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 ManageOps) 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.”
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.
Thank you Moose, for this great write-up on the often dark and windy road through Citrix’s renewal process. It’s taken me a good amount of time to figure out what it is I’m getting for my $$ and how to best calculate the value of support for each different option. For me, hands down, the value of a solid Solutions Provider standing behind my Citrix services can’t be measured in dollars alone. What you get for your money with a channel partner is a knowledgeable, seasoned resource who understands (and maybe even built) your Citrix environment. Having a partner who can quickly get to root cause and guide a less experienced team back on track can often be the difference between restoring services in a few minutes to being down for several hours while you wade through the layers of Citrix support tiers only to land with someone who isn’t familar with your environment configuration. Unfortunately, this can also mean you don’t get services back online until long after your users have packed up and gone home in frustration. Finally, when it’s time to make a tweak, a change or optimize and fine tune your farm – who would you rather call?… I know my answer!