Citrix Cloud: Yours, Mine, and Ours

I remember conversations with management when the concept of “The Cloud” first appeared that suggested that once you moved your workload to the cloud you could pretty much just forget about it. It was never true, but it sounded good to upper management. They also believed early on that moving to the Cloud was going to save them gobs of money. Those conversations often included lots of buzz about Cap Ex vs, Op Ex. No one really wanted to do the hard math on what all of that actually ended up saving them at the end of the day, and frankly early Cloud providers didn’t always make it easy to see the cost as well.

Now we have several years of Cloud implementations behind us and have seen significant advancements in Cloud technology and more transparency in Cloud pricing, but I still find there is confusion about how much you give up and how much you don’t. Wherever they may have ended up, they are still your workloads and as such, you still maintain a certain responsibility.

I often have students in my Citrix classes that are confused about all of that when we talk about the Citrix Cloud. The confusion is understandable because it is a significantly different conversation than the traditional Cloud. In the Citrix Cloud conversation, it is less about giving up your workloads (which you may or may not have wanted to do in the first place) and more about giving up the need to maintain the core infrastructure of your Citrix environment. With Citrix Cloud, Citrix maintains a certain responsibility, you maintain a certain responsibility, and in many deployments, there are shared responsibilities. Like the title says, “Yours, Mine, and Ours.”
There are so many ways to deploy Citrix Cloud, which can also easily lead to confusion.  However, I like the fact that Citrix has provided a lot of different paths that a customer can go down. Citrix has always tried to provide flexibility to their customers and to their users. For many, many years, we have had the option of deploying Virtual App or Virtual Desktop. We also have the flexibility of multiple license versions, giving the customer choice between cost and features. Like I said, flexibility.

Citrix Cloud continues that tradition giving you options to leave a certain number of familiar features On-Prem, or you can go all-in to the Cloud. There may be no such thing as a “typical deployment,” but if there were, the first thing you would notice is that you are no longer responsible for maintaining Delivery Controllers, SQL datastores, or Citrix License servers (that’s a maybe on the License server, more on that later). The one thing you don’t give up is the VDAs themselves—those are still yours. This means that you not only maintain responsibility for your VDAs, but you also maintain full control of that most valuable resource, your VDAs. This is the part that often surprises students. I’ve also had a lot of students that have explained that this is the part that most confuses management. I think when people hear “Cloud,” they somehow again assume that all resources are now Off-Prem. They can be. You can decide to run your VDAs in Azure or AWS or other Cloud providers, but the one place you won’t be running them is in the Citrix Cloud. The Citrix Cloud is more about maintaining the infrastructure of the Control Layer as opposed to hosting your Resource Layer. Here again, Citrix is giving you options

Speaking of options, let’s talk about the Access Layer. The two primary assets in the On-Prem Access Layer are the Storefront Server and the Citrix Gateway. These can stay right where they are and continue to function with the Citrix Cloud, or you can take advantage of Citrix Gateway Service and Citrix Workspace (the stand in for Storefront) in the Citrix Cloud. Like I keep saying, lots of options, but you can also see where this can lead to confusion. What’s theirs, what’s mine, and what’s ours? Well, Citrix takes care of a lot of the Control Layer and you take care of the Resource Layer.

How about the “Ours”? When do we share resources? In certain deployments, PVS for example, you will continue to have a need for a local database, and a local license server. There will still be a datastore and license server component of the Citrix Cloud but those will be maintained by Citrix.

How about cost? Am I going to save gobs of money? That is impossible for me to answer because that will depend widely on your organization. That is the conversation that you will need to have with the finance folks. It is probably going to involve the afore mentioned Cap-Ex and Op-Ex but don’t let that scare you. It should still be a lot of fun and Citrix has provided a wonderful white paper to help kick things off, linked here.

This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution. Because of that, I think it can be extremely helpful to get a least a little bit of hands-on time with these products. And good news, Citrix has you covered. The CWS-215 class is primarily a Citrix Virtual Apps and Virtual Desktops class, but it includes several conversations and lots of documentation about the different components of Citrix Cloud and where they live, and who maintains responsibility. More importantly, there is a module dedicated to Citrix Cloud with a very nice introductory hands-on lab. Each student is given a trial Citrix Cloud account and the time necessary to really get a feel for what the Citrix Cloud feels like. For those that want a more immersive experience, the CXD-250 class is three days dedicated to Citrix Cloud. There are eight modules with hands-on labs. CXD-251 is a two-day class that offers the chance to incorporate Citrix Cloud with Microsoft Azure and it includes six hands-on labs. There is even a soon to be released two-day class that will explore Citrix Cloud and Amazon AWS.

So, if some components are in the Cloud and others are not, what ties all of these components together? That would be the Cloud Connector. The Cloud Connector is part of all the afore mentioned classes, but maybe it would be a good topic for a future blog article. Until then, keep having fun and exploring the flexibility that Citrix has provided us.