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|
|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?
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.