This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Citrix Synergy 2018 conference coverage

Raise your hand if you’re using Citrix Cloud services

Citrix has been proactively marketing cloud services for about two years, but why is the adoption rate low?

Full adoption of Citrix Cloud services is in the scant single digits. Despite Citrix’s “cloud-first” approach, the customer base hasn’t fully embraced it. In this article, we’ll review the Citrix Cloud services offerings related to XenApp/XenDesktop, as well as the present and potential future state of cloud adoption.

Types of Citrix Cloud services

The product lines can be confusing, so to clarify, there are six distinct XenApp and XenDesktop offerings under the umbrella of Citrix Cloud. (Also, while the Citrix Secure Browser Service is technically a multi-user offering, for the purposes of today’s article, we’ll focus on the six offerings below.)

First, there are “Service” offerings, which allow you to run workloads on various hypervisors and cloud platforms. XenDesktop Service was launched in 2015, and XenApp Service became available as a standalone offering earlier this year.  

  • XenApp Service: Session-based application hosting with each workload server supporting multiple users (i.e. 1:many). Cost is $15/user/month based on a three-year agreement.
  • XenDesktop Service: Desktop hosting based on each user having a unique corresponding desktop (i.e., 1:1). Cost is $15/user/month based on a three-year agreement.
  • XenApp and XenDesktop Service: Combination of the two aforementioned services, (i.e. applications and desktops). Cost is $22.50/user/month based on a three-year agreement.
  • Citrix Workspace Service: XenApp and XenDesktop Service plus XenMobile, ShareFile, and Secure Browser Services. Cost is $34.38/user/month based on a three-year agreement.

The “Essentials” offerings require workloads to run in Azure, and have a smaller set of features. I wrote about them for this site last year, and they were released in 2017:

  • XenApp Essentials: Session-based application hosting with each workload server supporting multiple users (i.e. 1:many). Cost is $12/user/month and auto-renewed monthly.
  • XenDesktop Essentials: Virtual desktop service based on each user having a unique corresponding Windows 10 desktop (i.e. 1:1). Cost is $12/user/month and auto-renewed monthly.

The following is applicable to all offerings:

  • Core components, i.e. Delivery Controller, Director, Studio, Licensing Server, StoreFront (now called Workspace Experience), as well as the required component databases, are included. The control plane component features vary based on the offering.
  • A minimum of 25 users per month is required.
  • NetScaler Gateway is included for secure remote access.
  • Workloads, i.e. server or workstation VMs, storage, and all other resources, such as database servers, are not

A bit confusing, yes!

Survey says …

In the eG Innovations/DABCC 2018 Citrix Migration Survey, conducted in late 2017 (awesome report!), only 5% of the respondents reported that they were currently using Citrix Cloud (i.e. XenApp/XenDesktop Service) or XenApp/XenDesktop Essentials, and 50% had no plans for cloud adoption. The remainder were considering cloud services or planning to look at moving to the cloud in the future.

While the cloud adoption rate may have increased slightly since the survey date, it’s clear that a major shift has not yet occurred. There are several key reasons for this. The survey identified a few--including lack of familiarity, cost, and security/compliance--plus there are others that I’ll mention.

  • Education process: Cloud is completely new way to manage a virtualization infrastructure, and it is initially overwhelming. In addition, the cost for a cloud lab environment may be prohibitive. While some training materials and labs exist, it’s just not as well-known as the traditional method of installing a few VMs and voilà.
  • Cost: Especially for those with extreme database and storage requirements, moving workloads to the cloud comes with a high cost. Many enterprises underestimate the cost associated with the various aspects of cloud services.
  • Compliance: Many highly regulated industries, such as banking and health care, have detailed and complex compliance requirements. Audit and documentation specifications don’t readily embrace new technologies, and early cloud adopters may be subject to additional scrutiny.
  • Lack of per-user/per-month pricing: Unlike Azure, AWS, and other providers that invoice based on actual monthly usage, Citrix licensing is stringently based on a minimum of 25 users and, for the “Service” offerings, at least one year.
  • Cloud keeps changing: It’s both a positive and a negative that cloud interfaces and functionality are continuously modified. As a result, the people maintaining cloud resources and workloads must constantly stay abreast of changes, and this may require allocating redundant and expensive IT professionals for administration.
  • What if? Citrix administrators are accustomed with how to manage on-premises environments, but may fear being ill-equipped to address numerous “what if?” scenarios that may arise in the cloud, i.e., you don’t know what you don’t know. A savvy consultant can help guide you through this new territory.

Drivers for cloud migration

On the positive side, there are some significant factors that will drive cloud migration in 2018. As the survey states, XenApp 6.5 end of life is a key reason to consider Citrix Cloud offerings, but there are several other effects that will accelerate adoption this year.

  • XenApp 6.5 end of life: With end of life only two months away, many organizations are scrambling to add extended support while making plans to adopt XenApp 7.x. Because the environment must largely be rebuilt in order to simultaneously adopt a newer version of Windows Server, considering making all of these changes in the cloud has merit. Demand for consulting will likely be at an all-time high from Citrix customers as they deliberate XenApp 7.x and associated infrastructure options.
  • Getting out of the data center business: Many CIOs have openly stated this as a goal. Even though moving to the cloud represents a higher cost, the current “rack ‘em, stack ‘em” efforts associated with maintaining a data center detract from the desired focus of some IT organizations.
  • Built-in core component redundancy and upgrades: Citrix Cloud provides inherent redundancy and upgrades of the core components. IT shops that have experienced significant downtime due to single points of failure and complexity associated with upgrades can appreciate this built-in functionality.
  • NetScaler simplification: Let’s face it: NetScaler is a fairly complex piece of the Citrix infrastructure, and NetScaler administrators are difficult to find and retain. Allowing Citrix to take responsibility for secure remote access as part of Citrix Cloud may be the icing on the cake for some enterprises.


Although actual cloud adoption is minimal to date, many IT organizations are pondering next steps for XenApp 6.5 environments, and the result will likely be more Citrix Cloud adoption near term. For some, on-premises solutions will prevail, but as part of due diligence, many organizations will at least take a look at Citrix Cloud to determine whether it’s the better option.

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