Citrix XenApp 6.5 - End of Life Conundrum

03 October 2017 | By Rohit Athalye

This is no news but Citrix XenApp 6.5 will be end-of-life soon, or to be precise on 30th June 2018 for customers with current Software Maintenance and/or Subscription Advantage.

With less than a year to go, now would be a good time to talk about how this affects organisations and the options that are available to them.

What does this mean?

To understand the impact, it’s necessary to review the 3 phases of support as found within the Citrix Product Lifecycle Policy.

Phase 1: General Availability (GA) to End of Maintenance (EOM)

All Citrix products covered under the Product Lifecycle Policy will be fully supported and maintained during this period. This includes code-level maintenance which Citrix will provide as product updates or upgrades. Citrix XenApp 6.5 currently falls under this category.

Phase 2: End of Maintenance (EOM) to End of Life (EOL)

During this period, Citrix will cease to provide product updates and upgrades but will continue to support the product. Citrix XenApp 6.5 will reach End of Maintenance on 31st December 2017 for customers with current Software Maintenance and/or Subscription Advantage.

Phase 3: End of Life (EOL)

According to Citrix 'Once a product release reaches its End of Life date, the customer may continue to use the product within the terms of product licensing agreement but the available support options will be limited. While there may be historical information in the Knowledge Center or other online resources, it is no longer updated and is provided on an as-is basis. The customer will be using the product within the terms of the product license as-is.'

In short, Citrix XenApp 6.5 will not be supported post 30th June 2018 for customers with current Software Maintenance and/or Subscription Advantage.

What Next?

Option 1: Buy Extended Support

The Extended Support program offers technical support and maintenance after the End of Maintenance (EOM) or End of Life (EOL) milestone. But this option has significant costs involved and will eventually force you to upgrade. Citrix XenApp 6.5 will be out of Extended Support on 14th Jan 2020. This option has been used previously by some organisations where legacy Citrix XenApp 5 environments had to be maintained with their corresponding Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating systems, as a stop-gap measure whilst the organisation planned longer term upgrades, albeit at significant cost to the organisation.

Option 2: Upgrade to XenApp 7.x

Before discussing upgrade/migration strategy, it is important to understand the difference between XenApp 6.5 and XenApp 7.x. There are significant architectural differences between the two. A detailed explanation can be found on the Citrix website, but the main concept is a change to FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA), which replaces the Independent Management Architecture (IMA) used in XenApp 6.5 and previous versions.

Both XenApp7.x and XenDesktop 7.x are based on FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA). FMA is a service-oriented architecture that allows interoperability and management modularity across Citrix technologies. FMA provides a platform for application delivery, mobility, services, flexible provisioning, and cloud management.

The following diagram gives an overview of the XenApp 7.x components.

Citrix Farm Migration

Now let’s have a quick look at the upgrade/migration strategy. It is strongly recommended to perform a comprehensive planning and design phase prior to starting the implementation.

Citrix provides two methods to migrate the farm configuration from the XenApp 6.5 farm to XenApp 7.x, and has published an in-depth upgrade guide here.

  • XenApp 6.x Migration tool

The XenApp Upgrade Utility is used to capture the infrastructure configuration of the XenApp 6.5 farm and help efficiently transition from a XenApp 6.5 farm to a XenApp 7.x site. The XenApp Upgrade Utility is a collection of PowerShell scripts and other files that export policy and application settings from a XenApp 6.5 controller and store them in XML files for import into the new XenApp site. This is effectively an in-place upgrade, using the same hardware and / or virtual machines as used by the existing 6.5 environment.

  • Citrix Smart Tools

Citrix Smart Migrate is a streamlined alternative to manually using the XenApp 6.x Migration Tool. This tool is a part of the Citrix Lifecycle Management and is hosted in Citrix Cloud, and is available to those organisations with a Citrix Cloud subscription.

Citrix allows existing XenApp 6.5 workers to be upgraded using the XenApp In-Place Upgrade Utility. The XenApp In-place Upgrade Utility is a set of tasks in the XenApp VDA installer that removes the XenApp 6.5 servers configured in session-host only mode from the farm, removes the XenApp 6.5 software, and then installs a new Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) for Windows Server OS.

A third migration is also available, using the tried and tested parallel method of deploying a new Citrix environment, and operating this in parallel with the existing environment. This is the more traditional migration method used for Citrix environments, and provides an opportunity for updates to the architectural design of the environment, and often results in a ‘cleaner’ end result. It does however require that the organisation has sufficient capacity to run both environments, until such time as all users and applications have been migrated and reinstalled accordingly. Where capacity is an issue, the use of migration groups may be used to reduce the resource footprint.

Finally..

Citrix XenApp 6.5 has long been hailed as one of the most stable and 'relatively' bug-free versions since Citrix Presentation Server 4.5 but as the saying goes all good things must come to an end.

Also, Citrix has been pushing towards a unified experience for XenApp/XenDesktop users for quite some time and Citrix XenApp 7.x seems like the right step in that direction.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss how GlassHouse can help you smoothly transition your environment to XenApp 7.x. 

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