Application virtualization is meant to make IT management easier. For the most part, it does.
CIOs like it because it helps enable more efficient use of hardware and IT staff resources. IT managers like it because it helps reduce the time sink and tedium of rolling out new machines including manually installing new software, updates, and security patches. And it’s especially useful in light of the growing trend of employees using a mixture of fixed and mobile devices on a company network.
The explosion of mobile device usage within the enterprise has given rise to heightened interest in Citrix XenApp Server, which is specifically designed to make software available on demand across mixed desktop and mobile environments.
In the Citrix software delivery model, applications are installed on one or more Citrix servers, then published or streamed to a variety of endpoints, including traditional workstations, laptops, and mobile devices. Above and beyond other virtualizing servers, the Citrix platform unfolds a whole host of new benefits—most notably, enabling on-demand availability of critical applications and reducing the costs of desktop management—for serving the needs of a mobile workforce. Unfortunately, though, Citrix-based virtual application delivery requires considerable expertise, even in the traditional desktop environment, to successfully navigate the intricacies of software licensing and compliance. And here's the curveball—as application virtualization increases, license management becomes exponentially more complicated. In fact, the very ease and speed of provisioning software using Citrix can put organizations on the fast track to software audits, financial penalties, and public embarrassment. Why is this? The Citrix world is user-centric, which has the important advantage of allowing users to access software from a wide variety of devices. But because most software is licensed per device, IT departments are faced with a vexing question: Do we need to purchase a software license for every single connecting device? With the explosion of mobile device usage within the enterprise, it’s increasingly likely that organizations relying on Citrix to publish applications to smartphones and tablets are rapidly drifting out of compliance as new endpoints are added to the asset pool. What’s muddying the already cloudy license compliance waters is a combination of factors: the difficulty of understanding different licensing rules among different publishers, the persistence of archaic per-device licensing models that don’t translate easily in a user-centric world, and the proliferation of devices and device types in use So how can you ensure that no more users or devices are accessing a licensed software application than are permitted under the terms of your end-user license agreement (EULA)? And how do you make certain that you haven’t purchased more licenses than are actually being used? Some organizations rely on guesswork or manual calculations to steer their software license processes, but it’s not a winning strategy.
You can be sure that software publishers have no intention of losing revenues to application virtualization, which is one reason more and more audits are being conducted and more fines imposed. Publishers are watching their customers carefully for telltale activities—especially rapid corporate growth or the increasing use of virtualization—that are often harbingers of non-compliance.
Although you may not be able to avoid an audit completely, you can avoid the disastrous consequences of a failed audit—not to mention significant disruption to your business—if you have the ability to verify license compliance for per-seat, per-user, and concurrently licensed software, and correct any license shortfalls before you receive the dreaded audit letter. In addition, to stay compliant with license agreements on an ongoing basis, you will need to find reliable ways to control or meter access to applications delivered via Citrix. That’s easier said than done, at least when you’re using traditional methods for monitoring requirements and usage. Given the challenges of compliance and the increased vigilance of publishers, is application virtualization actually worth it? Yes, absolutely. And it turns out you don’t have to chain yourself to a spreadsheet or run around the building counting smart phones to ensure compliance with your software licensing. That’s because there are some excellent software asset management (SAM) tools that will help automate the job for you, effectively minimizing the complexity of the compliance issues that are emerging in the bring-your-own-device environment, as well as providing the analysis needed to make sure you're not spending money on applications that aren't being used. Just make sure you choose a tool that meets your specific needs.
The checklist for selecting a software asset management tool in a Citrix scenario is not that different from one that applies to a traditional desktop environment. That said, ticking all the boxes can be problematic, since you are looking for Citrix-specific, thin-client capabilities. Remember, you are looking for tools that reflect the realities of your mobile, morphing IT infrastructure, not the archaic environment of a simpler yesteryear.
Here are some key questions to ask:
- Can I track the use of applications not only running on the Citrix server, but also back to the end-devices and end-users accessing them?
- Can I monitor the use of applications that are published as well as streamed?
- Can I obtain the information required to analyze license compliance for published applications that are licensed per-seat?
- Can I track individual user Citrix server logins?
- Can I control access to certain applications by specifying which users and/or devices are permitted to run them?
Action Item: If the answer to each of these questions is “yes,” then go ahead and treat yourself to the best of both worlds. With the right software asset management tool in hand, you can enjoy the benefits of Citrix virtualization and defend yourself against the risks of a licensing curveball hitting your organization where it hurts.
Footnotes: BIO: As CEO of Express Metrix IT Asset Management Software, Kris Barker leads a strong organization of passionate software developers who plan and develop Express Metrix products. He focuses not only on product strategy, but also on the individual features that set Express Metrix products apart from other asset management solutions on the market. About Express Metrix: [www.expressmetrix.com Express Metrix] is a 16-year veteran in the IT asset management market. With a strong emphasis on license compliance software, Express Metrix leads the market in the areas of IT asset reporting, ease of use, and customer support.