News: Return of the XenApp

January 29, 2014
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News of Citrix’s “return” to XenApp peppered the blogosphere yesterday, after various people had been hinting at it for a few weeks. According to Citrix, it is “back by popular demand” and will be available in March 2014.

But is it really “back by popular demand”? Certainly many people were sad to see XenApp become folded into XenDesktop, effectively, and many of them saw this as a cynical ploy to force them into buying XenDesktop licenses instead. But there was always “XenDesktop App Edition,” which felt a bit like XenApp and VM Hosted Apps combined. So is XenApp 7.5 simply a rebrand of XenDesktop App Edition? One thing’s for certain—by returning to the XenApp name, XA is now possibly the longest-lasting Citrix technology name ever.

The outcry about the death of XenApp clearly wasn’t comparable to Microsoft’s decision to axe the much-loved Start Menu, mainly because a lot of enterprises still saw XenApp 6.5 FP2 on the horizon and figured that with the end of operational life (EOL) date being in 2016, there was still plenty of mileage left in it. Don’t forget, a lot of systems out there are still running older, unsupported versions of the product that came to be known as XenApp, so unless a lot of techies directed their concerns straight to Citrix and didn’t bother to vent their fury online, the “popular demand” tagline could simply be a marketing ploy.

As XenApp 7.5 will be based on the new Flexcast Management Architecture (FMA) and not the old, long-toothed Independent Management Architecture (IMA), just like XenDesktop 7, it is possible that Citrix may have used this “return” to tempt people into making the jump to FMA. Diehard Citrix admins who are used to having zone data collectors (ZDCs), local host caches (LHCs), and all the other IMA fun have certainly been reticent to entertain FMA, in my experience. It also could be the case that Citrix is intending to use XenApp 7.5 as an interim step to assist migration from XenApp to XenDesktop, but given that the world seems to be in the process of becoming much less desktop-focused, I think the former reason may be more likely.

XenApp 7.5 will be a separate SKU (stock keeping unit), like the old XenApp, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it is a re-release of XenApp 6.5. Let’s not forget that there were some features missing in XenDesktop 7 App Edition that were available in XenApp 6.5—think Oracle support, Session Pre-Launch and Linger, Smart Auditor, Health Monitoring, etc. Although 7.5 is closer to 6.5, it has still not completely bridged the gap.

The real boost for XenApp 7.5 is in new features such as hybrid cloud provisioning, which moves Citrix closer to VMware and Amazon in the cloudy arena. It will have out-of-the-box support for connections to major cloud providers, including Citrix’s own CloudPlatform. And there’s more good news: Web Interface is back! StoreFront has suffered from the same reluctant uptake as FMA, so bringing back the Web Interface feature may be something that admins feel is worth daring the FMA route. Also, AppDNA is now fully integrated into the product, which is also good news. AppDNA’s being separately licensed has meant many have avoided it as a tool for gauging application compatibility, so the integration into the higher licensing schemes (Platinum, more than likely) is quite welcome for those who find themselves dealing with incompatible line of business (LOB) apps midway through implementations.

There’s no indication of where Citrix’s acquisition of Framehawk may factor in to the XenApp 7.5 capabilities or of how much it may integrate (if at all) with the likes of XenMobile—although a discount on XenMobile is offered for Platinum license holders. Certainly, the way it has been announced—in a relatively low-key fashion, away from Synergy, which is the normal conduit for new releases—has left most of us wondering exactly what we are going to get from this latest iteration of Citrix’s XenApp product.

James Rankin (11 Posts)

James has worked in IT since 1995, spending nearly ten years as a server engineer and systems administrator before choosing to focus heavily on user and application virtualization in late 2004. Based in the north-east of England, he runs his own consultancy focusing primarily on Citrix, AppSense, Microsoft and VMware technologies. He recently received the AppSense Community Advisor award for contributions to the online USV community.

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One Response to News: Return of the XenApp

  1. January 29, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Return? There is a suggestion there it went away ;) It didn’t and perhaps that was the problem. Too many tried, validated, trusted XenApp installations existed. XD7 and VDI just not giving that extra functionality…which could also be perceived as a blocker to maintaining your Citrix SA.

    There are a number of articles highlighting tech differences between XA 6.5 and XD App Edition. The scale that FMA brings over IMA was one advantage over a slew of disadvantages and lost features. While I’d be very surprised that elements of Framehawk would be available this soon after acquisition, there’s been plenty of times to address feature gap that App Edition had and look to resolve issues with the deployment of storefront by extending support for WI.

    Ultimately, XA offers a better platform to deliver windows applications to a range of devices than a VDI service. With the ongoing rise of mobility eschewing the importance of the platform was a error best corrected.

    I too am slightly bemused at the timing as, I think, are many partners who will likely not have been as geared up to answer questions and deal with upgrade planning as they’d have liked.

    That said, in the long run maintaining the XA SKU is a far more sensible and customer focused approach I think, which will be handy given the rise of VMware’s EUC offering.

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