Slew of options aim to ease Citrix XenMobile 10 upgrades

The days are numbered for Citrix XenMobile 9. Organizations have a few choices to tackle what can be a tricky XenMobile 10 upgrade process.

When a utility company in Alaska tried to upgrade to Citrix XenMobile 10 earlier this year, it didn't go well.

The IT department had to re-sign all of its managed Apple iOS apps with new certificates and ensure the deployment met XenMobile's lengthy list of networking requirements. But even after that, the migration from XenMobile 9 failed. So, the company instead started from scratch with a fresh XenMobile 10 installation.

"It was just easier than trying to figure out why 9 to 10 didn't work," said Matt Kosht, IT manager at the company.

After this month, Citrix will no longer support XenMobile 9, except to issue security patches. And next June, XenMobile 9 will reach end of life. As these dates approach, organizations have a few options to ease what can be a complex upgrade process.

Citrix released XenMobile 10, which provides mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) capabilities, early last year. In previous versions, the MDM component -- called Device Manager and based on software Citrix acquired from Zenprise in 2012 -- ran on a Windows server. The MAM software, App Controller, ran on a Linux virtual appliance.

In XenMobile 10, however, Citrix consolidated Device Manager and App Controller onto one server. This approach simplified management of XenMobile, but it complicated the upgrade process, because organizations had to migrate from one back-end architecture to another.

"There's a lot of moving parts to XenMobile on premises," Kosht said. "It's pretty daunting."

There's a lot of moving parts to XenMobile on premises.
Matt KoshtIT manager at an Alaskan utility company

Citrix offers a XenMobile migration tool that aims to help organizations through the upgrade process. It only supported MDM upon its April 2015 release, but it now works with the MAM component, as well. That has made it significantly easier to move from XenMobile 9 to XenMobile 10, said Anton van Pelt, an enterprise mobility consultant at PQR, an IT services firm in Utrecht, Netherlands.

With the release of XenMobile 10.4 in October, Citrix also eliminated a step in the upgrade process. Before that, IT administrators had to migrate from XenMobile 9 to an earlier 10.x release, and then from that release to the latest version. Now, it's possible to upgrade directly from XenMobile 9 to 10.4.

"[Citrix] put in a lot of effort to make it the one version to migrate to," van Pelt said.

In a blog post last month, Citrix provided additional options for upgrading from XenMobile 9. One approach is to migrate from the on-premises version of XenMobile 9 to the cloud-based edition of XenMobile. Kosht's company considered that -- and still might make the jump in the future -- but decided against it for now, because XenMobile Cloud isn't as mature as the on-premises version, he said.

None of van Pelt's customers have moved to XenMobile Cloud, either. That may be because European companies typically prefer on-premises software, he said.

Another alternative is to perform a clean install of Citrix XenMobile 10, which Kosht's company chose to do. His XenMobile deployment only has about 25 users, but this approach can be a challenge in larger organizations. A direct migration from XenMobile 9 to 10 keeps all managed devices enrolled in the software, but a clean XenMobile 10 install requires all users to re-enroll their devices.

"It's so much easier to have the devices be enrolled already," van Pelt said.

Citrix's blog post said several XenMobile 9 customers have moved to XenMobile Cloud and described the fresh XenMobile 10 install method as a "popular choice." The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Citrix XenMobile 10 introduced several new features, including a portal where users can locate, lock and wipe their devices without involving IT, plus support for enhanced encryption and authentication technologies. In XenMobile 10.3, Citrix added unified endpoint management capabilities, so admins can use the software to manage PCs, in addition to mobile devices.

"I don't see any use cases that you'd have to stay on version 9," van Pelt said.

Next Steps

Deploying XenMobile can be a challenge for new customers, too.

Citrix offers a sneak peek at the latest XenMobile features.

Citrix plans to offer XenMobile on Microsoft Azure.

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