The end of 2017 is a turning point for all customers still using XenApp 6.5 over Windows Server 2008 R2. We now have almost a feature parity between XenApp 6.5 and the last releases of XenApp 7.x, and the legendary 6.5 is planned for end of life in June 2018.
Customers who have not migrated yet to XenApp 7.x should at least be actively planning their migration to the new FMA architecture.
Everyone understands the need to migrate to this new platform but the new question arising is, "to which version and in fact which release train should I choose?"
Let’s go back to January 2016, when Citrix announced a new Lifecycle strategy for XenApp & XenDesktop products. They explained that future XenApp & XenDesktop releases will be separated in two release paths, with “Current Release” bringing new features every few months but with a short lifespan, and “Long Term Service Release” bringing feature stability with long support up to 10 years.
But before explaining in-depth each servicing options, we need to refresh the basics of Citrix product lifecycle milestones:
General Availability – GA
This is the date on which a product or a new version of a product is released to the public. The product can now be ordered and downloaded.
Notice of Status Change – NSC
This is the date on which Citrix publicly communicates about the dates of End of Sale, End of Maintenance, and End of Life of the product.
End of Sale - EoS
This is the date on which a product will no longer be available to purchase. It is mainly targeted for hardware products lines since Citrix software products use a date-based licensing model.
End of Maintenance - EoM
From this date the product will have no further “code-level” maintenance. The product will no longer be upgraded or updated with new features. Product is still supported by Citrix and downloadable.
End of Life – EoL
This is the date on which the Citrix mainstream support for the product ends. From this date, technical support for issues will be limited to information contained in the Citrix Knowledge Center and Support Forums. The product downloads will no longer be available.
A few Citrix products are eligible for the Citrix Extended Support program, which offers technical support and maintenance after the End of Maintenance (EoM) and End of Life (EoL) until the End of Extended Support (EoES) milestone. Extended Support is available at an additional fee on top of the Customer Success Service maintenance program.
End of Extended Support – EoES
This is the date from which you will no longer be able to purchase Extended Support for the product. This milestone is the “real” end of life for the product.
Product normal Lifecycle:
Product Lifecycle with Extended Support:
You are now equipped to understand the servicing options of XenApp & XenDesktop 7.x.
Citrix is now delivering new features and functionality for XenApp and XenDesktop with a very fast “Cloud First” methodology. Every few weeks, code and new features are delivered to Citrix Cloud XenApp & XenDesktop service using a rolling out technique known as “Canary release.”
Kevin Woodmansee wrote a great blog about this
Every few months, or quarterly lately, Citrix will roll out a new “Current Release” including all the new features from Cloud Service that qualify at the moment for on-premises deployments. Feature gap is limited between each CR due to the small timeframe between each release.
Every few years, Citrix will declare a release as “Long Term Service” and will support it for up to 10 years.
The schema below illustrates the new Citrix servicing options:
Let’s compare in-depth Long Term and Current Release:
First, and main difference, is Lifecycle, LTSR is supported up to 10 years with 5 years of mainstream support if you have Customer Success Services and an additional 5 years if you subscribe to the paid Extended Support program.
Current Releases are limited to “Standard” product lifecycle milestones, we will see below that they are different from what we had for 6.x versions where every Hotfix Rollup Pack was extending the support for another 12 months.
LTSR will have Cumulative Updates 2 or 3 times a year, including bug and security fixes. They will not be new features or enhancement requests during the life of a LTSR.
On the other hand, CR will not have cumulative updates. You could have private fixes, but mainly new features and public fixes will just be included in the next Current Release.
This schema illustrates the expected lifecycle of Current Releases:
You can see that Current Release ‘N’ hit End of Maintenance fairly quickly after 6 months, aligned with roll out of Current Release ‘N+2.’
Keep in mind that you will be asked by Citrix Support to upgrade your Current Release site to a newer release that includes relevant fixes as well as new features and functionality if available.
This schema illustrates the expected lifecycle of Long Term Service Releases:
During the first 5 years of LTSR, Cumulative Update will be published on a regular and predictable schedule until the End of Life.
During the next 5 years of “Extended Support” phase and until “End of Extend Support” only privates fixes will be produced by Citrix Support.
To wrap up this blog, what is the best servicing option for XenApp & XenDesktop 7? How to choose between XenApp & XenDesktop LTSR or CR release train?
I do not think there is one perfect answer to these questions. Best solution is the one meeting your requirements and, it depends on your organization's agility.
“Current Release” are best fitted for businesses who want to take advantage of every new feature and who are willing to upgrade their deployments every few months to keep being supported.
“Long Term Service Release” are best fitted for organizations who valuate stability over new features, and prefer stable predictable maintenance with planned “Cumulative Updates” every few months.