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Why perceived Citrix Cloud costs may not align with reality

Citrix is encouraging its customers to move their VDI deployments to the cloud. But the company's marketing ploys don't often mention the real costs of moving to Citrix Cloud.

It's no secret that Citrix is encouraging its customers to migrate to Citrix Cloud, but its tangible and intangible savings are unclear.

There are significant Citrix Cloud costs that IT must consider first. The move to Citrix Cloud is reminiscent of the initial marketing push for VDI, when many jumped up and down with excitement but didn't evaluate the use case or whether there were solid reasons for adopting it.

What's included with Citrix Cloud?

First, it's important to ensure a clear understanding of what is included with Citrix Cloud. Citrix provides the infrastructure components of a Citrix Virtual Apps and/or Desktops -- formerly, XenApp and XenDesktop -- environment. This means that Citrix deploys the core components, including Delivery Controller, License Server, Director and Studio, as well as maintenance and upgrades of all these servers. Optionally, Citrix can also address Citrix Gateway -- formerly, NetScaler Gateway -- and StoreFront, which is called Workspace in Citrix Cloud.

The Citrix Gateway piece is commonly what convinces an organization to move to Citrix Cloud. As much as IT loves Citrix Application Delivery Controller -- formerly, NetScaler ADC -- and Citrix Gateway, a one-button option for a basic secured gateway is extremely appealing. From the enterprise perspective, there's no administrator focused on Citrix ADC/Gateway, no product procurement, no certificate to maintain, no patching or upgrades, no configuration to create and update, and no high availability setup to test. Instead, IT admins can just enable Citrix Gateway as part of their Citrix Cloud subscription. Citrix is extending the Gateway functionality in Citrix Cloud beyond vanilla requirements, but many organizations cannot or will not relinquish an on-premises Gateway for user access.

A Citrix Cloud migration is often more of a cultural change than a financial or technical decision.

Many organizations get started with Citrix Cloud as a burst or disaster recovery solution because there's no point to maintain additional infrastructure that's only occasionally necessary. From there, Citrix Cloud is like the new neighbor invited in for iced tea that never goes away.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of Citrix Cloud is that it will streamline IT operations and enable organizations to get out of the "rack 'em, stack 'em" business associated with heavy Citrix infrastructure in the data center.

Citrix Cloud costs considerations

From the Citrix perspective, Citrix Cloud translates to long-term recurring revenue, not sporadic bursts. This stable revenue stream is not only beneficial for the company to plan for ongoing operational costs, but shareholders like it too.

Any Citrix Cloud cost calculators that Citrix provides will likely spin a lower cost for moving to Citrix Cloud. IT pros should take it with a grain of salt and create their own financial analysis. Citrix Cloud likely won't save organizations money.

At a minimum, IT must still maintain the Citrix servers and workstations, called Virtual Delivery Agents, as well as at least two Cloud Connectors that communicate with Active Directory and participate in brokering the user connection. The two Cloud Connectors result in two or more servers that an organization needs to add to the cost. Often, as part of this shift, IT moves these VMs to a cloud hosting provider, such as Azure or AWS, as well.

When Microsoft announced Office 365, many Exchange administrators thought they'd be out of a job. With few exceptions, it turned out that Exchange admin titles changed to Office 365 admin titles. Similarly, there is little to no people savings with Citrix Cloud.

On premises or Citrix Cloud?

It's not acceptable to keep a Citrix environment on premises just because it's always been that way. Some organizations can't move to Citrix Cloud. Some government or industry regulations, for example, require data or infrastructure to remain within set boundaries, such as a specific data center or a country. As Citrix Cloud expands internationally and industry regulations recognize it as a viable solution, however, on premises may no longer be a fixed requirement.

If an organization has recently invested in new hardware or data centers, the full life of the existing physical infrastructure must depreciate first, meaning that Citrix Cloud costs won't be financially feasible for a few years.

A Citrix Cloud migration is often more of a cultural change than a financial or technical decision. The overall product is basically the same. But the administration varies slightly, and some unique functionalities exist. It's largely a matter of getting accustomed to a new way of doing things.

This was last published in July 2019

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