own environment and figure out what works best for you. Here’s the latest pricing info (XenDesktop 4 and XenApp 5) in USD:

  • XenDesktop, VDI Edition: $195 per CCU or $95 per user or device
  • XenDesktop, Enterprise: $225 per user or device (includes XenApp Enterprise for each user / device)
  • XenDesktop, Platinum: $350 per user or device (includes XenApp Platinum for each user / device)
  • XenApp, Advanced: $350 per CCU
  • XenApp, Enterprise: $450 per CCU
  • XenApp, Platinum: $600 per CCU
  Per device or user Per CCU
XenDesktop VDI $95 $195
XenDesktop Ent $225 N/A
XenDesktop Plat $350 N/A
XenApp Adv ? (see note) $350
XenApp Ent incl. w/ XD Ent $450
XenApp Plat incl. w/ XD Plat $600

The two important things to remember for the pricing is that (1) if you trade away all your XenApp CCUs, you get 2-for-1 for XenDesktop device or user licenses, and (2) XenDesktop has the XenApp features built-in, so if you go with XenDesktop then you don’t need to spend money on XenApp. (At least for users or devices who are licensed for XenDesktop.)

So is this final XenDesktop 4 license plan good or bad?

It’s good.

I was initially happy with the per named user switch because I felt that concurrency doesn’t really make sense in a client-based potentially offline world. I love that Citrix added the device license, because that makes sense moving forward just like the per user option. And I love that Citrix kept a CCU-based XenDesktop option which avoids the offline complexity by the simple fact that it doesn’t support offline.

So if you’re an existing XenDesktop customer, you can chose to switch your licenses over to per-named user or per device. And while you may have to pay a bit more because you don’t have concurrency, you will now get the full XenApp for free, which should end up saving you money.

If you’re an existing XenApp customer, you can trade up your XenApp licenses for XenDesktop licenses in either per named user or per device mode (and you can get the 2-for-1 if you exercise this option for all of your XenApp licenses). Or you can just keep your XenApp licenses in CCU mode, and then you can add as XenDesktop users via the “VDI edition” which will also work in CCU mode.

Thank you everyone!

I’m sure there are some who will give Citrix a hard time for making this change. For me, I couldn’t be happier. This shows the process and the community is working. Sure it would have been nice if Citrix would have mentioned these original changes to the CTPs ahead of time—maybe they could have saved some of the trouble. Then again, licensing and pricing is very sensitive, and with Citrix being a multi-billion dollar public company, sharing future pricing plans isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.

And we should keep in mind that XenDesktop 4 isn’t even out yet, so it’s not like any customers placed orders and got screwed already. Again, I couldn’t be happier. I’d like to think that our squeaky little community played some part in this, however small.

So now that that’s over, let’s stop talking about licensing and start talking about the new features of XenDesktop 4!

Final point that needs clarification

Since I’m writing this around 4:00am EST time, I don’t yet know whether the device/user licensed edition of XenDesktop VDI edition also comes with XenApp Advanced, or if you have to buy XenApp separately? Once I get an answer, I’ll post it here.

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Too early in the morning still for my brain to be operating at 100%, but my first reaction to these changes is positive.

Per device licensing will absolutely solve my concerns about our labs, and even though we will spend more for XD4 Enterprise than we would have XD3 Advanced, for that $30 retail difference we'll be getting XenApp Enterprise for our labs as well.


This is great, I take back ball kicking threats :-)

Whom ever had the courage to represent the community at Citrix, well done and thank you.

I'll have to dig into the details once they are out, but I expect 90% of people will be happy now. Clearly this shows Citrix get's the future is user based licenses and they are pushing people in that direction looking at the offering. Now we have a path. I guess some XD standard customers will be unhappy. The pricing is also interesting and takes away the View is cheaper argument. This for me is now XD 4 is really a landmark product release, so good stuff Citrix and again thanks to those at Citrix who listened to the community. Boo to those who tried to ram this down our throats.

BTW I'm still waiting for a brokerless option. Anybody tried Ericom Blaze yet?


@Tom - I had previously posted in response to your PS 4 std upgrade option, just drop me an email and i think I can connect you with someone who can help you out.

@All -

There seems (and appropriately so) to be a firestorm of confusion in the market right now, not only on lisc, but also on what parts do what, when, and how. To help with this matter, we have worked with the Carolinas Citrix team, to bring together multiple mfgs and create a good ol' fashion technical briefing. We will have Microsfot present to not only discuss lisc issues discussed above on VECD and the new RDS (replacing TS CAL), but will have a live demo environmnet to show off the technologies. Assuming this goes well in the Carolinas, we plan on bringing it to other cities. Drop me an email at rmorris@agsi.us if you have an interest on it coming to your city. You can check out the event details, and register at: www.advantec.us/events-dtv.htm

-Robert Morris



What am I missing? Let’s say as an example Company A has three primary solutions:

1. Remote Access via Terminal Server Gateway  on 2008

2. XenApp 4.5 R03

3. Xen Desktop w/ Xen Server acting hypervisor

In group 1 we have 1500 users in the AD Group access group.

In group 2, we have 300+ applications with over 7,000 users in 300+ AD Groups.  Published App only.  One AD Group to App ratio.

In group 3, we have 200 licenses, and approximately 60 concurrent users.

There are pro’s and con’s here; Example:


Everything else about the licenses is the same as what was previously announced. (Pricing, XenApp inclusion, opportunity to trade XenApp for XenDesktop licenses, etc.) It’s just that now you have the option of “per user” or “per device.”

Once I convert XenApp licenses 2 for 1 I am stuck. I have right at 6000 Xen App per user licenses and 7,000 subscribers? Why would I do that? Hence, this is not an option.

With that said, your point is valid on the VDI only license.  This is one of the more positive aspects.

They appear to be moving toward a Microsoft licensing methodology to which I’m not real fired up about.

XenApp licensing model will continue to be concurrent for now but that could change in the future.  They seem to be moving closer and closer to a Microsoft pricing methodology.  Anyone find this curious?

Right now, they are offering a one-time 2 for 1 conversion of licenses to Xen Desktop 4 which would support both platforms but in the end I think my hurt us due to the #’s we are getting concurrently.

Personally, I don’t understand the logic or pro-non-concurrent licensing of this thread.   What am I missing?   I see this as a bad thing.  Sure, it makes sense from a ratio perspective relative to conversion and the SA cost is about the same because it is based on the new pricing model but what about those of us that service 7,000 users with 3,000 concurrent sessions using 2000 licenses.  Event at 2 for one, I would have to buy additional licenses at conversion unless I had 3500 XenApp licenses?  


Citrix deserves a lot of credit here. Within hours of the pre-announcment to us CTP's we were on conference calls with product management, and, were given assurances that same day that the lack of a concurrent license would be rectified. Now within a very short time they worked out the details and went public.

If this is not a prime example of Community feedback working, nothing is!!


Surely it's time for an entire article dedicated to...

"Brokerless VDI by AppDetective"

And he talks about the XD people ramming stuff down our throats !!!    ;-)


@clayton if you'd listened to the Citrix Live session there was a good part of the discussion on persistent desktops vs. pooled and another one on costs of storage, but no discussion on scale or reliability. Overall it was a good discussion amongst people who get this industry.

If one agrees that most people can't implement pooled at scale for a long time unless they are very simply, the next issue is scale and impact of broker outages, you will also understand that broker is not needed. You need to simply map 1-1 user to static VM using your existing systems mgmt tools. Yes you loose some things a broker can do, but it's not needed and is just a strategy by the vendors to lock you in without adding value.  

So having an ability to just connect, allow me to connect using things like AD which scales, I can use local disk to reduce costs for persistent, my current systems management tools stay intact, broker outages have zero impact and I can deploy now, without having to figure out to build Rome day one which is why most people fail. When I choose to change systems management in the future when client hypervisors mgmt etc also adds value to the broker I can choose to change.

So it's not ramming stuff, it's a real world view ask to enable me to do this now, not in 3-5 years. For simple pooled today as was also mentioned on the call amongst some other things I say above is the simple fact that XA can do it. So yippie for XD 4 with a license that most people can consume to enable choice in product and license. Now we just need additional implementation options as well, and another way for Citrix to tell VMware FU with all the PCoIP fud they are spreading right now.


@Tom I am pretty sure that your current SA gets you to XenApp Advanced which you can upgrade to Enterprise or Platinum and then trade up to XenDesktop 4 under the current promo.

This is proof that the consumer voice can be heard.


Has anyone seen the results of the Citrix initiated poll on licensing?

When Appdetective is talking about "brokering" - Which component or process are you specifically referring to?


@stephen, The Connection Broker period. I want users mapped to static VMs and want to leverage ICA/HDX to just connect directly to the the static resource. No Middle tier, just like it is on a real desktop.......The ability to reliably connect is of the highest importance to me. No single points of failure in the connection process. This is like MSTSC with RDP, I want that for ICA/HDX due to the superior user experience.


@BrianMadden & @AppDetective

He needs to be a contributing editor for XenDesktop topics.  :-p


Thanks for all the great information!

Any follow-up yet on whether the device/user licensed edition of XenDesktop VDI edition also comes with XenApp Advanced, or if you have to buy XenApp separately?



Hang on... if my use case scenario is that I want to use VDI as a remote access solution, how does this help me?

Let's say I have 500 users, and no more than 50 are ever going to log on remotely at once. Which licensing model helps me? The "device" model doesn't, as all my users have their own device. The "named user" doesn't as I still need to license every user. The new "VDI' model most likely won't help either, as I doubt it will include the AGEE license (or will it?), and I'll miss out on all of the additional features that the Enterprise and Platinum editions give me.

Bring back concurrent user!


Hi Hamish,

CCU is still there in its initial form :)

However, your biggest issue is how will you do the VECD license, as this is per device or per user also.  So before you even go the Citrix route, you are stuck with MS licensing.

From what I can see from Citrix now, their licensing is essentially trying to mimic what Microsoft is doing with their VECD licensing which will make licensing your VDI environment conform and not be so complex.  That is my theory, dunno how it will work in practice as VECD still does not suite remote access scenarios that well.



CCU is only available in the "VDI" edition, not in the Enterprise or Platinum Editions. I agree that the new models make it easier to determine how many VECD licenses I need, but it still makes my implementation a lot more expensive! Even with the 2:1 trade-in offer, I'm still stuck with the additional Subscription Advantage costs!