We’re all guilty of missing an application upgrade cycle. Sometimes it’s simply resourcing the work, sometimes the business doesn’t see the value and sometimes it’s just too big a risk to the user base. Enterprises are continually beset with a spectrum of application support and compatibility challenges due to lackluster upgrade programs, however missing these cycles can introduce significant business risk.
If you have missed one or more of the upgrade cycles on your core application delivery platform, the risk increases exponentially. Citrix have released their forward schedule for their product upgrade cycles, with four updates a year covering their two release programs.
The end of maintenance (EOM) period for XenApp 6.5 (now Citrix Virtual Apps) came to a close on December 31 2017 and the end of life (EOL) status landed June 30 2018. Customers who did make the jump and moved onto the 7.x platform should also be acutely aware that releases from 7.0 through to 7.13 reached End of Life on the 30th June 2018, with 7.14 reaching End of Life on the 27th December 2018 and 7.16 will reach its drop-dead date for End of Life on the 28th May 2019.
Given this information is public, you all have your Citrix environment upgrades planned and resources allocated in your 2019 and 2020 projects right? Unfortunately, this is often not the case.
We are still surprised how many clients are not aware of the potential business impact of failing to meet a core application end-of-life upgrade, let alone the delivery platform for those applications and the knock-on effect to the users.
Many of these conversations include the misconception that license compliance and support lines up with mitigation of End-Of-Life issues. Having active maintenance or support on your licensing does not mean you are protected. Does it mean you are entitled to upgrade? Absolutely! Protected from having to perform the upgrade to remain compliant? Definitely not.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE (PLATFORM) DETAILS
With a focus on XenApp 6.5 (now Citrix Virtual Apps), EoM and EoL dates snuck up on the industry quickly despite Citrix voicing the knowledge across its customers and the industry knowing it was coming. XenApp 6.5 and its Windows Server counterpart in Windows Server 2008 R2, provided many organisations with a robust and extremely stable environment which, once running, was relatively low touch and was therefore left alone.
What does this mean for customers who haven’t yet actioned their upgrades or migrations to the new (and greatly improved) Citrix Virtual Apps platform? Well bluntly, customers will not receive any patches or support after the EOM and EOL periods. That’s right customers who have missed this boat and are not paying for additional End of Extended Support are now completely unsupported by a vendor on a product that is core to the delivery of services to the users. Ouch.
The official legacy product support matrix can be found here
|Mainstream maintenance||All security patches, feature releases and technical support|
|End of maintenance (EOM)||No further code-level maintenance other than security-related updates|
|End of life (EOL)||Security-related hot fixes, technical support, and product downloads are no longer be available|
|Extended||Special maintenance for huge costs not feasible for most organisations|
Table 1: The main Citrix lifecycle phases for its products
Citrix Virtual Apps has a large customer base, and Citrix have catered for the many organisations operating the now aging Windows Server 2008 R2 platform (which underpinned the legacy Citrix XenApp 6.5 platform) by allowing customers in the updated architecture to run multiple Operating System versions within the same Delivery platform, including Windows Server 2008 R2. This means that whilst Windows Server 2016 / 2019 are the optimal operating system to be deploying workloads on at the moment, customers can still bring their existing Windows Server 2008 R2 images across to the new platform to ensure application supportability whilst starting to address the oncoming EoL for the operating system itself and provide access to the innovations in the new versions of the Citrix platform.
THE CRITICALITY OF CITRIX VIRTUAL APPS AND DESKTOP
Without proper maintenance or a roadmap for upgrades, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop environments will not remain robust and reliable and, without vendor support, delivery of critical line of business applications is at risk.
Figure 1: The risks of not keeping business applications updated.
CALL TO ACTION
Different versions and the evolution of products mandate that Citrix clients must closely observe the product lifecycle matrix to ensure support options and plan migration strategies ahead of time. Upgrading a core business application can take many months to do properly (including testing). Upgrading the solution that delivers those core apps is critical and not as huge a task as it once was, providing benefits to the users of the systems before the back-end services are updated. If you are currently operating an out of Support Citrix XenApp 6.5 environment or an out of support 7.x Current Release platform, it’s time to get it uplifted and moved to a supported release and start delivering improvements to the users.
Its also time to start thinking about the impending End of Support for Windows Server 2008 R2 which lands on January 14, 2020. Seems like a long way, but so did the EoL drop dates for the most popularly deployed version of Citrix XenApp and here we are.
Microsoft have some interesting new stances on extending support for those with Azure appetite so its critical to start looking at these options and considerations ASAP. Citrix have stated support for Windows Server 2008 R2 via the LTSR program, meaning that there should be minimal reason not to be moving now instead of trying to move the Operating System and delivery systems at the same time.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Practice Manager | Insentra
As Practice Manager of Insentra, Gary is responsible for two portfolios: Enhanced Support Services & Application Delivery and Mobility. With 17 years of experience in the role, Gary excels in managing and maintaining technical teams and initiating, developing and supporting relationships from medium to large enterprise clients. He specialises in design, implementation and operation of enterprise IT infrastructure and line-of-business applications with respect to business objectives.