'Surprise' licence change levies hefty fees

What do you check when users face lockout from everyday applications? Network connections, servers, passwords, access rights. But what about the licence? It's all paid up, even the new upgrade.

Right. But somewhere between the old and the new, your integration partner finally discovers, the rules changed.

That's how one Brisbane-based manufacturing company found out about licensing changes that Citrix introduced for its Presentation Manager 3.0.

A Citrix customer for the past five years, B&R Enclosures is staring down the barrel of a forced migration as the company seeks out an affordable alternative and now struggles to find value in the Citrix Presentation Manager product.

IS manager Ian van Haeringen said the company initially had a 50-user MetaFrame 2.0 licence but, because of some instabilities, decided to upgrade to Presentation Manager 3.0.

"The licensing model has changed so now RDP (remote desktop protocol) sessions count to Citrix licences which is not how we have used it in the past," Van Haeringen said. "We're now less happy with Citrix's value."

B&R Enclosures is now required to buy 100 licences and, as an intermediate safety solution, bought 200 temporary licences to access the server.

To comply, the company faces an additional, up-front investment of $20,000 to $30,000 in licensing fees and an increase in maintenance costs from $5000 a year to $8000.

"The licence change was not in the upgrade material or release notes and even our gold partner was caught unaware," he said. "The previous [licensing] solution was working and we were happy to continue with it."

B&R Enclosures' IT manager Sean Blain said the company is investigating cheaper alternatives to Citrix, for which he claims licensing is 10 percent of the cost, and the migration will begin later this year.

"It concerns us that this licensing change was not communicated in big letters and we haven't been able to find it easily," Blain said. "I'm interested to know how other organizations have deployed it."

Both Van Haeringen and Blain were disappointed at Citrix's apparent slow response to calls for an explanation. "It seems like Citrix is going for the big corporates but in Australia that's a limited market."

They agree that part of the problem is Microsoft's entrance into the terminal server market, which Citrix is now defending.

"This is definitely a response to Microsoft getting into Citrix's turf and Citrix should have seen it coming," Van Haeringen said. "Whether you use Citrix or not you can't avoid Microsoft's licensing."

That said, Van Haeringen is happy with Microsoft Terminal Server, which "works well and reduces administration", and is not considering dropping that or any other Microsoft software.

Citrix's field product marketing manager Michael Abel, said Citrix has many advantages over Terminal Servers such as a secure gateway, load balancing, and shadowing to allow collaboration.

"Some customers may not know about new features but customers and resellers get the same message," Abel said. "Customers on MetaFrame 2.0 can move to XP and have the option to separate RDP from MetaFrame."

In response to Van Haeringen's claim that Citrix is only interested in the "big corporates", the company's channel sales manager Phil Dean Jones said there is value for customers of any size.

"It's true that the more complex the environment the more value Citrix delivers but complexity is always increasing," Jones said. "Citrix is more utilized where customers have more users."