Citrix XenDesktop 4 Licensing: Some Q&A
Everyone has been very focused on the licensing changes around XenDesktop 4 recently, including me. I took some time to do some digging recently based on numerous customer inquiries and I wanted to share some of the most popular questions and answers. My disclaimer here is that there are probably a thousand more questions and concerns out there, but this is what I have gathered so far.
Many customers that I talk to are still not clear on the licensing changes and how they impact their organizations. The first big question I get is "why did Citrix make this move?". Good question and one that has garnered many responses from Citrix. One of those being that they are trying to better align with Microsoft’s licensing, but there is the other one -and one that I think is way ahead of the market- that it’s for organizations that are making a strategic commitment to desktop virtualization. Really? who is doing that right now. Most people I talk to are still kicking the tires and either proof-of-concept’ing or piloting the technology.
One of the other big questions I get is "what are the methods of licensing?" There are three actually, per user, per device, and concurrent. The concurrent model can only be found in the VDI Edition. The VDI edition can actually be licensed three ways in a per user, per device, and concurrent, but the Enterprise and Platinum editions will only be licensed in the per user or per device model.
What does per user and per device mean? Let’s look at the per device first. Per device means "any piece of equipment authorized by a customer to be used by any individual(s) to access a XenDesktop instance." Per user means any individual with a unique ID like an Active Directory account, or the equivalent. Someone asked me the other day, "can I have both in my environment?" The answer is yes, it gives you the flexibility to assign user and/or device licenses to meet your organizations requirements. So this raises a question, "how do you how many users and devices to license?" This is where it’s going to take some work on IT’s part and assess your use case requirements to determine that answer. This will involve getting a handle on your user base and understanding how they work. In general, users who need unlimited access to their virtual desktops or need access from multiple devices should be licensed via the per user license. On the flip-side of that, a user who shares the same device are best served with the per device license model.
I was speaking with a group at a customer site last week and they brought up this question, " what if a user leaves the company or goes on maternity leave?". This only really applies if you are licensing with the per user model, but if a user leaves the company permanently you can reassign that license to another user within your organization. The maternity leave scenario is a little different in that a customer can reassign the absent licensed user’s license to another temporary user for the period of the absence only. This really goes back to the underlying rule that a user license is required for every unique user ID. I started thinking a little harder on this one and wondered if there was a way to tie into an HR system to automate this process based on what is going on with the user account, ie departing the company permanently or just temporarily. This would also come back to the ability of the License Server to do some reporting on capacity and usage to ensure that when a user joins the company you won’t be exceeding your license count. I’m thinking that there could be some interesting things being done with EdgeSight here with the License Server.
This brings me to my final piece and that is a new function with the licensing in XenDesktop 4; Overdraft Protection. That’s right, just like in a bank. This feature allows a limited number of additional user or device licenses to be provided to support unexpected growth or usage spikes whereby access will continue uninterrupted until more licenses can be acquired. You get these licenses automatically when you purchase and allocate your XenDesktop 4 licenses.
The great part of these Overdraft licenses is that they are fully functional licenses to your user’s level of access and functionality is not compromised. I have one issue here with the overdraft protection. How do you know when one of the overdraft licenses are consumed? Right now you don’t without going into your license management console, but who does that. My suggestion to Citrix here is give me some way to generate alerts when this is done either with EdgeSight integration or a utility that is built into the License Server. This also brings up the reporting in general on overdraft usage. Guess what, not there either. I think you will see this soon enough, but right now it’s not there. Overall, I think the Overdraft Protection is a great idea and a way to stay agile and provide access to resources.
There are many more issues, questions, and challenges with licensing and there always will be but Citrix is making huge strides in simplifying and streamlining the licensing process. Overall, I think the licensing is good and meets the super-majority of customers and does provide flexibility in how customers need to license their environments. If you have any other questions or scenarios let me know.