Citrix CVAD Long Term Service Release

The technical and logistical pros and cons of moving your Citrix CVAD environments to the Long Term Service Release branch.

What is an LTSR?

 
One of the reasons we at Alchemy love to partner with Citrix is that they offer their Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (CVAD) platform in a Long Term Service Release (LTSR), in addition to a “Current Release” (CR) model. This lets our customers choose from two very different support and lifecycle models, depending on the needs and size of their business.
 
Broadly, the LTSR from Citrix is going to have a 5-year mainstream support window, with the option to purchase additional support out to 10 years, versus far less for CR.
 
At its core, LTSR is the same product as CR but is tailored for large enterprise production environments where longer upgrade intervals are desirable. LTSR isn’t in and of itself more stable than a similar CR release, but instead benefits from an extended support lifetime, as well as a far simpler support lifecycle.
 
The question of course becomes: Is the LTSR right for my organization? There are a lot of factors that play into the answer there, so let’s unpack the LTSR pros and cons a bit more, in order to understand where it would be a fit.

 

Where is Cloud in this conversation?

 

Before digging into details on CR vs LTSR, we need to first briefly discuss Citrix Cloud and where it fits into the puzzle. A full breakdown of “to Cloud or not to Cloud” is outside the scope of this discussion, but a basic review is needed to fully assess the LTSR vs. CR question. 

For most organizations, “Citrix Cloud” really refers to having some or all of your CVAD control plane hosted with Citrix. When you do this, behind the scenes, Citrix is keeping your Cloud service updated to the (mostly) latest CR, and they’ll do so without much consultation with your organization. Because of this, when reading the layout below of CR vs LTSR, anytime CR is mentioned – think also, “Cloud”. LTSR is not in play if you’re using Citrix Cloud.

 

Wins

 
The positives of LTSR, quite frankly, are more numerous than the negatives, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better option – just different.
 
Stability
 
Quite simply, fewer changes tends to yield fewer issues. The LTSR and the corresponding Cumulative Updates (CUs) that may apply to it, represent the “battle tested” versions of the platform. Frequently lagging a bit in terms of features, but more than making up for that in rock-solid stability.
 
Update Path
 
Moving to the LTSR branch will help get your organization onto a Citrix upgrade cycle measured in years, not months. For a given LTSR, CUs are still issued quarterly, but are not required. Should you choose to stay on an LTSR + CU path, you can be confident those CU’s are going to contain security and bug fixes only – no new features or changes that are likely to cause issues.
 
Timeline Control
 
Leveraging LTSR gives you immense control over your upgrade timelines. With a typical issue cadence of 2 to 3 years, and up to 10 years of vendor support, you can easily get onto an update cycle that keeps you current with features and functionality, while not burdening your team with constant, quarterly upgrade cycles.
Support Work
 
In a world of new Windows versions every 18 seconds, we’ve become too accustomed to trying to lay the track in front of the train. With LTSR, your support and infrastructure teams can work on achieving operational support mastery of a given platform.
 
If your systems and operations teams are in a constant Research, Test, Upgrade, Learn Support model, there is little if any time available to really nail down a support model for a given version or platform. Your support teams and users simply become accustomed to new problems every few weeks or months. This burns out technical teams, leaves no time for platform improvement, and causes the platform’s user experience ratings to decline.
 
By moving to LTSR, Citrix Upgrades can be treated as projects, needed only every few years, instead of a constant operational task. This leaves your teams free to learn, master and build world-class support around a constant software version, as well as to put their time and efforts into building and improving aspects of the infrastructure.
 
Zero-Day Patching
 
Significant security vulnerabilities, no matter CR or LTSR, are always issued by Citrix for their supported platforms. Being on LTSR will grant you the same timeline and access to security patches as though you were on CR.
 
 

Catches

 
It can’t all be roses, and it isn’t. There are some significant things to consider before making the jump to LTSR.
 
Lagging Feature Adoption
 
This should come as no surprise, but in adopting a less frequent update cycle, along with a more stable product, will come a necessary delay in deployment of new features. Now, this may or may not be a negative thing for your business. Citrix’s platforms are already quite feature rich as they are, and are quite feature-complete for many organizations; however if your business requires the latest in features and cross platform support, you might consider sticking with CR.
 
Connected System Version Requirements
 
This is likely the single biggest sticking point when it comes to the viability of LTSR in an organization. Citrix has specific version requirements for many of the connected components outside of CVAD when using LTSR. For example, to remain supported on a given LTSR version of CVAD, you may also be required to keep your Application Delivery Controllers (Netscalers/ADC’s) on a specific (possibly older) code version.
 
In many organizations, the ADC’s are being used across the environment, not just by CVAD. This can cause some significant quagmires if another major platform requires an ADC code upgrade, but your LTSR version constrains you to an earlier version.

Who should do what?

 
The above represents a lot to think about for an organization, and none of it should be taken lightly. There are many other considerations that should be considered before making a decision on whether to move from CR to LTSR (or vice versa). That said, in our experience we’ve found most organizations to align as follows.
 
CR or Citrix Cloud
 

If your organization is a chronic innovator and has a need or want to remain as current as possible from a feature perspective, then going with CR, or even moving to Citrix Cloud, is a great way to go. Smaller, dynamic, or technology driven organizations would fit here.

LTSR
 
Large organizations with strict SLAs, strict uptime requirements, and very focuses business purposes should strongly consider the LTSR branch. As discussed above, the LTSR tree provides great compatibility and stability, with minimal risk and maintenance overhead. Hospitals are probably the most applicable example here, but almost any large organization could benefit from moving.
 
Extended Timeline LTSR
 
Adopting LTSR, with the intention of purchasing the full 10 years of support, should only be considered by organizations with very little internal technical change, which also have a mission-critical dependence upon uptime. Outside of very large scale manufacturing and government, the connected system version requirements of this timeline model will likely make it too slow-moving for all but the most risk-adverse environments.
 

As always, if you have any questions or would like to speak to an Alchemist about the Citrix LTSR or anything else, please reach out to info@alchemytechgroup.com.

Alchemist: Adam Crossett

Lead Consultant

About Alchemy Technology Group

Alchemy Technology Group is an industry leading IT advisory, consulting and reseller firm focused on end user experience, security, data center transformation, cloud and automation.

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