Citrix’s “Access” marketing message reminds everyone that they need an access strategy and that Citrix is the company that delivers access infrastructure. While this is great from a marketing standpoint, the fact remains that Citrix’s access infrastructure is simply a fancy name for four separate products—Presentation Server, Secure Access Manager, Password Manager, and Conferencing Manager.
At iForum this past week in Edinburgh, Scotland, I tried to trudge through the access message towards a more specific goal: How will Citrix’s four main products evolve to provide this access infrastructure.
Fortunately for me, the past articles and opinions I’ve written on this website meant that there was no shortage of executives who wanted to sit down with me to lay out their strategies.
I heard a lot of hype, but I also got a lot of valuable insight into how Citrix is growing and evolving their core products. In this article, I’ll share what I heard (while doing my best to portray it accurately).
Before we start looking into Citrix’s product direction, we should first review the key IT trends that Citrix feels will be important over the next few years. During his opening keynote, Keith Turnbull, Citrix’s VP of Product Development, outlined the following trends for the next two years:
- Virtualization in the data center starts to take hold
- The adaptive computing model (grid, utility computing) becomes real
- 64-bit x86 adoption
- Wireless device proliferation
- Software vendor field narrows
- Portal plug and play through standards
- SSL & IPSec VPNs merge
- Web services adoption accelerates
- Mass adoption of virtualization
- All new devices are wireless enabled
- Transition to web services architecture for most applications
- 60% fewer software vendors than in 2003
Right now, the MetaFrame “Access Suite” is basically a marketing name given to four distinct products. (Presentation Server, Conferencing Server, Password Manager, and Secure Access Manager)
However, Citrix feels that the Access Suite will become the new “Presentation Server.” (i.e. It will become the new main product, instead of a collection of unrelated products.) Just like Resource Manager, Installation Manager, Load Balancing Manager, and MetaFrame 1.8 were “combined” to form MetaFrame XP; Presentation Server, Conferencing Server, Password Manager, and Secure Access Manager will ultimately be “combined” to form the Access Suite product.
In the more near term, however, Citrix will focus on creating a common infrastructure that’s shared by all the components in the Access Suite. This common infrastructure will include:
- Access Client (ICA clients + MSAM proxy clients + Password Manager Agent)
- Shared Policy Engine (One set of policies to control access across all products)
- Management Interface (A single MMC-based console for all products)
- Secure Gateway
- Suite-wide Licensing
- Diagnostic Facility
Beyond the common infrastructure components, Citrix outlined the following generic goals for their products over the next few years:
2005 Product Goals
- Enhanced performance and scalability
- Integrated access to desktop and server
- Enhanced roaming and mobility
- End-point security
- Common infrastructure will become central to the Access Suite
- Purpose-built servers and appliances
2006 Product Goals
- Enterprise-wide application delivery
- Streaming to desktops, blades, servers
- Comprehensive web services support
- Federated identity
One thing to note about this is that all signs point to Longhorn being released in 2007, which means that all this stuff listed here would be available before Longhorn.
In terms of updates, Citrix said they’re happy with their twelve-month Feature Release schedule, so we’ll probably see a Feature Release for MetaFrame Presentation Server 3.0 in the early part of 2005.
Now, let’s look at some more tactical product directions.
Citrix couldn’t provide too many details here about specific functionality they’d like to add to Presentation Server. One thing that was interesting was when I mentioned Bear Paw. Citrix claims to be following Microsoft’s actions very closely. When asked about how Bear Paw would affect Presentation Server, one Citrix executive seemed upbeat. He told me that since Bear Paw will only provide the basics, it will actually help more people move into the server-based computing world and ultimately grow Citrix’s business.
One of the big questions that people have is with regards to the Web Interface and Secure Gateway. Citrix executives confirmed that these two products will always be part of Presentation Server (although their functionality might be extended by other Access Suite products such as MSAM).
In talking to all the vendors, I think Citrix will spice up Presentation Server by licensing some technology from a performance management company and a printing company. (My money’s on Aurema and ThinPrint.)
For Password Manager, Citrix is building relationships with biometric and other two-factor authentication companies. They have support for 14 different devices now, and a new wave will be signing up soon. This will allow Password Manager to integrate with almost any two-factor authentication system.
Secure Access Manager (MSAM)
The long-term vision for MSAM is to provide secure access to non-Presentation Server information. It will ultimately be one interface for both (Presentation Server and non-Presentation Server information). Citrix acknowledges that MSAM doesn’t add value at the portal level (in an apples-to-apples portal product comparison), but instead has broader “access” value.
Will the MSAM Secure Gateway ever expand beyond ICA and HTTP? Citrix product management folks all agreed it would be easy to do, and that it’s a marketing decision.
One of the big advantages of MSAM today is that it provides a single point for access management all the way from the interface to the gateway. Citrix definitely plans on leveraging this moving forward.
Any deal with ThinPrint would have interesting uses with MSAM as well.
On the mobility front, Citrix has been thinking a lot about mobile devices, and they’re interested in how technologies like AppSwing could increase the adoption of Windows application on small-form factor devices. (AppSwing makes software products that provide HTML-based front-ends to standard Win32 applications.)
Common Management Infrastructure
Citrix’s Common Management Infrastructure (CMI) is a framework that all the product groups in Citrix can write to. It’s the underlying framework of the new MMC-based management consoles.
Finally, there are two phrases that I heard from (I think) every single Citrix executive I talked to:
“We want to be Switzerland,” meaning that Citrix wants to be neutral and let you use whatever applications and products you want.
“Crossing the Chasm,” in reference to a business management book by Geoff Moore. I think The Moore Group must have just done some work with Citrix, because all the Citrix folks spoke that language. If true, this is a very, very good thing. Citrix is definitely at the chasm, and they need to either jump or back down—both of which are better than falling in.