I have been trying to get my head wrapped around the CTO Supersession at Synergy Barcelona last week. I wrote my initial impressions of the session in an article here right after the session. Later on, Benny Tritsch, who sat beside me at the presentation, wrote his views as "impressive and confusing" in his blog here. But given a little time to think about it, I wonder if Martin perhaps was signaling a strategy change within Citrix. I want a mulligan on my take of the session.
Citrix has become a big company in the last ten years that I have been watching them. No longer a "one trick pony", the company has grown through acquisitions and expansion of the product line into entirely new areas.
When the CTPs gathered in Fort Lauderdale a year ago to meet, we had a great session with then CTO Harry Labana. One of the comments from the CTPs at that meeting struck home - that Citrix has grown so wide that they now compete with everybody. Microsoft on the remote protocols and terminal servers (see Shawn Bass take on Citrix vs Microsoft here), VMware (and Microsoft) on the Hypervisor, Cisco and others on the WAN edge devices, and a slew of folks like WebEx on the collaboration front.
Even the CTO office was a diverse bunch. Where many companies have one CTO, Citrix had a (virtual) office of them. This was part of Citrix growing up also. Enabling multiple, highly skilled professionals, to lead the company in sometimes seemingly conflicting directions. At Synergy in SanFrancisco this spring, we had a great opportunity to hear from the CTOs together on stage. Normally the large keynote-like sessions are dominated by Mark Templeton, but for a change the company gave these guys a chance to talk about what they are doing and why.
In the year since our meeting last fall, some of the prominent CTOs have moved on. Harry is now at AppSense , while CTO Simon Crosby and CTO Ian Pratt both departed to start Bromium. Citrix is retooling at the CTO office. I'm not even sure who all of the CTOs are right now. For sure, I know of three of them.
- Martin Duursma, who heads up Citrix Labs
- Bert Christiansen, from the Citrix OnLine division
- Sheng Liang, CTO for the Cloud Division
I know Martin has been around for years driving Citrix to be innovative. I think Bert joined when Citrix bought the company Expertcity (known for their GoToMyPC and GoToAssist products) in 2003, but the OnLine division has always been off to the side so we rarely hear much from them at the big meetings. Sheng came with the Cloud.Com acquisition this summer so he is brand new.
So when Citrix decided to give the second day keynote completely to the three CTOs for the first time, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the result wasn't a Mark Templeton style orchestrated event. After the blizzard of announcements in the day 1 keynote that was choreographed by Templeton, we expected to hear how these new things all fit together and how we might use them. Instead, we had three seemingly independent presentations from the CTOs in three different divisions. But while disappointed that I didn't hear what I expected, it was a worthwhile glimpse into the inner workings at Citrix, or at least a tool to speculate at it.
Bert's presentation, on the surface, was about how the recently announced ShareFile acquisition fits into the OnLine division. In announcing GoToMeeting Workspaces, Citrix might be bringing the OnLine division more into the fold. No longer are they only that one-off thing people do at an enterprise for external communication. Workspaces is a play to get into the middle of every day activity as part of the desktop (little 'd') landscape. Perhaps this division is becoming a little more integrated?
Sheng's portion of the presentation was on the surface more of an introduction. But more than an introduction, his message was more like "we do cloud for the big boys, but you can easily use it to build a private cloud and gain the benefits".
But it was Martin's presentation that needed a mulligan. In his presentation, we spent a while talking about how companies need to go vertical. He used some good examples of successful companies got that way by a focus on combining a vertical solution for their customers. Unfortunately, he also used some examples that were questionable on their face (Google/Motorola?). But he failed to connect that meaning of going vertical to the rest of the presentation for the audience.
In looking back at the event, perhaps I've now made that connection. Martin might be addressing that concern that Citrix is so wide, that it is time for some vertical thinking within Citrix to balance that out. In the realm of his focus, Citrix wants to own the remote desktop space. The AppDNA purchase helps to fill a hole in that space -- helping their customers with their existing app migration. Another demo in his presentation also is aimed at filling that hole. The XenApp SDK is aimed at helping developers modify their apps to run centrally yet leverage the power of the local client device. [By the way, don't be fooled by the name, you know it is bound to work on XenDesktop apps too.] The reference design for HDX silicon also fits into this vertical thinking. While these are simple steps right now, some vertical thinking might be just what Citrix needs right now. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.