Tag Archives: Software Maintenance

Citrix Subscription Advantage

Update 6/26/2014:
There was an interesting announcement at the recent Citrix Synergy conference that may indicate the future direction of Subscription Advantage. At that conference, Citrix announced a new product bundle called the “Citrix Workspace Suite,” which consists of XenDesktop Platinum Edition + XenMobile Enterprise Edition. It does not appear that Subscription Advantage, as we have known it for lo these many years, exists for this product. Instead, Citrix appears to have moved to a more traditional (in the software industry) Software Maintenance model that includes product upgrades and 7 x 24 telephone support.

The list price for the Workspace Suite is $450 per named user (there is no concurrent-use license model for this product), plus $99/user/year for Software Maintenance. Software Maintenance is mandatory for the first year (so the first year cost is actually $549/user, not $450…less whatever discount you can get on the license itself) and optional for subsequent years. But it appears that if you choose not to renew Software Maintenance, you will also lose your access to product upgrades, just as has been the case with Software Assurance.

***** End Update *****

I’ve noticed a pattern developing: It starts with a renewal notice, usually around 90-days before Subscription Advantage (SA) is set to expire. The reply email comes back within 48 hours: “What is Subscription Advantage?” I answer and then comes question #2: “Why do I need it?” So I think it’s time once again to shed some light on this mystical annual renewal.

Subscription Advantage IS NOT MAINTENANCE!

Subscription Advantage  IS NOT SUPPORT!

Subscription Advantage IS NOT A WARRANTY!

Ok, now that that is out of the way we can focus on what SA is because it is important that you know exactly what you are paying for. Citrix SA is annual license upgrade protection. The first year is included with your license purchase - after that, there’s an annual renewal cost. What does that mean? Well it means that you bought something that is not a set-it-and-forget-it item. Data centers grow and change all time and the tools used in that data center need to change as well. So as the Citrix products evolve (or change names) you as an owner of “upgrade protection” can take advantage of these upgrades, period.

(There is one exception: it is now possible to purchase a bundle of SA and Citrix telephone support for XenApp. We covered this in an earlier blog post.)

The good news is that Citrix SA doesn’t cost as much as traditional “Software Maintenance” from companies that bundle some kind of telephone support with their upgrade protection. The general rule of SA is that it costs about 11% - 13% per year of the cost of the license. In our experience, traditional Software Maintenance that includes support will typically run you 18% - 20% per year for 5 x 8 support, and 25%+ per year for 7 x 24 support.

However, if you have not renewed your SA and wish to upgrade you will need to pay a reinstatement fee or just buy new licenses. Which option is best for you will depend on how long it’s been since you renewed SA. If your SA has been expired for more than a year, it’s going to be pretty expensive to try to get it reinstated.

Citrix upgrades its products often! So what if I have my own Citrix expert on staff and don’t plan on upgrading for 5-6 years anyway? Well, as we all know, life is what happens while you’re making other plans. What about the rest of your data center? Do you not plan to upgrade that in the next 5-6 years either? In many cases old versions of Citrix products will not be compatible with new technology releases. E.g., Citrix just released XenApp 6, which is specifically designed for Windows Server 2008 R2. Earlier versions of XenApp are not compatible with 2008 R2.

Also, Citrix frequently releases “Feature Packs” for older product versions that add functionality (within the technological constraints of the older platform). If your SA is current, you can take advantage of the new features. If not, you…can’t.

Finally, no software company can afford to indefinitely support every product version that they’ve ever released. Everything has a lifecycle. For example, Presentation Server v4.0 hit the “End of Life” point at the end of 2009. That means there is no support available for the product other than the information you may be able to dig out of the Citrix on-line Knowledge Base. Furthermore, all the downloads have been removed, so you have no way to access any security patches, service packs, hotfixes, etc. This is obviously not a good situation for your production environment - so if you’re still running Presentation Server v4.0, you should be working toward upgrading your environment as soon as you possibly can.

Bottom Line: I recommend SA renewal to everyone who buys Citrix licenses. As the person who handles all the renewal notices for our customers, I have, time and time again, seen people try to save a dollar this year but end up spending more then necessary next year. Plus it is just a headache to realize that you need to upgrade - perhaps to solve a problem that (naturally) surfaced after hours or on a weekend - but can’t get the upgrade because your subscription has expired. So, when you get that email notice from me, just remember: I’m really trying to make your life easier by insuring that you’re upgrade rights are protected!

Quick Tip For Your WatchGuard Service Renewal

As all IT professionals are aware, most hardware and software companies offer some type of support/maintenance renewal, WatchGuard Technologies is no different.

They offer a variety of subscription services with their WatchGuard XTM or Firebox X appliances. These services are either sold separately or as a bundle of services for one, two, or three year terms. Services available include:

  • SpamBlocker - with virus outbreak detection
  • WebBlocker - with HTTP and HTTPS inspection
  • Gateway AntiVirus - for signature-based protection from known threats
  • Intrusion Prevention Service - with comprehensive attack and spyware protection
  • LiveSecurity® Service - hardware replacement warranty, free software updates, 24/7 telephone support

For more information about what each service is please contact us here at info@mooselogic.com.

The main objective of this post is not about the services themselves but rather about the renewal process. Each WatchGuard system we sell comes bundled with LiveSecurity Service for the first year. Since customers who own multiple WatchGuard systems have often bought them at different times, and since it is possible to renew LiveSecurity for multiple years, it is often the case that a customer can have different WatchGuard units whose coverage expires at different times of the year. Some companies prefer to keep these renewals separate to spread out their renewal costs over the year while others prefer to have a single renewal date for all of their WatchGuard units.

When renewing a WatchGuard subscription, Moose Logic will place an order with WatchGuard and typically within 48 hours an email is sent to us as well as to the customer contact who was in charge of the renewal. That email will contain a license key for each renewal. The customer is responsible for logging in to their WatchGuard account and entering those license keys. This will result in the display of a feature key. At this point the customer needs to copy and paste that feature key into the actual WatchGuard unit, only then is the renewal complete - and the services the company has paid for will become available.

(Note that if you don’t have the time or skills to perform these tasks when you renew, Moose Logic will be happy to do it for you. Yes, we will bill you for our time - although if you are a MooseGuardTM Gold or Platinum customer, that work effort would be covered by your plan.)

Now there is a twist to this. If we change the date of the renewal (e.g., in order to synchronize renewal dates for multiple units) that change is implemented directly by WatchGuard, and NO LICENSE KEY WILL BE SENT TO YOU. Since no new license key is made available to the end user, no email is sent to remind you that you need to log into the WatchGuard online portal and retrieve the feature key to be copied and pasted on the physical unit.

So the important lessons of the day are:

  1. If you chose to synchronize your WatchGuard renewal dates it will take a little longer to get the renewal done (usually 4-5 business days) since someone at WatchGuard has to manually update your renewal dates, and
  2. It is important to mark your calendar so that you log in to your account after 4-5 days and see if the feature key is available.

If we’re handling the process for you (either because you’re a MooseGuard customer or because you’ve asked us to) it’s not an issue, because we know what the process is. But if you’re handling the renewal yourself…don’t just sit back and think that you’re done just because you’ve placed the renewal order. If the new feature key doesn’t get entered in your unit, the features you’re subscribing to are going to stop working - and that would be what we call, in technical terms, a “bad thing.”

Citrix and Software Maintenance

Traditionally, Citrix has not offered “software maintenance” in the sense that most other software companies use the term. “Software maintenance” from most software vendors includes both ongoing upgrades and some level of telephone-based technical support. It also typically runs 20% - 25% per year of the cost of the software itself, depending on whether support is available 7 x 24, or only during business hours. Instead, Citrix offered something they dubbed “Subscription Advantage” (“SA”), which included upgrade protection, but no technical support. For technical support, they relied primarily on their channel partners (like Moose Logic) to deliver services and technical support to the end users. SA is also less expensive than other vendors’ software maintenance programs – typically running 11% - 13% (depending on the product) of the software list price.

For the most part, that has worked well for Citrix, the end users, and the channel partners. It’s no secret in our industry that nobody makes much money selling hardware and software. It is ultimately the revenue from architecting, installing, and supporting solutions built on the hardware and software that keeps the doors open and the lights on. Furthermore, on the rare occasion that we run into something that stumps us, we’ve got a direct pipeline into the Citrix support team…plus we get to bypass that first level where they ask you questions like whether your servers are plugged in and powered on. So when you engage with a competent Citrix channel partner, you get access to that partner’s technical expertise, which has been honed by lots of time spent in the real-world school of hard knocks, and you still get access to the Citrix technical support team standing behind that partner. The benefit to Citrix was that they didn’t have to staff up to handle the potential call volume from tens of thousands of customers.

The key word here is, of course, “competent.” We recognize that not all Citrix channel partners are created equal…and so does Citrix. Furthermore, there are some channel partners who simply specialize in license fulfillment, and really don’t have any capability to provide services. Finally, there are some end users who insist on being able to go directly to the manufacturer for support, and refuse to do business with manufacturers who won’t give them that ability.

To cover these situations, Citrix began offering separate, incident-based support agreements some time ago. These are pretty expensive: the entry point for XenApp support is a 25-incident plan for $7,500 that offers telephone support during business hours. If you want 7 x 24 support, you need to step up to a 50-incident plan that costs $25,000. If you want to buy one of these plans, you can buy them through your favorite Citrix channel partner, including us. The numbers aren’t so bad if you are a large organization with several hundred, or several thousand, XenApp licenses, but the fact is they just don’t fit a lot of customers who have only a few hundred (or fewer) licenses.

Recently, Citrix announced a real “software maintenance” option for XenApp, in the classic sense of the term. In addition to upgrade protection, it offers 7 x 24 telephone, Web, and email support. You get five annual incidents and one named contact for every 50 XenApp licenses you own. The cost is roughly 20% per year of the list price of the licenses. For example: if you own XenApp Enterprise Edition licenses that were not purchased through a volume license agreement, it costs you $50/year/license to simply renew Subscription Advantage. At your option, you can now pay $90/year/license and get both upgrade protection and 7 x 24 support. The MSRP of a XenApp Enterprise license is $450, so the math is pretty simple: just a tad over 11% for SA alone, 20% for full software maintenance.

Is this a good deal for you? (You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?) It depends. Are you happy with your Citrix channel partner? (Do you even work with a channel partner?) Is your Citrix infrastructure humming along with very few problems – as it should if it was built right in the first place – or do you need a lot of support to keep things running? How many XenApp licenses do you own? (Divide that number by 50, and that tells you how many incidents you’d get if you opted for software maintenance.) How does the cost compare with what you’d normally pay to your channel partner over the course of a year? How does it compare to the cost of buying a separate Citrix support agreement?

The 5-incidents-per-50-licenses formula can lead to some interesting trade-offs. For example, let’s say you own 190 XenApp Enterprise licenses. At $90/license, it would cost you $17,100 for software maintenance, and you’d get 15 incidents. If you simply renewed your SA (for $9,500) and bought a separate 25-incident plan for another $7,500, you would pay only $17,000 and end up with 25 incidents - although you would only have coverage during business hours. If you want 7 x 24 coverage, you’ve got to compare the software maintenance cost to the cost of a 50-incident, $25,000 plan, and software maintenance is going to be less expensive until you hit a crossover point at about 640 licenses. From there on up, software maintenance is going to be more expensive – but you’ll get more than 50 incidents.

If your eyes are starting to glaze over right now, I completely understand. You could, of course, build an Excel spreadsheet that calculated the costs of the various options for you when you entered the number of licenses you own (which is how I came up with the numbers in the preceding paragraph). Or, you can just go to the new Citrix on-line “Software Maintenance for XenApp Value Calculator.”

Software Maintenance Value Calculator

This tool lets you enter how many XenApp licenses you own, specify which version they are (Advanced/Enterprise/Platinum), specify whether or not you bought the licenses through a volume license agreement, and choose whether you want to compare the software maintenance cost with the cost of a 25-incident, business hours plan or a 50-incident, 7 x 24 plan. The tool will then present you with the relative costs of software maintenance vs. straight SA + the plan you picked for comparison.

At the present time, software maintenance is only available for XenApp Advanced, Enterprise, and Platinum editions. I suspect (based on nothing more than my own opinion) that, given the shift toward XenDesktop 4 as their flagship product, it won’t be long before we see something like this for XenDesktop.

Finally, please note that as of this moment in time, the on-line tool that we use to generate SA renewal quotes for you does not yet give us the option to generate a quote that includes software maintenance. That’s coming, but in the meantime, if your renewal date is coming up, and you want to explore the software maintenance option, please let us know so we can work with our Citrix contacts to get you a quote that includes it.