For the past five years, I rode a motorcycle in the Himalayas for a couple of weeks or more.

The motorcycle that I have been using for those trips is my Royal Enfield Classic 500. The Royal Enfield motorcycle — especially the older model “Bullet” — has been a mainstay in the Himalayan riding community for its established pedigree of going almost anywhere and carrying a lot of load. It also helps that if there is a breakdown, even if it’s in a remote ares, you can usually find someone to fix the bike.

Back in 2010, one of the things I had to seriously consider when I bought my bike was the fact that Royal Enfield had recently released a 500cc bike with a new fuel-injected aluminum engine. Many people, at the time, were reluctant to adopt this new system, worried about whether the mechanics in the Himalayas would have the know-how to fix it. A lot of people were unwilling to trade up their trusty Bullets with their carbureted iron bore engines. A few of us (myself, included), on the other hand, jumped at the chance for better power delivery to trek up those treacherous roads, and better performance, thanks to a more consistent mixture of air and fuel on the “Classic 500.” Seven years later, a large number of Classic 500s make that glorious trip up to 18000+ feet above sea level every day of the season.

Here at Citrix, we have seen XenApp 6.5 receive the same love and wide deployment for the past 6 years, like the trusty Royal Enfield Bullet of the tech world. The industry has changed now, and recent Citrix telemetry data shows that more than two out of every 3 customers are on our next-generation XenApp 7 architecture, quickly adopting a version newer than 7.6, which was released in 2014. If you have been holding off on making the move yourself, I would like to show you why the time to upgrade is NOW.

Why now?

XenApp and XenDesktop architectures merged with the  7.0 release back in 2013. XenApp, which was based on the legacy Independent Management Architecture (IMA), took on the newer, service-oriented architecture known as Flexcast Management Architecture (FMA) that XenDesktop had been using since v5.0 in 2010.

Today, you can purchase XenApp or XenDesktop, depending on your needs, but regardless of which you choose, they are both the same code base – this makes it super-easy to move up to XenDesktop from XenApp when it’s time. The latest “current” release (CR) is XenApp & XenDesktop 7.13, with a long-term service release (LTSR) expected later this year. For additional details on our release schedule for 2017, please take a look at Juan Rivera’s blog post.

In the last few releases of XenApp and XenDesktop, with the reintroduction of the Local Host Cache, Zones, Application Groups and Tagging and Reboot Schedules, as my colleague Carisa Stringer likes to say, “There are no more excuses to stay on the XenApp 6.5 release.”

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Let’s dig deeper into some of these.

App and Image Management for Everyone and Easier Future Upgrades.

The operation that you spend the most time engaged in is image management. Whenever a new software version is out, either OS or  application — including a Citrix release — there is a whole project that needs to be kicked off within IT to get that into production.

With XenApp 6.5, if you didn’t have Platinum, there was a lack of a Single Image Management solution that you could leverage to help with this critical activity. To alleviate this restriction, we introduced Machine Creation Services in XenApp 7.x and Citrix App Layering in XenApp and XenDesktop 7.13. Both of these features are available to all license editions. These give you a simple solution for a single image that can be rolled out to all your users. Most importantly, each of the components can be updated individually, independent of the others.

Much like the fact that all new Enfield models are expected to have disc brakes and better air-flow, the security and performance of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 are becoming the industry standard. More importantly, Microsoft’s new Windows-as-a-service delivery will require organizations to adopt latest Windows 10 updates faster than previous OS generations. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended in January 2015 and Windows 8 support ends in January 2018. The first release of Windows 10 (build 1507) will cease to be supported by the end of May 2017.

Citrix has aligned its strategy to make Windows 10 and Server 2016 migrations fast and easy for customers. Using Citrix App Layering and automated compatibility checks, you can safely upgrade the OS bits without impacting user files and apps. It is faster and easier to stay ‘evergreen’ with current versions of XenApp as well as Windows 10, once you are on any XenApp 7 branch. Only Citrix XenApp 7.6 LTSR and up supports Windows 10, while 7.11 and later support Windows Server 2016.

On the day-to-day administration side, we have ventured to make your life so much easier by adding loads of features in Citrix Director – the daily web-based management and monitoring console. From the ability to see (and if need be, terminate) errant processes running in a session, to being able to live remote-assist a user’s session, to the ability to create custom alerts that send you emails and messages based on the metrics you care about, each new release adds more to make your day to day tasks easier. The video below showcases some of those unique features.

Optimized User Experience

In our consistent pursuit to be head and shoulders above the competition in terms of user experience (and, yes, in all ways), we introduced Adaptive transport in XenApp & XenDesktop 7.13. Adaptive Transport assesses the state of the network connection and automatically adjusts the protocol to give the user the best experience possible. Adaptive Transport makes bulk data transfers super fast (faster than using a non-optimized WAN link), and, therefore, we realize up to 3X faster file transfers in 7.13 over 6.5.

Take a look.

Even with these new technologies the data being sent over the wire is the most optimized to ensure that your bandwidth requirements are not increased for the same number of users.

We’ve taken your feedback and improved our logon times to around 15 secs, if you utilize the Workspace Environment Manager, take a look at how it works:

Extend & Secure User Access

The continued diversification of the peripherals that are necessary for the productivity of your users is another thing that you need to keep in mind. No longer is making a USB pen drive available inside the XenApp session enough to ensure that the users are happy.

With the introduction of composite USB devices like headsets, 3D mice and signature pads, the ability of the user to have these redirected into the session is the new barrier to you successfully being able to virtualize the app. In the 7.x releases, we have and are continuing to work to have more and more of these devices be redirected into the session, without you the Admin having to map them individually.

This also applies to all those authentication devices that add the extra layer of security that is essential. To contrast between 6.5 and 7.x.

Let’s take a signature pad, as an example:

With the current Ransomware attacks in the news these days, with Secure Browser, XenServer HVI with BitDefender you can give your users the most resilient environment, read more here in this great blog by my colleague Martin about WannaCry and how we help to avoid such attacks.

If you want to keep your environment secure, then it’s a no-brainer to be on the most secure version of the environment you are maintaining. Again, there’s no excuse to stay on v6.5.

Next Steps:

Check out more resources to help you make this move at http://www.citrix.com/xenapp/upgrade