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Take a second look at your desktop virtualization tools

Every once in a while, it's important to take a look at the virtualization tools you're using and make sure they still meet your needs. If they don't, it's time to make a change.

You've probably heard the adage that says every time you get a new car you should evaluate your auto insurance company. You know, take a step back and look at the competition to make sure you're getting a good deal on a policy that meets your needs. It's a painful enough process that you wouldn't voluntarily change policies every six months, but it's worth doing every few years.

We find ourselves in the midst of a similar situation in the desktop virtualization industry. Despite VDI's ascent to the top of the pyramid of desktop virtualization strategies, most company are still dealing with plenty of Remote Desktop Session Host-like systems, and most of those companies are using Citrix XenApp.

Those customers using XenApp are in a bit of a pickle. In the past, upgrading from one version of XenApp to another -- even dating back to MetaFrame XP -- was a relatively straightforward process that didn't require any significant architectural changes. For Citrix customers who are facing an upgrade to XenApp 7.6 from XenApp 6.5 or earlier (there was nothing in between 6.5 and 7.5), the process isn't so easy.

One pixelDaaS vs. VDI: Pick Your Poison

XenApp 7.6 adopts a new management architecture called FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA) that anyone using XenDesktop is used to. It's still a challenging upgrade, but at least those customers aren't venturing into uncharted waters. The migration is a fundamental change in the backend architecture that wires your applications and servers to your users. While that's not in any way a bad thing, it requires a forklift migration to the new platform.

Something had to give, because for many years now Citrix has been maintaining both FMA and its predecessor, Independent Management Architecture (IMA). On one hand Citrix had customers complaining about having to manage two separate products despite paying for a single license. On the other, people said they didn't want to migrate platforms. It's an unenviable position, and spare a bit of drama last year regarding the future of XenApp, Citrix is doing what it can. The company has provided migration tools and is narrowing the gap in features that existed between XenApp 6.5 and 7.5 (which were brought about by the architecture change), but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.

Many companies have entertained the thought of changing platforms as part of their due diligence, but have chosen to stay with their existing platform because it's what they are used to doing. But now there's no ease-of-implementation benefit associated with that. No matter what you choose to do there is a big project looming.

With that in mind, now is the time to evaluate just why you're doing desktop virtualization. Look at the list of problems you're trying to solve with it, and evaluate whether the product you have is right for you. Is it doing too little or too much?  Treat it like you would an insurance policy when buying a new car -- you already have to start over, so why not check with all the other products to make sure you're getting exactly what you need? Maybe you'll find a platform that is better suited to your applications and environment, or perhaps you'll decide to go all-in on VDI. You've already got your work cut out for you, so might as well make the best of it.

This was last published in November 2014

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