Last week, Citrix announced the release of XenApp 7.5, which will be available in March. Although the touted features focus on mobility and cloud integration, there’s a key underlying message within this announcement: “Long live virtualized applications and XenApp as a product!”
When Citrix started focusing on XenDesktop several years ago, it bullied the marketplace into thinking that a virtual desktop was the future of virtualization. Reality has proven that it is for some, but certainly not all. Let’s face it: virtualized desktops are cool but not always necessary. The concept of accessing a distinct desktop that doesn’t impact your computer desktop is certainly flashy. However, virtual desktops come at a high cost and add the complexity of multiple components. Businesses require solid reasons for adapting technologies; “it’s cool” isn’t enough.
There are valid use cases for which a virtualized desktop is the right solution, such as when applications don’t support multi-user access or local administrator permissions are required. When such cases occur, administrators will spend many, many hours trying to get apps to function properly and still might have to admit defeat in the end. In addition, developers commonly use virtualized desktops for testing and development, and contractors may be issued virtualized desktops for security reasons.
But in many cases, XenApp virtualized applications are not only more cost effective but also the better solution from the standpoint of simplicity and overall business requirements. End users adapt to virtualized applications quickly and easily, and most applications can be virtualized via XenApp without a significant amount of effort. Of course, most business decisions boil down to dollars and cents and the perceived benefit of the solution.
It will be interesting to see how Citrix addresses licensing for XenApp 7.5. Many Citrix customers accepted XenDesktop licensing because Citrix made them extremely attractive offers, but all they really wanted and used were the equivalent of XenApp concurrent licenses. What will happen when these customers ask Citrix to revert their licenses back to XenApp concurrent?
As you may recall, when XenDesktop was released, Citrix attempted to force customers to use either per-user or per-device licensing. This angered many customers, and Citrix quickly reinstated concurrent licensing. I foresee that XenApp 7.5 licensing will be a hot topic of discussion in March, and that Citrix may be forced to adjust licensing if the marketplace deems any forthcoming licensing announcements unreasonable.
An additional facet of the XenApp 7.5 announcement is that Web Interface will be supported. I’m not sure how many readers have used StoreFront, but it’s more complex than Web Interface, and many IT professionals have expressed their frustrations with it. Conversely, Web Interface installs in a matter of minutes and is easy to configure. Further, because Web Interface has been around for so long, it’s easy to find information on how to troubleshoot or customize it.
XenApp and its predecessors—WinFrame, MetaFrame, and Presentation Server—created the market for virtualized applications. The XenApp 7.5 announcement is quite significant in that it shows that Citrix finally recognizes that not everyone wants a virtual desktop and that XenApp and its virtualized applications still have a long life ahead of them.