Last week was Citrix Synergy 2016, Citrix's largest annual conference. Gabe, Jack, and I live-blogged both the opening keynote as well as the Day 2 keynote. (We also did a podcast from the show floor immediately following the first keynote.)
As you know, Citrix got a new CEO, Kirill Tatarinov, at the beginning of the year after after long-time CEO was Mark Templeton was ousted/retired last July. This all came on the heels of some pretty big missteps for Citrix which led to a somewhat hostile shareholder takeover by Elliott & Associates a year ago.
So anyway, it's a critical time for Citrix. Last month I wrote an article titled Where’s Kirill?, after we didn't hear anything from him in his first 100 days on the job, with him saying he'd use Synergy to reveal his findings, vision, and plan for Citrix.
So yeah, this year's Synergy was a big deal.
Tatarinov hosted the Day 1 opening keynote himself. He spent the plurality of that time talking about how Citrix would be aligning with Microsoft. The gist of the story was, "Hey, we've been partners with them for 25 years. We can't compete against them. Let's keep doing what's proven and 'embrace and extend' their core platforms."
The Day 2 keynote was hosted by used-car-salesmen-turned-Citrix-executive Bill Burley who did his best to make the audience feel dumb for not using the latest versions of every Citrix product. The awkwardness of that presentation was quickly replaced with the awkwardness of Burley slamming VMware. He criticized VMware for the "vTax" of having to pay for a hypervisor (while not mentioning the fact that XenDesktop is double the price of VMware Horizon, so XenDesktop on top of the "free" XenServer is actually more expensive than VMware Horizon on top of the "not free" vSphere). He then went on to talk about how many Teslas or Hillary Clinton speeches you could buy with the money saved.
After that, Bill Burley showed a video of how Cortana--a feature that has never once been purposefully used by a business professional--works better on XenDesktop than VMware Horizon, finally ending with a demo of how the Windows sidebar docking is only possible with XenDesktop and not with VMware Horizon, (again given to an audience that had never seen sidebar docking and couldn't fathom how it would possibly be used).
The presentation at the time was pretty shocking. I ripped out several particularly insightful tweets about how I felt battered by the experience and dirty for watching it, and that was certainly the sentiment of the twitterverse.
But then a weird thing happened. As the hours and days after the presentation started to wear on, the people I talked to discussed the Day 2 keynote less in terms of "gross high-pressured used car salesman" and more in terms like, "You know? They had to do it," and "good for them!"
In fact that's what Kirill Tatarinov himself said when we sat down with him a few hours after the Day 2 keynote. "In the last 6 or 7 years, Citrix let our defenses go down. We weren't as aggressive and focused, and we allowed that competitor to emerge," Kirill explained. "That was almost by choice, but that choice is no more. We are going to take what's rightfully ours. We're going to stake that claim and take it."
"We're back. It's on. This is the new Citrix."
At the time I didn't fully appreciate those words, much like I didn't appreciate a senior GM of a company telling me I was an idiot for not using the latest version of his company's software. (He forgets that we tried that with XenApp 7 and almost got fired, so he should appreciate that we might be a little gun shy in the "trust me, it's the latest version" department.)
I didn't appreciate it at the time, and judging by the tweets, neither did anyone else. But while Twitter is great at capturing the instant and shocking reactions of a mob, it's not so good at gathering the change of sentiment over the ensuing days and weeks. While #CitrixSynergy was a worldwide trending topic, I don't think you'll see #AfterCarefulConsiderationAndReflection trending anytime soon.
But after careful consideration and reflection, I'm going to come out and say that I agree with Tatarinov's decision to hit VMware hard. Day 1 was all about alignment with Microsoft. Day 2 was about attacking VMware. Citrix had to explain both, and they succeeded on delivering that message and sharing the vision on both fronts.
Of course how quickly and precisely they execute remains to be seen. But at least we know where they want to go and can decide whether we want to go there with them.