Citrix XenApp 4.x, 5.x and 6.0 EOL is 2013. The End is Coming: Look Busy.

I had an interesting discussion with a customer around prioritisation of their services prior to Windows 2003 and Windows XP going end of life in 2014. As we saunter nonchalantly to the start of 2012, what must the focus be next year? You may well be having the same conversations. Let’s be honest, corporate change isn’t as dynamic as we’d like. This has it’s own positives, it’s own negatives.

Back to my customer. There is a business-influential Citrix XenApp estate hosted on Windows 2003. It has a reliable history: and if it ain’t broke…The client has a sizable user-base in central London, this estate is scheduled to be expanded to accommodate more remote working due to the Olympics: which will cause the greatest mass of people in one place that you can get in peace-time.

Granted, there was an understanding that the XenApp environment had a limited shelf-life. Granted, there was an understanding that because this was an external facing  service, End of Life (EOL) and the subsequent lack of ability to at least security patch the service could not be tolerated.

So, we have an interesting question. Windows 2003, Windows XP EOL is 2014. For all Citrix XenApp versions other than the most recent 6.5 release, EOL .. End. Of. Life.

No Support.

No Security patches.

No message other than, “Upgrade”.

This likely signals an upheaval for a Citrix customers, especially if they’ve attempted to be ingenious with their Citrix Subscriptions renewals in this economic climate. Which in turns poses a number of questions.

Citrix’s main customer base is XenApp. There is a large pre-XenApp 6.5 user base.  What are the options for migration, do you need to upgrade? Will Citrix have a crisis of confidence as customers look at their license, hardware and migration costs and think – what else it out there?

Plan to standardise on Citrix XenApp 6.5 Now.

Of course, this isn’t “news”, this is “olds” –  you can read the full version here

Product Version/model End of Maintenance End of Life
Presentation Server 4.5 30-Sep-2012 31-Mar-2013
Presentation Server 4.5 FP1 30-Sep-2012 31-Mar-2013
XenApp 5.0 30-Sep-2012 31-Mar-2013
XenApp 5.0 FP 30-Sep-2012 31-Mar-2013
XenApp for Windows Server 2008 5.0 15-Jan-2013 15-Jul-2013
XenApp for Windows Server 2008 5.0 FP 15-Jan-2013 15-Jul-2013
XenApp for Windows Server 2008R2 6.0 15-Jan-13 15-Jul-13
XenApp for Windows Server 2008R2 6.5 23-Jan-15 24-Jul-15

Obviously, Citrix’s XenApp product currently sits across a number of Microsoft platforms: Windows 2003, Windows 2008, Windows 2008R2. There are fundamental differences between 4.5 and 6.5. Maintaining different environments will be costly and, given the end dates for Windows 2003 is continuing an option. As we discussed in a previous article, there are a range of features that help make XenApp 6.5 an important consideration in an enterprise desktop delivery strategy.

However, 2008R2 is a 64 bit operating system. There are advantages here for scale and reliability but this won’t be a simple farm upgrade: a new 6.5 farm environment must be built and then existing farm settings effectively saved and re-entered into the new environment.

Importantly – will your applications run in this environment? Citrix’s acquisition of AppDNA is likely going to be key in the remediation of application  issues. However, a major precursor to that activity is understanding the actual application use. What is the point in migrating an unused application? Here, solutions from the likes of Centrix Software, Lakeside, Liquidware Labs and RES Software are going to be needed as they can reduce the time and effort required to track and understand this information and then feed into solutions like AppDNA.

You could of course, continue with the Windows 2003 environment being unsupported. But, as services are increasingly delivered to devices outside of the network – to home users, to mobile users, to partners – will your environment continue to remain robust and reliable if it is not actively maintained?

This could be the time to move from a server based operating environment to a virtual desktop. However, one of the reasons for deploying session based services is the scalability and ease of management. Virtual Desktops provide access to a 32-bit desktop OS for sure, and it may be that there is more need for such services to support specific applications. But, en masse migration from session desktops to hosted desktops will be a costly exercise.

Will other vendors, such as Quest or Ericom, be able to take advantage? There may be an opportunity to highlight the difference in licensing, and take advantage of the fact it is a new environment but moving vendors is always a challenge and is not always definable  as license cost alone.

Regardless, 2012 may not be the year of the virtual desktop but it will very likely be the year of desktop transformation planning.