Throughout the years there have been countless discussions about the potential added value of the Citrix XenApp and/or XenDesktop Platinum license, and rightfully so since you roughly pay about 1/3 more when compared to an Enterprise license, at least as far as XenApp goes.
First things first, while some might disagree, I think Citrix has done a good job in returning value to the Platinum (and Enterprise) edition, especially throughout the past 2 years or so.
Throughout this post I will primarily focus on Citrix XenApp. It is still the preferred platform by most (at least that’s what everybody keeps telling me) and has the simplest licensing model when purchased separately. I won’t go into the mixing and matching of different Citrix license types and versions etc. or/and the technical requirements to be able to do so. Read this post for more detailed information on the licenses involved. I also won’t discuss license pricing and the different models available — XenDesktop, and XenApp as part of XenDesktop, for example.
The reasons why companies purchase the Platinum edition over the Enterprise edition, or Advanced for that matter will of course differ per customer/use case. If you have a closer look at the Platinum edition in its current state, it is a pretty impressive list of ‘additional’ features and services. And while you might have been interested in the Platinum edition because of one, or perhaps two specific features in the past, chances are that today you will probably use at least half a dozen, if not more. I mean, assuming you already paid, you have access, so you might as well take advantage of it. Best thing is, if you are, or were a Platinum edition licensed customer already it continues to grow in worth with each new feature added, in most cases anyway.
Again, the reasons to go with Platinum instead of Enterprise or Advanced will be different each time, in the end it all depends. Looking for anything specific? Does the Platinum edition offer it? What is your budget and/or what is this (specific) functionality or feature worth to you? Perhaps your infrastructure is relatively small and you can do with less automation, monitoring etc. for example. How do Platinum edition costs compare to some of the other third party vendors / products out there? When it comes to monitoring, End User Management, machine provisioning, automation and so on, there are multiple to choose from. Often they will offer you exactly what you need plus more, at an additional license fee that is. Though the same can be said of the Platinum edition as well, you will always get a bit more than needed.
While some customers agree that they are getting their moneys worth, others say that the gap between Platinum and Enterprise is simply too big and they would love to see some of the ‘extra’s’ become available for the Enterprise license as well. Perhaps they should make it one (base) edition, a combination of (or merge) the Advanced and Enterprise editions with a whole bunch of additional add-ons on top that customers can than choose from based on their individual needs and budgets. Update 30-11-2016 — Or beging able to purchase and use/share different editions/licenses within the same Site would definitely be helpful as well (forgot about this one earlier, to be honest). What do you think?
If you go through the XenApp & XenDesktop edition/version matrix it isn’t that straightforward to see the differences between both editions, Enterprise and Platinum — just leaving Advanced out of this for now. That’s why I’ve put together the overview, below you’ll find 13 additional features/services, and thus a bunch potential reasons to at least consider Platinum.
- HDX seamless applications – this gives you the ability to leverage locally installed applications and let them blend into your virtual XenApp desktop. In other words, a locally installed application will look and feel as if it is part of your virtual desktop session, as if it is virtualised as well — at least that’s the general thought. A technology first introduced and patented by RES.
- The SD-WAN plugin – a software based plug-in that runs on Windows desktops as well as laptops that helps accelerate application performance – part of the NetScaler SD-WAN family, previously known as CloudBridge.
- StoreFront Self Service Password reset – this feature allows your users to reset their own passwords, to set new passwords or to unlock their account (s) when needed. A very welcome and helpful addition, which might potentially save you a bunch of Helpdesk calls. A (more than) nice to have.
- Workspace Environment Manager: Ok, I’m cheating here, this is available for Enterprise customers as well — offering true added value. The EUM platform formerly known as Norskale – recently acquired by Citrix. Accompanied by an industry-proven track-record of optimizing workspace performance, accelerating application delivery and enhancing environment scalability, Norskale is now also part of the Citrix, XenApp & XenDesktop portfolio. Here’s a quote from one of the Citrix blogs on the acquisition “Unlike other user environment management (UEM) solutions, Norskale has a holistic view of the workspace that includes the user, application, desktop and underlying system resources. Norskale leverages patent-pending machine-learning technology to monitor and analyse user and application behaviour in real-time. Only Norskale has the ability to intelligently adjust the way applications utilize systems resources such as RAM, CPU and Input/Output (I/O) to optimize resource allocation across all users. This algorithm intelligence, now unique to Citrix, ensures that each user has the necessary resources to be productive while conserving overall resource allocation in a way that instantly increases server scalability by up to 70 percent, dramatically increasing your ROI“
Combine it with Citrix’s User Profile Management solution (they complement each other) and it will get you a (very) long way.
As a side note, be aware that you will need to have a valid Software Maintenance contract with Citrix to be able/allowed to make use of the Norskale bits and bytes. Additionally, Software Maintenance as well as Subscription Advantage (allowing you to make use of newly released software by Citrix) will both be replaced by a new support model as of January 1st 2017. Read all about it here.
- Common Criteria Certified – to be honest, I never heard of this one before. Apparently it is used by at least 25 countries worldwide and it is unique to the XenApp / XenDesktop portfolio.
- Smart Access – is used in conjunction with the NetScaler Gateway (Universal license) Context based policy engine, which is of course a separate purchase, and can be used to grant or deny specific tasks like printing, copying and pasting, drive mapping etc. More often than not customers making use of XenApp and/or XenDesktop will have one, or multiple NetScaler in place as well.
- SCOM Management Packs – Formerly owned by Comtrade, bought by Citrix in January of 2016. These management packs greatly extend the monitoring capabilities of Citrix delivery infrastructure end-to-end and tighten the integration with Microsoft products – Comtrade definitely did a great job there. The only complaint I have heard multiple times in the past is that they (the Mgnt packs) were expensive, too expensive for a great deal of companies. Note that these management packs compliment Citrix Director and that SCOM alerts can be integrated into the Director Helpdesk dashboard for enhanced troubleshooting purposes.
There are 9 management packs in total when it comes to XenApp & XenDesktop, these include: XenServer, StoreFront, NetScaler Licence Server, Provisioning Services and a few more. They are all part of the XenApp/XenDesktop Platinum license offering. Why not split them up and provide a couple of management packs to some of the other editions as well? Or to the Enterprise at the very least. Or give NetScaler Platinum licenses access to the accompanying Mgnt pack as well? Something like that.
- SSL VPN – another feature combined with NetScaler. A direct secure (SSL) remote connection to all of your corporate resources located ‘internally’. Of course, as mentioned before, you will need to purchase a NetScaler appliance separately (MDX and/or VPX), which needs to be licensed with a NetScaler Platinum license as well.
- Session Recording / Smart Auditor – provides you with a so-called time-stamped visual record of individual applications and/or desktop sessions. This is what the accompanying E-Docs pages have to say about it: Session Recording allows you to record the on-screen activity of any user session hosted from a Server or Desktop OS VDA machine, over any type of connection, subject to corporate policy and regulatory compliance. Session Recording records, catalogs, and archives sessions for retrieval and playback. Session Recording uses flexible policies to trigger recordings of application sessions automatically. This enables IT to monitor and examine user activity of applications – such as financial operations and healthcare patient information systems – supporting internal controls for regulatory compliance and security monitoring. Similarly, Session Recording also aids in technical support by speeding problem identification and time-to-resolution.
- Director Platinum – gives administrators up to a year of historical (performance) data, SCOM alerts, desktop and server OS usage reporting, proactive notification and alerting, reboot warnings, Octoblu and NetScaler MAS integration and override control over roaming sessions and more.
- User Experience network analysis – from the XenApp/XenDesktop feature matrix: provides user experience data supplied by NetScaler HDX Insight integrated into the Director console to correlate user performance and identify when network issues are disrupting performance.
Note that again a NetScaler is involved here. To be able to make use of HDX Insight Services your NetScaler needs to be licensed with an Enterprise license at the very least. If you want to be able to save data for over an hour (which is the maximum with Enterprise) you will need to upgrade to a Platinum NetScaler license as well, it offers historical data for up to a year.
- AppDNA including App Disks – App Disks, as you might know is available with all editions of XenApp and XenDesktop, AppDNA however, is not. AppDNA can be used to discover, automate, model and manage applications for faster deployment, virtualization and migration scenario’s. Furthermore, AppDNA tightly integrates with App Disks where it is used for instant application compatibility reporting purposes. This way administrators can validate and remediate when necessary any OS or inter-app compatibility issues and so on, even before the testing cycle begins.
- Provisioning Services for server workloads – probably better known as PVS by most. When dealing with mid-sized and bigger infrastructures, meaning dozens or hundreds of XenApp ‘Workers’, Provisioning Services is a very welcome tool to be able to use. It has been around for years and I still hear nothing but good about it. If you use XenApp exclusively (from an edition perspective) you will need to purchase Platinum license to be allowed to make use of PVS, if you are leveraging the XenApp functionalities as part of XenDesktop than Enterprise will do.
- Microsoft System Center integration – this is the Citrix Connector for System Center Configuration Manager, that you may have heard of. Using this connector, SCCM can be used to manage various Citrix Sites as well as publishing resources from SCCM management console.
Worth the investment? Yes? No? Why not?