In part I and part II of this series, we explored the areas of interest leading the End User Computing community toward Citrix Cloud. As a recap, part I touched upon the Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops service architecture, the regions it’s available in, and its global footprint. In part II, we covered which cloud providers and hypervisors are supported, how many releases there are, how licensing works, the four deployment types, its security, how credentials are handled, and the local host cache feature.
This third and final post of the series continues to explore helping you decide if the Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops service is right for you. As we said last time: for a service such as VDI that is crucial to your organization, the decision to move to the cloud can be a weighty one. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right knowledge it will be easier to decide.
Helping you decide
Deciding Factors: Cloud Platform
- Familiarize yourself with cloud provider Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and their native Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution. For example, if you deploy servers in Azure, the SLA is 99.9% and their DRaaS solution is Azure Site Recovery, which can help you replicate master images to another location, making them available elsewhere.
- For Google Cloud Platform, only power management was supported in early 2019, meaning the use of master images via Machine Creation Services was not available. This changed as of October 2019, and support for using Machine-Creation Services to provision machines was added, showing Citrix is working diligently with Google on closing any gaps to their service.
- IBM & Oracle Cloud are supported but (for the moment) not from the host-connection part. Additional configurations would be needed.
- VMware vCloud on AWS is also supported and is the only cloud platform with Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS) support today. Read more about this here.
Deciding Factors: Citrix Cloud Features and Design
- The Studio console in Citrix Cloud is HTML5-based and is (at times) slow. The speed to provision machines along with some of the missing features (although being worked on) is not an apples to apples comparison when compared to Citrix on-premises.
- If your resource location uses Azure Resource Manager to provision Windows server OS machines, you can choose a simple interface that is faster, when compared to the Studio console. You cannot use it to deploy desktop OS machines, however.
- The typical upgrade cycle for Citrix Cloud is every 2 to 3 weeks. So, you may have to update the VDA version on the master image(s) from time to time—versus staying on Long Term Service Release (LTSR).
- If you currently use PVS on-premises, an important factor to keep in mind is that Machine Creation Services is the only supported provisioning method in Citrix Cloud. With that said, you can still use PVS with Citrix Cloud, but it would have to run locally in your infrastructure, and would still require a SQL DB, SQL licensing, Citrix licensing, & storage repositories for the vDisks.
- If you were thinking of adding the Citrix Gateway (formerly NetScaler Gateway) service, keep in mind there is a traffic routing (hair pinning) issue detecting whether a user is internal or external. Say you were physically sitting next to your VM. There isn’t any methodology that knows where you’re connecting from—so it’s always going to send you out to the public internet through the NetScaler Gateway POP (of which there are 12 worldwide today) and then back into your virtual machine.
- Regarding Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), you can have Citrix Cloud integrated with Azure AD, and use Azure MFA if you use the native functionality in Citrix Cloud. However, if you use Citrix Cloud and have your own NetScaler Gateway and local on-premises StoreFront servers, you can still use your traditional MFA provider. If you use the Citrix Gateway (formerly NetScaler gateway service) service in Citrix Cloud, you can’t use any on-premises radius MFA providers due to the restriction when it comes to communication.
Deciding Factors: Licensing
- Another deciding factor is the desktop license requirement and cost. Microsoft requires that a desktop OS be run on dedicated infrastructure or in public cloud infrastructure in Azure, so running it on AWS or Google requires the dedicated host option, which increases the cost for that type of infrastructure.
- There’s also the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit (AHUB) where it applies to Windows server licenses covered with Software Assurance, and allows organizations to extend the use of their on-premises Windows licenses to Azure.
Closing Thoughts: Making Technical and Financial Sense
Justifying the cost of Citrix Cloud is definitely an adoption challenge, as it can be more costly upfront. It basically comes down to what you need and what you’re looking for. There is a different mindset with shifting expenses from CAPEX to OPEX.
Something that may help is comparing the cost, plus the renewals that would be included (with additional support on top), across a few different purchase options to identify if there are any opportunities for savings: 1-year vs 3-year commitment, etc.
Pricing options are available that may meet your requirements and help keep costs at bay. For example, there’s Citrix Workspace, Citrix Virtual Apps, Citrix Virtual Desktops, and Citrix Virtual Apps & Desktops service. Also, available via the Azure Marketplace is Citrix Virtual Apps Essentials and Citrix Virtual Desktops Essentials.
Citrix Cloud also has Autoscale to help save on Cloud-compute costs by automatically adjusting machine power based on usage and load (shutting down VMs when workloads are not required, etc.).
Here’s a cost calculator to help visualize Azure costs.
One barrier to adoption can be the lack of resources with the proper skillset for working within Citrix Cloud or public cloud. So, there are costs associated with learning and educating the organizational resources.
Some benefits to Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops service include alleviating short-term burst requirements when additional workloads are needed (month end, etc.). It also helps to factor in the speed of deployment vs transitional (hours vs weeks) or how quickly you can do things, where there is a business cost to how long it takes to get things done.
Upgrading the control plane or control layer is simpler, since this is managed by Citrix. It’s also secure and scalable, as you can scale up and down. And flexible, since you’re allowed a hybrid cloud-deployment model approach.
Citrix is also dedicated to making customers successful with Citrix Cloud by assigning them a customer success manager.
Moving to the Cloud means different benefits for different people. Some benefits include: adopting a cloud-first strategy, overcoming IT constraints, no more upgrades, leveraging Hybrid Cloud environments, and faster time to value. This is all great, and can be very valuable to an organization, but only with a disciplined approach. That’s where the importance of having a strategy comes into play.
A good way to decide if Citrix Cloud is right for you is to start with a Citrix Cloud POC, which gives you 60 days and is limited to 25 users. Whether you decide to move to Citrix Cloud or stay on-premises, the good news is you have a lot of very good options.
Making the choice resembles choosing your own adventure, so If you’re looking to learn more about Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops service or Desktop as a Service, please reach out to us. We’d love to help you!
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Architect, End User Computing at Anexinet