Citrix vs Azure Virtual Desktop on-premises what’s the cost difference?

Yesterday I had a tweet that blew up quite quickly, because I was doing some research for a customer to uncover the cost for a new VDI solution. While in hindsight I should have been a lot more accurate on the tweet, but I’ll explain. The goal of this post is to compare a cost for a customer scenario.

NOTE: I Do not cover the cost for the underlying virtualization stack/platform such as storage, hyper-v, xenserver etc.
If you see something clearly wrong with the calculations or facts let me know.

Recently Microsoft made AVD on Azure Stack HCI generally available and in the past, I have written about Citrix vs AVD Part One (Citrix (CVAD) vs Azure Virtual Desktop – Part One – “Yes part two is on the way”. But I have a lot of customers and people that I am talking with saying that the cost for Citrix has increased and that AVD seems like a much cheaper option, but they want to have the on-premises set up, so what is the difference? Therefore, I did some research and found that in certain scenarios Citrix/VMware is a lot cheaper than AVD. The reason being the way they price their services.

In this blog post I am going to only cover the cost of the VDI service, since both Azure Stack HCI and XenServer are “free”. Azure Stack HCI is free if you have Windows Server Datacenter with SA. XenServer is free with the free entitlement of Citrix Hypervisor for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops and Citrix DaaS. However, I will also get back to this since it plays an important part for certain scenarios.

Also, I do not cover features, protocol, user-experience, or imaging capabilities, that I cover in my other blog post listed above.

To back up my calculations as well I use some data from the DAASLIKEAPRO survey and the most used size for virtual machines (can be found here –>

So I am going to use the 8vCPU and 32GB Memory as the main size for multi-user and 2vCPU and 8GB Memory for single user.

Azure Virtual Desktop on Azure Stack HCI is priced using something called the Azure Virtual Desktop Service Fee which begins on April 1, 2024. The hybrid service fee will be $0.01/virtual core/hour of consumption in the United States. So how much is that? 7,3$ per vCPU a month.

That means for our 8vCPU instances the AVD service fee is (58,4$ per month) and 2vCPU (14,6$ per month). Note that this will be billed based upon per hour usage, so for instance when the machines are shut down, the service will not get billed. How many users can we fit into the multi-session machines? there is no right answer here since that depends ENTIRELY on the workloads. However let us for this scenario put 29 users on average on each multisession VM you can also view deployment guide from Dell that also used LoginVSI to test Sizing guidelines | VDI Design Guide—Azure Virtual Desktop on Dell Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI | Dell Technologies Info Hub using a Login VSI Task Worker specification (meaning that there were 3.7 user sessions per vCPU core.) So that means that the cost is 29 users is 58,4$ per month or 2,01$ per user per month on that sizing given the numbers and sizing listed above.

So let us pull up some numbers for the cost of task workers with AVD on Azure Stack HCI.

100 Users = 201$ for AVD Service Fee per month (Given listed specification above)
1000 Users = 2001$ for AVD Service Fee per month (Given listed specification above)
10000 Users = 20001$ for AVD Service Fee per month (Given listed specification above)

Even if you then add Microsoft E3 to the mix Compare Microsoft 365 Enterprise Plans | Microsoft 365 the cost will be

100 Users = 3810$ for AVD Service Fee + Microsoft E3
1000 Users = 38100$ for AVD Service Fee + Microsoft E3
10000 Users = 381000$ for AVD Service Fee + Microsoft E3

So for a AVD deployment on Azure Stack HCI it would require the following licensing and cost.

  • BYOL for Windows 11 and Windows 10 ( if you have one of the following per user licences Microsoft 365 E3/E5/A3/A5/F3/Business Premium, Windows 10/11 E3 or E5
  • Azure Stack HCI Service Fee (Covered if you have Windows Server Datacenter with SA)
  • AVD Service Fee (Depending on workload and requirement)

So let us take a look at Citrix. Since they changed their website and announced their platform license (and also removed public listed prices to the Citrix licenses, and without breaking any NDA numbers) I decided to use the numbers I found here –> Compare costs between Citrix & Parallels RAS | Parallels RAS

Using the new universal licenses which are available for environments in quantities of 250 (user/device) or 100 (concurrent) licenses and up. Given the estimates here, that means that the monthly cost in 43$ per concurrent user per month for the universal license (while we only need the private cloud license, but since I do not have the price for that license I cannot use it, even the private cloud license which is shown here CITRIX F/PRIVATE CLD – 6002996 – Application Virtualization – will be close to 41$ per month, but I have no idea if this is the retail price or if this published yet. So what is the cost gonna be then? Well given the list price for the license the cost is.

This will then be the base cost for the different amount of users

100 users = (RDS CAL 220$) + (Citrix Universal 43$ per month) = 62$ (Average if we divide the RDS CAL cost by 12) = 6200$ monthly
1000 users = 62000$ Monthly
10000 users = 620000$ Monthly

While I know that there are different tiers and discount levels that you can get depending on size, but the difference is quite big. Secondly many organizations already have Microsoft E3 or E5 licenses.

That means for a 1,000 users the difference between Citrix CVAD and Microsoft AVD is 24000$ difference (if we are counting the E3 difference) if we are looking at the VDI service alone the difference is close to 60,000$ difference monthly with the given hardware specification listed above.

Citrix = 62000$ per month
AVD = 2000$ per month

Now let us to another example, where we are looking into setting up a VDI environment for CAD based workers such as within the oil industry where we can have single VDI sessions with high-end graphic cards running heavy workloads. Where we can have virtual machines with up to 16 vCPU on single VDI sessions. What would it look like then where we might have 100 users and this specifications?

For access to remote Windows 10/11, it requires that the users have E3 or E5 licenses (as written here –> so let us assume that we have that license in place (this also removed the requirement for RDS CAL licenses, since we are running with Windows 10/11) So let us again do the same calculation between Citrix and AVD.

7,3$ per vCPU a month for a 16 vCPU machine will be 116$ per VDI machine per month running AVD.
For Citrix the price would be the same user license but without the need for the VDA, meaning that the cost would be 43$ per user/machine per month, meaning that the cost would under half of what it would be with AVD.

AVD = 11600$ per month for 100 users
Citrix = 4300$ per month for 100 users

So this is what I meant with that Citrix is cheaper then AVD when it comes to larger VDI sizes (over <4 vCPU), especially with single VDI sessions. It seems like the sweet spot is 6 vCPU on single sessions to move in the favor of AVD. As long as you have single VDI with over 6 vCPU, Citrix will be cheaper given that they license based upon user licenses. AVD on the other hand will always be cheaper if you have multi-session, and lastly that you can scale down when it the need for capacity is not there, since the service is billed per hour.

2 thoughts on “Citrix vs Azure Virtual Desktop on-premises what’s the cost difference?”

  1. Why are you comparing 2 different guest operating systems? Win11 or Win10 multisession is not the same as Server with RDSH. I get the point you’re trying to make, but it’s comparing apples to hammers (not even oranges).

    1. The reasoning behind it is quite simple, from the context of Citrix, it only supports Windows Server with RDS (or Terminal Server stack on-premises (since Microsoft Licensing UELA limits the use of multi-user only AVD). Hence if you want to use Citrix on-premises you can only use Windows Server for multi-user. While I do not agree with your comparison of apples and hammer, since my only option from a Citrix context is the one option… Secondly, running Windows Server with multisession or Windows 11 multisession from a Citrix context is still quite similiar, you just install the VDA. You do not use the RDS stack and server components.

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