Category Archives: Licensing

Just Sign the Check Right Here - We’ll Fill In the Amount Later

Back in the old days of minicomputers and mainframes, we used to joke about IBM’s ability to, for all intents and purposes, get the customer to sign a blank check. They were better than anybody I’ve ever seen at getting people to commit to a solution when they really had no idea what the ultimate cost would be - and they were successful because of another cliche (which became a cliche because it was so accurate): “Nobody ever got fired for buying from IBM.” The message was basically, “Yes, we may be more expensive than everybody else, but we’ll take care of you.”

For the most part, those days are long gone, which made it all the more amazing to me to read that VMware is adopting per-VM licensing for most of its management products.

The article nails the basic problem with this licensing approach:

You know how many processors you have on a system, and that’s a fixed number. But the number of VMs on one host — let alone throughout your entire infrastructure — is regularly in flux. How do you plan your purchasing around that? And how do you make sure you don’t violate your licensing terms?

Hey, it’s easy - you just let VMware tell you what to put on your check at the end of the year:

You estimate your needs for the next year and buy licenses to meet those needs. Over the course of those 12 months, vCenter Server calculates the average number of concurrently powered-on VMs running the software. And if you end up needing more licenses to cover what you used, you just reconcile with VMware at the end of the year.

And, before you ask, no, you don’t get money back if you use fewer licenses than you originally purchased.

Sounds to me like a sweet deal - for VMware.

By comparison, the most expensive version of XenServer is $5,000 per server (not per processor, not per VM), and all of the management functionality is included. And the basic version of XenServer, which includes live motion, is free, and still includes the XenCenter distributed management software. (Here’s a helpful comparison chart of which features are included in which version of XenServer.)

A number of years ago, I attended a seminar that discussed the product adoption curve, and how products moved from the “innovation” phase to the “commodity” phase. The inflection point for a particular market was referred to as the “point of most” - where most of the products met most of the needs of most of the customers most of the time. When this point is reached, additional feature innovation no longer justifies a premium price.

The fact is that XenServer and Hyper-V are rapidly achieving feature parity with VMware. If we haven’t reached the “point of most” yet, we certainly will before much more time goes by. So even if you have a substantial investment in VMware already, at some point you have to re-examine what it’s costing every year, don’t you? Or are you OK with just signing a check and letting them fill in the amount later?

The Trade Up Is Dead - Long Live the Trade Up!

As we told you many times, and in many ways, the special Citrix XenDesktop Trade-Up promotion ended on June 30. However, as we expected, Citrix has announced a new trade-up promotion. So there is still a migration path from XenApp to XenDesktop, although (as we also expected) it will cost you more than it would have had you acted before June 30.

You can still get the two-for-one deal if (1) your Subscription Advantage is current, and (2) you trade up all of your XenApp licenses.

Citrix has also extended the trade-up offer to customers who own XenApp Fundamentals (a.k.a. Access Essentials), which is great news. Under the earlier promo, these customers would have had to upgrade to XenApp Enterprise first, and then trade up to XenDesktop. Now they can trade up for the same price as customers who own XenApp Advanced Edition (although the two-for-one deal is not available for XenApp Fundamentals).

Here’s the pricing matrix for the new promo, which will run through December 31, 2010 (click graphic to view full size):

XenDesktop Trade Up Pricing, July 1 - Dec 31, 2010

Seven Days and Counting

Just in case you haven’t heard, there’s one week to go on the Citrix XenDesktop 4 Trade-Up Promotion. Here’s a quick recap:

  • The XenDesktop 4 Enterprise and Platinum Editions include all of the functionality of the corresponding XenApp edition. In other words, if you buy XenApp licenses today, you get XenApp. If you buy XenDesktop licenses, you get XenDesktop and XenApp.
  • however, the license model changes: XenApp licenses have always been - and continue to be - based on concurrent use. If you own 100 XenApp licenses, it doesn’t make any difference how many users hit your XenApp farm, you’re just limited to a maximum of 100 at any given time. XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum licenses are non-concurrent - they are either per user or per device (your choice).
  • on the other hand, XenDesktop licenses are only about half the price per license as XenApp licenses. That means if your concurrency ratio (the ratio of total users to concurrent users) is less than 2-to-1, you’re better off buying XenDesktop licenses even if all you plan to use today is XenApp! You’ll pay less money, and you’ll have all that XenDesktop functionality in your back pocket ready to be deployed when you’re ready.
  • The current trade-up promotion allows you to convert your existing XenApp licenses to XenDesktop licenses at a price that you will probably never see again. This promotion is ending June 30.
  • If your Citrix Subscription Advantage is current, and you trade up all of your XenApp licenses, Citrix will give you two XenDesktop licenses for every XenApp license you trade up. E.g., if you have 100 XenApp licenses, your Subscription Advantage is current, and you trade up all 100 of them, you’ll end up with 200 XenDesktop licenses.
  • If your Subscription Advantage has been expired for a while, you may find that it’s less expensive to trade up to XenDesktop (which will come with a year of Subscription Advantage) than to pay the fee to get Subscription Advantage reinstated on your XenApp licenses. You won’t get the 2-for-1 deal, so you’ll have to look closely at whether the new license model will mean you have to buy additional licenses, which will obviously affect whether or not the total cost is advantageous to you, but it’s worth running the numbers to find out.
  • If the Subscription Advantage renewal on your XenApp licenses is coming due soon, consider the benefits of redirecting those renewal dollars to help pay for the trade-up. That can make an already-sweet deal even sweeter.

Citrix has a helpful on-line trade-up calculator that you can use to help you compare costs. You’ll need to enter (1) how many XenApp licenses you own, (2) how many of them you want to trade up, (3) what version of XenApp you own, (4) what version of XenDesktop you want to trade up to, and (5) whether or not your Subscription Advantage is current.

I suppose it’s possible that, come July 1, Citrix will announce that they’re extending the promotion…but I doubt it. So far, everyone I’ve talked to at Citrix has assured me that it will not be extended. I’m sure that there will still be an upgrade path after July 1, but it will cost you more money than the current promotion.

One more thing - if you’re going to do this, please don’t wait until the afternoon of June 30 to issue your purchase order! June 30 is like the “triple witching hour” - it’s end-of-month, end-of-quarter, and end-of-promotion. So it’s bound to be crazy busy in the Citrix order entry department. We’ve been requesting that all of our customers get their orders to us by end of business on the 29th, just to make sure that we can get the order placed through distribution and into Citrix’s hands before end of business in Fort Lauderdale on the 30th.

P.S.: We’re frequently asked why Citrix is making the change to non-concurrent licensing for XenDesktop. The main rationale is that if you’re looking at a serious desktop virtualization initiative, your concurrency ratio is probably going to be close to 1-to-1 anyway, so you won’t get much benefit from a concurrent license model. It also aligns more closely with the Microsoft VDI licensing model.

The important thing to remember is that if you are in that situation, you’ll actually spend less money and get more functionality for it, because the XenDesktop licenses will cost you roughly half of what it would cost to buy an equivalent number of XenApp licenses.

And if your use case is primarily to support a large pool of remote users, but you will never have more than half of them logged on at any given time, you can still purchase XenApp licenses to support those users, and they will still be concurrent use licenses.

Citrix Branch Repeater VPX Licensing Tutorial

I recently implemented both the new Citrix Access Gateway (CAG) VPX and the Branch Repeater VPX within our development lab. Both are “virtual appliances” designed to run directly on a XenServer host. Both are impressive products and work great - in fact, we can use “live motion” to move the CAG between XenServers while running video in a XenDesktop session with not even a pause in the video playback. The CAG moves with no interruption in service. NONE!

But this isn’t just a post to sing the praises of the virtual appliances. Rather, it’s about LICENSING!!! Specifically, licensing the Branch Repeater VPX.

As with many Citrix products, obtaining the license and getting it properly installed is not necessarily easy and intuitive…and in many cases (particularly with new products), we’ve found that the Citrix licensing support team does not know all the ins and outs of licensing a specific product either. That is not intended as a slam on this team. They do the best they can – but Citrix is a big company now, and sometimes it takes a while for information on new products to filter down to the front-line troops. In this case they worked with me for quite some time until we got this figured out (so there is at least one guy on the Citrix support team who now knows how this works).

So…now that I’ve gone through the pain, I thought I’d try to spare you from it if I can. (You’re welcome.)

One complication you’ll encounter is that, depending upon what you’re attempting to accomplish, these appliances may require one license or two. For example, with the CAG, if you are only going to use it for running secured sessions to a web interface (the equivalent of the legacy Citrix Secure Gateway) then you only need a “platform license.” However, if you also plan to run SSL VPN sessions though the CAG, you will need Access Gateway Universal licenses for your users, which will be rolled into a second license file.

Access Gateway licensing isn’t new and it’s pretty well understood. But what about the Branch Repeater? Just as with the CAG, the Branch Repeater may require one license or two, depending upon the functionality you need. If you are going to use the Branch Repeater VPX to connect to another (physical or virtual) Branch Repeater then you only need a platform license. However, if you want to take advantage of its ability to support client PCs that use the Branch Repeater Plug-in, you will need a second license to enable that feature. So we finally come to the topic of this post: how do you get the license file(s) onto your new Branch Repeater VPX?

First, you must log onto the “MyCitrix” web site with your account credentials, and access the Licensing Tool Box to activate and allocate the license. That part of the process is well documented, and if you’re a Citrix customer, you’ve probably done it at least once. The tricky part is what you have to do to download the VPX license file, what you need to enter in the Repeater itself, where to put it, and what you should see.

Here’s what we learned (NOTE: Click on any graphic to view full-sized):

  1. On the Branch Repeater VPX Web-based management interface, access the “Manage Licenses” screen, and in the right panel, choose “local” as shown below, and click the “Apply” button.

    License Server Configuration

  2. Then click on the “License Information” tab and you will see something similar to this next image. What you will need from this screen is the “Local License Server Host Id:” Write down this information - you will need it in the next step.

    Information Used for License Management

  3. Now you can download the license file from your “MyCitrix” portal. Save it to your PC, and make a note of where you saved it. As part of the process of downloading the license, you must enter the license server ID. Traditionally, you would enter the name of the Citrix license server in this field (and it was case-sensitive, which tripped up a lot of users). But in this case, the system is expecting the MAC address of the Branch Repeater VPX itself…which is what you just copied in Step 2. Another difference is that in the past the License Server Host Type was always set to “HostName.” However, there is now a drop down box with a second choice, “ETHERNET.” For the Branch Repeater VPX, you want to select “ETHERNET,” and then enter the host id that you wrote down in Step 2:

    Downloading the License File from MyCitrix

    In case you’re wondering, the MAC address we’re using is the address of the first interface on the Branch Repeater VPX, as displayed in XenCenter. If you want to find it in XenCenter click on the VM in the left column and then select the Network tab in the right window and you should see it there:

    XenCenter Display

  4. Now that you have your license downloaded to your local PC, you need to add it to your Branch Repeater. Access the “Local Licenses” tab and click the Add button (note that you will not see all the content in the window as shown here until you’ve added your license):

    Local Licenses Display

    After you click Add, this screen will appear and you will need to browse to the location where you saved your license file, and click the “Install” button:

    Add License

    Now the “Local Licenses” tab should be populated with content:

    Local Licenses Display

    Next, go to the “Licensed Features” tab. You should see your features listed as shown below:

    Licensed Features

  5. As mentioned earlier, if you plan to support client PCs that have the Branch Repeater Plug-in, you will need another license to enable this feature. Once again you will need to go to your MyCitrix portal and follow the same procedure as you did for your platform license to obtain the Plug-in license. Once you have the Plug-in license you will need to add it to the Virtual Appliance in the same manner as you added the platform license. Once that’s done, if you click the down arrow under “Local Licenses” you will see both licenses:

    Manage Licenses Screen

    Finally, if you click the “Licensed Features” tab, both licenses should show up with the number of licenses available:

    Licensed Features

This should be all you need to get the Branch Repeater VPX licensed. Now you just need to get it configured correctly… but that’s another blog post.

Microsoft Takes a Step In the Right Direction

The big Webcast just wrapped up, and will be available for replay shortly at Click on the “videos” tab to get to the selection of recorded videos. Several changes were announced. Unfortunately, they don’t become effective until July 1, but you can’t have everything.

  • VECD is dead, long live the VDA. For all practical purposes, the VECD license is history. Effective July 1, if your client desktop is a PC that’s covered by Software Assurance, you will no longer have to purchase a VECD license to access a virtual Windows Desktop. That saves you about $23/device/year.

    If your client device is not covered by SA (e.g., a thin-client device), you will now be required to purchase the new “Virtual Desktop Access” (“VDA”) license, which will cost about $100/device/year. That also represents a savings of $20/year or so compared to the old VECD pricing model.

    In both scenarios, the “primary user” of that client device now has the rights to access corporate VDI desktops and Microsoft Office applications from other client devices, such as home PCs, Internet cafes, hotel business centers, etc.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will have a couple of new features that will make VDI a friendlier place to go:
    • Dynamic Memory - Provided your guest operating systems support “hot add” for memory, you will be able to configure your Hyper-V host with minimum and maximum memory limits for the guests. So if a VM that’s serving a power user needs more RAM, more RAM will be dynamically allocated from the host server’s memory pool. When that additional RAM is no longer needed, it will be returned to the pool. Note that this assumes that there is unallocated RAM available - this is not the same thing as “memory overcommit.” This should increase VM density and require fewer Hyper-V hosts to support a given number of virtual desktops. Note also that Windows XP does not support “hot add,” so that’s just another reason to make the move to Win7 when you virtualize.
    • RemoteFX - This is a set of technologies that have evolved from Microsoft’s acquisition of Calista Technologies a couple of years ago. It’s primarily a set of enhancements to the RDP protocol, but the graphics virtualization enhancements will also benefit virtual Win7 PCs that are running on a 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V host. The performance that was demonstrated during the Webcast was pretty impressive, but in addition, Citrix announced that the “HDX” technology in XenDesktop would be enhanced so it could detect when the RemoteFX technology was present, and leverage it to make graphics performance even better. You’ll find more information on RemoteFX over at the Windows Virtualization Team Blog.
  • The Citrix/Microsoft Partnership is still going strong, and a couple of new promotions were also announced today:
    • “Rescue for VMware VDI” - which is targeted squarely at people who have started to deploy VMware View, and ran headlong into problems with scalability, user experience over WAN links, etc. These customers will be able to trade in up to 500 VMware licenses for the same number of Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licenses at no cost. Note, however, that these are annual, subscription-based licenses, so they are going to start costing you money after the first year.
    • “VDI Kick Start” - Eligible customers can pay only $28 per device for up to 250 devices to license the Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription and the Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licenses, allowing you to roll out a 250-seat VDI deployment for only $7,000 in licensing costs - roughly a 50% savings. Again, note that these are annual subscription-based licenses, so you’ll start paying the regular price after the first year. Still, that’s a pretty aggressive offer.

The big loser in today’s announcements? VMware. In addition to the trade-in offer, Microsoft made it very clear where they stood. I submit for your consideration a screen cap of the Q&A thread from the Webcast:

If there was any doubt before about where the battle lines are drawn, there shouldn’t be anymore.

In closing, here are a couple of other links you may want to check out:

Bottom line: While I didn’t get everything I’ve complained about in the last couple of blog posts, and I’ve got to wait a few months for some of the announcements to be effective (nothing new about that), it was not a bad day at all. Definitely a step in the right direction.