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Citrix quietly slips new features into XenDesktop SP1

For XenDesktop 4, Citrix separated fixes in its service packs from new features in its feature packs. So why did it put two new features into SP1?

In March of this year, Citrix released Feature Pack 1 (FP1) for XenDesktop 4. Citrix has used the "feature pack" releases to add functionality to its products, and FP1 was no different. Streamed user profiles, integration with Microsoft App-V and improved 3-D support were all new features for XenDesktop 4.

But in a departure from the de facto standard, the FP1 release of XenDesktop 4 was not tied to the release of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for the virtual desktop product. Citrix used to release feature packs and service packs at the same time (and, in fact, the two shared the same code base). The idea was that everyone downloaded and installed the same file. If a customer was current with its licensing, then the new features would be enabled. If not, the only the Service Pack fixes were applied.

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By releasing FP1 for XenDesktop 4 but not SP1, Citrix sent the message that since just about every customer has moved to subscription-based licensing, the whole "licensed/unlicensed" split didn't really make sense anymore. So Citrix decided to separate feature packs from service packs. Feature packs would add more features, and service packs would fix bugs. XenDesktop 4 FP1 was the first manifestation of this. So far, so good.

Then last week Citrix released Service Pack 1 for XenDesktop 4. And while most of the world expected that it would just be a bug-fix pack, it turns out that SP1 actually includes two new features!

The first new feature is called "Delegated Administration," which allows customers with large XenDesktop deployments to divide administrative tasks and permissions by role. SP1 also introduces "Configuration Logging." This feature (which has been available in XenApp for years) writes all XenDesktop configuration changes to a transaction log database. If your XenDesktop farm breaks, you can go back into that log to see which admin screwed up and, more importantly, exactly what setting he changed so you can change it back.

Two interesting new features for larger customers for sure, but what gives with Citrix shipping these as part of SP1 instead of FP1 (or FP2, for that matter)?

Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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