Citrix XenApp Has a Lifecycle Management Problem

On the Tuesday morning keynote that launched this year’s Citrix Synergy conference, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton took time to set to rest several years of speculation about the importance of XenApp. The message was unequivocal:

“We love XenApp.”

Templeton went on to review both how important XenApp is to Citrix and its importance in the enterprise. The top ten US healthcare organizations, top ten global pharmaceuticals, top twenty US energy companies, top ten US aerospace companies, top twenty global banks, top ten US banks, top ten US life/health insurance companies, top nine US school districts, and so on… all love XenApp. And so they should. XenApp is an excellent product. When it comes to Windows app delivery, in the right hands there is almost nothing that it can’t do and do very well.

But there’s a problem with XenApp that no amount of love or market share can address, and Citrix is now forced to acknowledge it. XenApp has been an excellent product for many years. When you have the best product on in the market, it’s hard to keep finding ways to improve it—at least, in ways that will make your customers want to upgrade to the next release. And that is the problem: Citrix customers are not upgrading to new XenApp releases at anything close to the rate Citrix would like. No one at Citrix has come out and said so, but the evidence is there. As Jo Harder reported for The Virtualization Practice last year, XenApp 7.5 was absent many of the more advanced features offered by XenApp 6.5. Those features returned only in XenApp 7.6, and even then, some were not as readily accessible as they had been in XenApp 6.5. Still missing is Project Serenity. Promised for 2014 and only now in beta, Project Serenity exports XenApp 6.x configurations and converts them from Citrix IMA to FMA architecture.

Citrix’s answer to these woes is welcome and at the same time troubling. Immediately after sharing how much everyone loves XenApp, Templeton went on to announce:

“We have decided to extend the lifecycle of XenApp 6.5 until 2017.”

– Cue Applause

The change sees end of maintenance for XenApp 6.5 moved from February 24, 2016, to December 31, 2017, and end of life moved from August 24, 2016, to June 30, 2018. The change applies only to customers who deploy the XenApp 6.5 Feature Pack 3, which was announced at the same time and will ship in June. Customers who don’t deploy the new Feature Pack will not be able to take advantage of the extended support dates.

There was no doubting that the audience would appreciate the news, and of course they did. You only need look at the number of organizations that failed to address Windows XP’s end of life until the last possible minute to know that there’s nothing that IT likes more than to put off a major platform update. But no matter how its customers feel, this is bad news for Citrix. After Citrix invested many millions in rewriting XenApp and XenDesktop to support a unified code base, its customers are staying away. And unlike Microsoft, which can rely on its effective monopoly to “encourage” its customers to grasp the nettle and upgrade, Citrix has to acknowledge that it longer has that luxury. So with Project Serenity late and a customer base that has no pressing need to upgrade, Citrix has little choice but to continue to pour resources into what it had hoped would be a legacy platform. Which means that after cutting 900 staff just a few months ago, Citrix, instead of consolidating support on XenApp 7.6, now finds itself with two versions of XenApp in active development.

Things are no better on the support front. Just one week before Synergy, Citrix lengthened the extended support period for XenApp 4.5 and the Windows Server 2003 version of XenApp 5.0 by another year, pushing it out from July 14, 2015, to July 14, 2016. Citrix strategy for extended support is that it is supposed to align with Microsoft’s end of extended support milestone for the corresponding server OS version. End of extended support for Windows Server 2003 is July 14, 2015, which means that Citrix has granted its customers another full year to upgrade from 4.5 after Microsoft hangs up on the support line for good. This isn’t quite the problem for Citrix that XenApp 6.5 is; at least Citrix is paid to provide extended support, so in theory it shouldn’t distract from supporting newer releases. As Windows Server 2003 is the last 32-bit server OS, customers holding on to XenApp 4.5 are likely doing so for better reasons than a simple reluctance to upgrade.

When Mark Templeton announced that XenApp 6.5 was being given a new lease on life, the news was met with universal applause. This may be good news for the customer today, but the long-term position is nothing but bad news for Citrix. VMware and, increasingly, Dell with vWorkspace are more than capable of competing with Citrix XenApp in the mid-market and in less demanding enterprise environments. What Citrix has achieved with XenApp is outstanding; however, in the face of serious competition on its home ground, Citrix can ill afford to squander resources on a product without a future.

XenApp Support Milestones

XenApp Version End of Mainstream Maintenance End of Life End of Extended Support
4.5 Expired Expired 14-Jul-2016
5.0 for Windows Server 2003 Expired Expired 14-Jul-2016
5.0 for Windows Server 2008 Expired Expired 14-Jan-2020
6.0 24-Feb-2016 24-Aug-2016 14-Jan-2020
6.5 Feature Pack 2 24-Feb-2016 24-Aug-2016 14-Jan-2020
6.5 Feature Pack 3 31-Dec-2017 30-Jun-2018 14-Jan-2020
7.x TBA 30-Jun-2018 10-Jan-2023

Citrix XenApp Has a Lifecycle Management Problem was first published by The Virtualization Practice  on May 26th 2015