The Citrix you don’t know

People remember the name Citrix. That used to be a problem for Mark Templeton, the company’s CEO.

Earlier this year, Citrix Systems jettisoned the product name it is probably best known for, Metaframe, choosing instead to refer to its technology simply as: Presentation Server, Access Gateway and Password Manager. There was nothing wrong with the term Metaframe to describe the suite; the only problem was that no one used it.

“I’ll guarantee you over 80 per cent of our customers think of the Citrix server. It’s the minority that really got attached to the Metaframe name in any meaningful way,” said Templeton.

“We used to fight that and say, ‘This is terrible!’” But it’s something Templeton learned to live with, recognizing it’s a problem most companies would be eager to have.

“The only product that we’ve had that really had a fantastic brand is Winframe. Winframe lived from June of 1995 to June of 1998. Then it went to Metaframe. Once we broke free of Winframe, ‘Citrix, Citrix, Citrix’ was all we heard,” he said.

He spoke to recently about the politics of branding, the evolution of operating systems and why Citrix will always outsupport Microsoft. With security issues in the enterprise escalating, how much of an impact does that have on your product set and how much do you lean on partners for support?

Mark Templeton: The fundamentals around security create great opportunities for us because the issues around security when you’re trying to provide access to system – they’re fighting against one another . . . We’ve done a lot to design our software securely. It’s not a security product, it’s just when you implement this you get a secure environment. We touch a lot of pieces of enterprise computing, especially in the security space, whether it’s user authentication, whether it’s network security or making sure we can go through firewalls, etc., etc., etc. We have partnerships with all of the A/V, personal firewall, authentication (companies) and integrate with all of them as opposed to compete.

ITB: A lot of those vendors are talking about the ‘zero-day’ problem where malware is appearing faster than people can fix it. How much of that is a concern for you?

MT: Less and less, because our strategy is to allow customers to build environments where they have less dependency on the security of a device or a network. Right now, customers need to do a lot of things to make the network secure and the end point secure. Our technology allows them not only to not care but in fact design an architecture that assumes that the end point is hostile and the network is hostile. That inoculates them against things that happen on Day 1, because it can’t get into the core system. Can an end point go down? Sure. But where it really matters in terms of infecting applications is corrupting data, etc. I think we have an architecture that protects against that.

We’ve had a lot of customers that have been able to get through a lot of the viruses, worms, etc., by virtualizing applications, which is where a lot of this stuff comes in. They’re inoculated against it because they have control over the application environment in a way they can’t control when it’s fully distributed.

ITB: What impact does Microsoft’s impending operating system and its advance towards 64-bit have on you?

MT: A lot. Any time there’s either a change or an incremental component in the computing infrastructure – new releases of desktops, OSes, applications, server applications and OSes – that fuels our business. We fundamentally allow customers to take advantage of new end points and new applications faster than they can try and deploy them and take advantage in the native sense. So you’ll be able to adopt Windows Vista faster because you won’t have to certify and qualify all of these custom apps that you’ve built over the years. If you’re a bank and you have 2,500 applications, before you can put Windows Vista in on the end point, you have to make sure those 2,500 applications work on it. So instead of qualifying 2,500, you can qualify those that really need to be on the end point. You can virtualize the others. Windows Vista is a great thing for helping us. Longhorn server will be the next thing that comes through for Microsoft and we’ll take advantage of some of the new things they’re doing in the operating system around terminal services.

In a few weeks we will release the 64-bit version of Presentation Server 4. We’re very excited about the 64-bit world and I think our customers are too. They’ll get instant ROI because they can raise the density of users they can service on a given server footprint and the performance and security will be better. Overall, I think all of these things serve our business in a good way.

ITB: How does Microsoft’s policy of supporting applications for 10 years affect your own support model?

MT: It creates a load. What we’ll tend to do is see our value as giving our customers more of a tale in ability to leverage the investment they’ve made in a particular application. Obviously applications are built on top of operating systems and the operating systems have to be supported in order to support the applications. We’ve had to support the components longer than Microsoft does because that’s where our value is. When it comes to end of life for a product we’ll trail Microsoft. When they stopped supporting NT 4, we continued to support it for some time. Today, we have more active OSes to support than ever before.

ITB: How long is that lag time behind Microsoft’s support?

MT: It really depends on what we find when we do customer surveys and really get out there and find out what the statistics look like. But I’d say it’s ranging from 12 to 18 months, which is a long time in this business.

ITB: How does all the consolidation in the industry – like Oracle’s purchase of Siebel last week – affect the way you do business?

MT: From an application and support and access perspective, in the field it doesn’t change it much, if at all. It does change our partnering efforts in that we’ve had a closer relationship with Siebel than Oracle. This will give us a reason to build a closer relationship with Oracle. That’s probably it from an internal perspective. From an external perspective, it’s a reminder that consolidation is real. It’s being driven by big players. It’s highlighting to customers that working with fewer vendors across more products is actually an efficiency and therefore it reminds us we have to consolidate our portion of the computing stack, which is the access infrastructure.

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