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Citrix backtracks on XenDesktop 4 pricing

Customers balk at named user pricing

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If you are trying to keep track of the different desktop and application virtualization options in the catalog of Xen-branded products offered by Citrix Systems, and figure out prices, the job just got a little tougher.

In response to customer ire regarding its decision to use named user rather than concurrent user pricing, Citrix has quickly rejigged product packaging and offered concurrent pricing for some setups of the XenDesktop 4 desktop virtualization suite.

XenDesktop 4, as El Reg reported two weeks ago, is intended to be a Swiss army knife for virtualizing applications on corporate desktops, offering a capability that Citrix calls "flexcasting", which means customers buy XenDesktop 4 and they can get applications down to end users in a number of different ways. One way is to use the application virtualization of XenApp (formerly known as Presentation Server), which serves up applications from central servers rather than letting them run locally on PCs or that allows for the streaming of applications from those servers down to PCs so they run locally (but are not technically installed on those PCs).

Another way is to use the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) PC image virtualization technology embedded in XenDesktop, which allows virtualized PC images to run on server hypervisors back in the data center and to be streamed over the network. With XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2, announced in September ahead of the XenDesktop 4 launch, yet another virtualization technology, derived from the XenDesktop VDI tool, allowed for a single legacy Windows application (one that might not work so well with XenApp) to be wrapped in a dedicated virtual machine on a server and then served up to end users.

If you can keep XenApp and XenDesktop apart at this point, you are doing better than Citrix.

Enter XenDesktop 4, which essentially merges XenApp and XenDesktop in a different way from the XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 with new named user pricing and the promise of tossing the XenClient bare metal hypervisor (being developed with Intel) into the mix sometime during the first half of 2010. Once that is done, XenDesktop 4 combined with XenClient will be able to serve up virtualized PC applications in just about any way you can imagine.

Not everything comes in the bundle, of course. XenDesktop 4 came in three editions when it was launched. The standard edition cost $75 per named user, and it offers VDI functionality coupled with the HDX extensions that allow applications hosted back on the servers to do their graphics and media rendering on the local electronics on a PC, thereby reducing the load on the servers.

XenDesktop 4, which costs $225 per named user, rolls in the XenApp 5 functionality and the flexcasting PC application streaming middleware. The platinum edition cost $350 per named user and added in PC image management and security features as well as a license to WANScaler, a wide area networking caching software appliance sold by Citrix.

Prior to the XenDesktop 4 launch, XenDesktop cost $75 to $395 per concurrent user and XenApp 5 cost from $350 to $600 per concurrent user. (You can still buy XenApp 5 as a standalone product, by the way.)

While the technology integration for XenDesktop and XenApp may be welcome, the shift to named user pricing rankled some users. Enough for Citrix to change its pricing and packaging for XenDesktop 4 even before the announcement ink is dry.

In a posting on the Citrix community forums, Sumit Dhawan, vice president of Citrix's XenDesktop product group, said that Citrix has decided that instead of pricing XenDesktop 4 per named user, it would price the enterprise and platinum editions of the software based on either a named user or a device. For a shared device, such as a shared terminal in a call center or factory floor, this basically shifts the price back toward something closer to concurrent user pricing.

The cheapo $75 per named user XenDesktop 4 standard edition got nuked, and was replaced by something called the VDI edition, which costs $95 per named user or $195 per concurrent user. This VDI edition offers provisioning services, profile management, and a feature called StorageLink (which allows XenDesktop's virtual machines to integrate with the provisioning and snapshotting features of various disk arrays).

Citrix also said that it would be offering a campus-wide license for educational institutions starting November 16; pricing for this option was not divulged.

So why is Citrix so jumpy about desktop virtualization? Well, because the future of the company has been staked on that given that VMware still has a pretty tight grip on x64 server virtualization back in the data center. And as El Reg reported earlier this week, while XenDesktop revenues have tripled in the most recent quarter, the revenues from this product were not material enough to mention separately, XenApp sales were down "in the mid to high 20s", and XenServer (which is now free) and its related Essentials tools accounted for only $5.5m in sales. Citrix is under pressure bigtime to get some return on $500m investment in XenSource just as XenApp sales have hit some rocks.

You can blame the economic meltdown for some of that, but perhaps muddying up the Citrix product line and mucking about with pricing every quarter has had its effects, too. ®

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