Why Such Slow XenApp 7.6 Adoption?

Although XenApp 7.6 has been available for three months, the latest version of XenApp isn’t catching on like wildfire. Is this a surprise?

XenApp 7.6 brought about feature parity with XenApp 6.5. It has taken Citrix three releases (i.e., 7.0, 7.5, and 7.6) to do this. Those who have used XenApp 6.5,know it was a rock-solid release. Understandably, many IT organizations have been hesitant to move from XenApp 6.5 to XenApp 7.5, because there’s little to be gained.

While some aspects of XenApp 7.6 are clearly superior to those of XenApp 6.5, such as HDX user experience and the availability of Machine Creation Services to provision servers, is the time and effort associated with transitioning from XenApp 6.5 to XenApp 7.6 worthwhile?

A poll conducted during the Citrix XenApp 7.6 Master Class webinar in late November indicated that for the nearly 1,000 attendees, version 6.5 was by far the most commonly deployed version of XenApp. Surprisingly, twice as many respondents were using XenApp 6.0, XenApp 5.x, or earlier than were using XenApp 7.x.

In light of XenApp 6.5’s being such a stable product, if IT organizations running XenApp 6.0 and earlier can’t be coerced to transition to XenApp 6.5, then moving those IT organizations, as well as the existing XenApp 6.5 customer base, to XenApp 7.6 will be even more of a challenge.

Transitioning to a newer version of XenApp requires a significant investment in time, money, resources, and training, in addition to consulting services. With all of these at a premium in every IT organization, there must be a solid business case and technical advantages associated with the transition. Because the benefits of XenApp 7.6 are negligible compared to those of XenApp 6.5, feature parity plus a few enhancements just aren’t enough incentive for a significant investment.

Even more importantly, recent changes in IT practice are forcing more organizations to heighten their focus on security. This change in focus is pulling resources from other projects that are mediocre in urgency and importance. Many of those security projects are based on networking and not back end functionality, such as XenApp.

One benefit of XenApp 7.6 from a security perspective is that it is now FIPS 140-2 compliant. While FIPS compliance is required for the US federal government, it is an increasingly common request by other highly security conscious industries, such as banking and health care. Based on security requirements alone, it is likely that banking and health care will be among the initial adopters to follow the US federal government in transitioning to XenApp 7.6 to offer shared server resources to users.

But what about XenApp 5.x and earlier deployments? Considering that there are more IT shops running XenApp 5.x and earlier than XenApp 7.x, it is clear that a great many organizations are satisfied with the status quo. This shows that the functionality and feature set aren’t enough incentive for adopting a newer version of XenApp.

To increase XenApp 7.6 adoption rates, Citrix needs to make the transition easier and minimize the pain points associated with migration. While the last few versions of XenApp have included basic but not robust migration tools based on transitioning the previous version to the current version, there is nothing available to assist IT shops running XenApp 5.x or earlier with migrating to XenApp 7.6, or even 6.5. Assuming that 20% of all XenApp users are based on XenApp 5.0 or earlier, the first vendor, i.e., Citrix or VMware, that creates an easy-to-use tool to smoothly migrate to a newer version will retain or win a sizeable chunk of the market. Who will win that race?

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Jo Harder
Jo Harder has been involved with virtualization for over 18 years, long before virtualization was the norm. After holding several sales and marketing positions, she started down the path of bits and bytes while at AT&T/Lucent Technologies. She then moved onto Citrix in 1999, where she became a Senior Architect. Her 11-year tenure included a combination of Citrix Consulting and Technical Readiness roles. After leaving Citrix, Jo provided consulting services for various clients for the next year. In her current role at a hosting provider, she is focused on cloud-based solutions for financial industry clients. In February 2015, she was awarded Citrix Technology Professional. Jo's diverse background of sales, marketing, management, and architectural/technical expertise brings a unique perspective to Virtualization Practice. She welcomes input from vendors, industry contacts, and end users and can be reached at joharder@virtualizationpractice.com.

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Security updates for Windows Server 2003 will end in July, 2015. That should force most XenApp 5.0 farms to be retired.