Citrix iForum Global 2004 Summary and Final Thoughts

As I wrote earlier, I feel that Citrix really shined at this year’s show.

As I wrote earlier, I feel that Citrix really shined at this year’s show.

(As a side note, I’ve been very surprised by the public response to my writing last week. When I’m critical of the company, people criticize what I write. Now I’ve learned that when I write good things about the company, people also criticize what I write! I guess as long as I’m upsetting everyone equally then I’m doing a good job.)

Citrix’s Access Strategy message was officially launched in 2003. Last year’s iForum was focused on getting that message out to people. While that message was good, it wasn’t really backed up by actual products. At this year’s show, Citrix still talked about a lot of stuff that was pure marketing hype, but in many cases this hype was backed up by several new product and feature announcements.

Citrix's Core Show Messages

In the keynotes, we learned that Citrix is moving to position all of their products around eight core “capabilities.” (“Capabilities” was this year’s overused buzzword.) These eight capabilities are not “features” per se, but rather characteristics of Citrix’s products or things people can do with Citrix’s products. (I think there is some confusion here as well.) Citrix’s product’s eight capabilities are:

  • Smooth Roaming
  • End-to-end visibility
  • Secure by Design
  • Smart Access
  • Instant Collaboration
  • Robust, with a resilient foundation
  • Integrated identity and provisioning
  • Ondemand assistance

In addition to the core capabilities, Citrix outlined what they view as the three “mega trends” of IT for the next five years:

  1. Application Development. The battlefield is the client platform and user experience. Citrix is watching things like Macromedia Central, IBM Eclipse, and Sun NetBeans. This is the level where the user tier and data tier is severed, and Citrix feels it will be instrumental in changing IT.
  2. SOA. Vendors will continue to focus on service-oriented architectures (.NET, WebSphere, etc.) instead of the underlying server platforms.
  3. Virtualization. Enough said.

Citrix feels that these three trends will shape the future of Citrix in the years to come.

Other Notables

  • Citrix is trying to take their offering beyond a simple four-product suite. Citrix has competition in all the “point product” areas, but they feel they’re the only company that has a full access strategy.
  • Tony Marzulli used an analogy where he compared Citrix to a car. He suggested that people don’t want to buy the individual features of a car, but that instead they wanted to buy an experience. He suggested that Citrix doesn’t deliver the car, they deliver the transportation experience. I wonder where he got that idea? :)
  • I still got “locked out” of several technical breakout sessions where the rooms were full. I know this is difficult to manage, but every year Citrix says they’re going to fix it, and every year there are hundreds of people who can’t attend the sessions they want to attend. This year’s show was complicated by the fact that many people used Citrix’s MSAM-based portal to sign up for sessions and print out a custom agenda. What no one told us was that signing up for a session online didn’t actually reserve a spot for you, so people showed up 5 minutes early with their “reservation” printouts in hand only to learn that they couldn’t attend.
  • Once again, Citrix’s engineering demo lab was fantastic. Citrix set up an entire room with all of their current and future products. I spent several hours talking to Citrix engineers there, and I think that experience is the most valuable of the entire show.
  • The closing keynote was given by Sinbad. (Yes, that Sinbad.) As it turns out, Sinbad is a closet nerd, and he first met Citrix at Network Interop in 1998. He delivered a stand up comedy act where he asked people from the audience about what their various technology problems where. The act was very funny, and one thing is for sure: Sinbad knows technology.

Cool Products from the Exhibitor hall

This year’s show has a record-breaking seventy (!) exhibitors. I tried my hardest to visit as many as I could, but there’s just no way to get to everyone. I did see several cool things from vendors:

TriCerat was demoing the new version of their Simplify Suite which will be out late this year. It looks like they’re combining all of their products into one consolidated product, which means a single product will get you desktop lockdown, profile management, good printing, secure file transfer, and performance management. This should be pretty cool, and should allow people to not have to buy a whole bunch of individual products.

BioPassword is something that I’ve talked about previously, but I wanted to mention again here. It’s a keystroke analytics program that analyzes how a password is typed by looking at the timing and characteristics of the typing. It’s a sort of “poor man’s” biometric authentication, since only the proper user can successfully type the password.

AppSense has combined their memory management and CPU management products into a single performance product. They also announced a new product called “Environment Manager” that allows you to configure user environments (printers, drives, etc.). This product moves AppSense into more of a mainstream position, and allows them to compete with companies like triCerat or RES.

Swan Labs showed off hardware bandwidth management and compression tools. While similar to stuff from Expand and Peribit, Swan claimed that they are the only ones who offer layer 2 compression, instead of layer 5 compression.

WholeSecurity has an endpoint scanning service that let’s you scan remote computers before they can access a network or webpage. The cool thing about their software is that it’s behavior-based, not signature-based. This means that attackers can’t get around it simply by modifying a few bytes of code in a Trojan horse. This is basically identical to Citrix’s “Smart Access” capability in the new version of MSAM. In talking to the WholeSecurity guys, it was clear that they were not expecting Citrix to accept them as a sponsor and then announce a competing product.

There were also a lot of thin client device vendors there. I personally just can’t get myself too excited about these things. I mean I like using thin client devices, it’s just that all the vendors talk about why theirs are better, and to me it seems like a commodity, even with the management software. I did not spend too much time comparing and contrasting the different thin client devices to each other.

Finally, one of the big changes this year is that Citrix is now walking a fine line between helping their ISV partners and competing with them. Several of the new features that Citrix announced at the show (CPU management, memory optimization, EMF-based printing, Smart Access, Application Isolation Environments) compete 100% with current Citrix ISV partners (several of who sponsored the show and only there learned that Citrix was going to start competing with them).

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This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on October 20, 2004
Hey Brian,

I really enjoy your no nonsense opinion. I wouldn't worry too much about how people critize on your articles. They are there for one reason, for your opinion, insight and expertise. Good and bad. Keep up the good work!
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This message was originally posted by Andy Smith on October 20, 2004
Strong opinions are often rewarded with negativity or worse. Don't let it keep you from voicing those strong opinions. They are valuable to this community.
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This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on October 20, 2004
There are many Citrix Admins whos cheap-ass companies will not send them to such an awsome gathering of Citrix nerds. Keeping it coming!
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This message was originally posted by Jack Cain on October 21, 2004
Brian - in your position, you will never please everyone - especially those who are so blined by their opinions that they can't see that Citrix as a company and product has good and bad points. Compared to last year, there were many indications that Citrix listened to thier customers - handouts at the sessions, very fast posting of the presentations to the web, more straight answers instead of marketing-slop and repeat sessions added ad-hoc to allow people to attend sessions that were full the first time. Even the move to Vasag next year is part of that. All in all, I think that they put on a first rate show this year.
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This message was originally posted by brian lilley on October 26, 2004
oh please.... whatever next?

Brian, don't worry.. keep up the good work... lord knows how you manage to get all this information together.
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