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There are two different support models for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops: Long Term Service Release and Current Release. IT professionals that manage Citrix environments should familiarize themselves with both to determine the best servicing model for their organization.
Three years ago, Citrix released its first LTSR version of Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops with version 7.6. LTSR was meant for customers who wanted predictability and long-term support for their Citrix environments. With LTSR, Citrix provided five years of mainstream support with a release cycle of new versions every two to three years to enable organizations to more easily provide a stable Citrix environment.
Citrix announced LTSR around the time that Microsoft released its Long-Term Servicing Channel for Windows Server, Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, which Citrix wanted to align with. LTSR releases, however, didn't provide any large enhancements or new features, which is an issue because software and applications update at a rapid pace.
Citrix, for example, created an add-on to Skype for Business to optimize the video and audio traffic in a Citrix environment. Citrix developed the same optimization for Microsoft Teams, but Citrix announced that this feature will not be available for the LTSR release. Many customers will need to wait for the next LTSR release to have the extra functionality.
Citrix started to release new versions of its Virtual Apps and Desktops product under the Current Release (CR) cycle, which was aimed to be an alternative to LTSR to deliver new functionality at the cost of lower support periods and more frequent release cycles.
Now, Citrix has released two versions of LTSR, version 7.6 and 7.15, and multiple versions of CR, with the latest version being version 1903.
There is no doubt that Citrix wants to push customers to embrace CR, since it is rapidly developing new functionality and adding new features to its releases.
Many customers are reluctant to switch from LTSR to CR, however, because of the need to update every six months and the risk that something will break during that process. Another issue is the ecosystem of other components that need to work and be supported, such as thin clients, print products, GPU software and other third-party platforms.
With the CR cycle of public cloud platforms, Citrix also needs to build new functionality to provide support for its new services, such as provisioning support for Google Cloud, new disk options in Azure or new network features in AWS.
What about Citrix Cloud?
Citrix updates its cloud service frequently, as often as every 14 days. Citrix introduced an LTSR version for Citrix Cloud as well. IT can configure the on-premises VDA components as LTSR but will still need to update the cloud service itself on a regular basis. The issue with this is that all new feature enhancements will not work because of the LTSR component.
Deciding between Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops LTSR vs. CR
Many applications and platforms that run on a Citrix platform use a subscription-based model and deliver updates in a rapid release cycle. Office 365, for example, has already introduced numerous updates and changes. As more customers embrace public cloud platforms, such as AWS and Azure, that release daily updates, the mindset of update models is changing.
IT admins deciding between Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops LTSR or CR should ask themselves the following questions:
- What is the demand for supporting new functionality or features from both an end-user and IT admin perspective? For example, IT admins might demand new features in Office 365 or support for public cloud services provisioning.
- Does the IT department have the capacity to update the platform on a regular basis? In most cases, there is a demand for high uptime for Citrix environments. IT must ensure that it can properly update on a regular basis, which requires planning and maintenance windows.
- What is the current ecosystem of applications and other third parties that are a part of the Citrix platform? Thin clients and specific applications might not support the latest version and require their own validation of the latest releases.
Ultimately, IT needs to decide whether it wants long-term support and a static environment or shorter support and new functionality.