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Migrate or not migrate to XenApp6?

July 28, 2010

Last week, on the official Citrix blog, appeared an interesting article about why someone customer should or should not migrate his XenApp farm to version 6.

This article explains how “the reaction from Citrix customers has been somewhat binary: some were chomping at the bit and put it into production in short order, and many took a “wait and see” attitude. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons we’ve heard as to why customers are and aren’t migrating to XenApp 6.

PRO Why XenApp 6?

Standardization on Windows Server 2008 R2 Platform. XenApp 6 is the only version of XenApp that can run on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Transitioning from Unsupported Operating Systems and XenApp Versions. Support has ended for Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 has entered the extended support period; Presentation Server 4.0 has completed end of life.

-Feature Set. Worker groups, policies, HDX enhancements, and other features have made the transition compelling.

Applications Support x64 Platform. Most 32-bit applications can be run on the x64 platform. For those that can’t, VM Hosted Apps or Streamed Apps are effective solutions.

Scalability. XenApp 6 has successfully been tested based on 1,000 servers and 100,000 users in a single farm.

CONS Why Not XenApp 6?

Applications May Not Support x64 Platform. This is by far the primary concern from our customers and actually more myth than reality. True, 16-bit applications or those that contain 16-bit components won’t function on x64. However, in many cases, testing reveals that 32-bit applications do indeed function on the x64 platform. Third-party tools such as App-DNA can be used to validate applications without extensive testing.

Growing Pains. Having spent a number of years in Citrix Consulting, I’ve seen that the transition to a new XenApp version often includes additional project items. It is worthwhile to analyze the current implementation and learn from it, but some organizations fall into “analysis paralysis.” Engaging Citrix Consulting or a partner can provide the support and assistance needed to transition faster.

Migration Process. Because there’s no upgrade path to XenApp 6, it’s possible to get lost in the fear factor of migration being the only option. Check out the XenApp 6 Migration Tool.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It. And if it has reached end of life, don’t call for help or say that the product isn’t good. How have your company’s products or services changed in 10 years?

Windows Server 2008 R2 Operating System. Some administrators have had limited exposure to this operating system, but it has been available for almost a year now.

Feature Set. The same reason why some customers have adopted XenApp 6 is why others haven’t: they don’t understand the new feature set and the benefits provided.”

According to comments to this article, I can see there could be also some other technical obstacles to upgrade (rather than an upgrade, it is a migration…): for example after the profile migration, there is no way to come back to previous profile version. Furthermore there was an issue many users complained: the XenApp6 servers hang at shutdown. According to this post today (July 28th) Citrix is still working at a solution: it seems that some customers are testing a fix.

This issue certainly doesn’t encourage the adoption of the latest version of XenApp.

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