Citrix's new CEO will need to embrace the competition in areas where they don't lead

On yesterday's podcast, Gabe, Jack, and I talked about Citrix's challenges for the year ahead. At one point we were talking about their new CEO, and Jack asked me, "What do you do if you're the new CEO of Citrix?

On yesterday’s podcast, Gabe, Jack, and I talked about Citrix’s challenges for the year ahead. At one point we were talking about their new CEO, and Jack asked me, “What do you do if you’re the new CEO of Citrix?"

The most important thing is that Citrix has to let their customers build custom solutions around best-of-breed products, even if those products are not from Citrix!

Let me explain...

Citrix is really good at XenApp and XenDesktop. It’s a huge business and the reason that most Citrix customers are Citrix customers.

About ten years ago, Citrix started down the “suite” path (as many vendors did). So now if you look at the Citrix suite, it’s not just XenApp and XenDesktop, but it’s other products like ShareFile, XenMobile, NetScaler, etc.

Here’s the problem. While most customers buy Citrix for XenApp and XenDesktop, Citrix as a company has been trying to force/grow their footprint/stranglehold by creating “first class” integration between XenApp/XenDesktop and ShareFile, XenMobile, and NetScaler.

In other words, ShareFile integrates with XenApp/XenDesktop and all the Receiver clients in a great way—better than any other enterprise file sync & share product such as Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive. XenApp/Desktop integrates with XenMobile better than any other EMM product like MobileIron, AirWatch, or Good. And XenApp/XenDesktop integrates with NetScaler better than any other application delivery controller such as F5.

This is a problem for Citrix, because while most customers choose Citrix because of XenApp/XenDesktop, they don’t choose Citrix because of ShareFile, they don’t choose Citrix because of XenMobile, and they don’t choose Citrix because of NetScaler.

So if a customer wants to use XenApp/XenDesktop with Box, they get a second-rate, less-integrated experience. If they want to use XenApp/XenDesktop with MobileIron, they get a second-rate, less-integrated experience. If they want to use F5, they get a second-rate, less-integrated experience.

Back in the day, Citrix MetaFrame was the best-of-breed product that could be easily integrated with other best-of-breed products. But today, if a customer wants to use XenApp, XenDesktop, Box, MobileIron, and F5, they do not get a fully integrated, delightful experience. The only way a customer can get that fully-integrated, full-potential, first class experience, they have to use second-, third-, or fourth-rate products with their best-of-breed XenApp/XenDesktop.

Being a Citrix customer in 2015 means that you’re forced to compromise. It is literally impossible for Citrix customers today to have best-of-breed across the board. This is Citrix’s death warrant.

Now imagine the alternative. What if Citrix actually made a real effort to make Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, and every other EFSS product integrate with XenApp/XenDesktop as smoothly and nicely as ShareFile? Certainly the other EFSS vendors would jump on board because they’d like access to Citrix’s huge install base, and they’d love to provide their customers with a nice, integrated, first-class experience. The same is true for the other product sectors too.

To be clear, I’m not saying it’s bad that Citrix has their own EFSS, EMM, and ADC products. I’m just saying that Citrix needs to make sure that all of these types of products are are first class citizens within their ecosystem. For every dollar they spend developing ShareFile, they need to spend a dollar making sure XenApp/XenDesktop integrates with all the competitive products too.

The days of 90s and 2000s monolithic suites are over. Today’s CIOs want to buy the best-of-breed products in every category, and for $500 per user for XenApp/XenDesktop, you can expect they want their other best-of-breed products to integrate in a first class way. Citrix’s new CEO needs to embrace the reality that Citrix is never going to lead in all these categories, and even if they could, they’re never going to convince all their customers to go with the entire Citrix stack. It’s time to hug the competition instead of trying to force products where they don’t lead onto their customers. Citrix needs to create a world where buying Citrix doesn’t mean their customers have to compromise in other areas.

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1) Do not hire the following types of CEOs

a. EMM Gimp - This is solving the wrong problem and is VMware’s blind spot and Poonen’s eventual downfall. He is in balls deep with AirWatch to justify the cost and I predict will push EMM down our throats at VMworld. I’ve said for a long time now-EMM delusion, nobody WANTS to manage devices…

b. Microsoft Gimp – Legacy everything and wrong culture. Citrix needs somebody with the balls and vision to compete with all.

c. Operational Gimp – Old white guy CEO who is there to restructure company to help Elliot sell it. Avoid at all costs.

2) Hire a COO that knows how to get *** done, while CEO focuses on a future that is practical for customers, not long term vision BS.

3) Employees leaving – Stop the bleeding of talent (pay them), and bring in fresh talent. Go and raid the best people from VMware, ecosystem or other who are forward thinking, can execute and really GET this space.

4) Fix product quality, fix product quality again. Do this again before making broad plans that Brian suggests. We need Citrix to focus on the basics first and then build from there. Hugging is a good way forward over time.

5) Partner bleeding, don’t let Elliot screw them, for sure get rid of the crap ones, but really partner and stop taking deals direct. Here’s a suggestion-All deals must involve a partner. Share the love like you did in the early days and really build the channel.

6) Stop dumb acquisitions; buy leaders only in spaces you want to win in. Not too late to raise debt to get Nutanix.

7) Evaluate the MS B I T C H relationship and don’t be afraid to compete with MS.

8) Do bold things. Merge with somebody. Perhaps Elliot once they get their way with EMC and spin out VMware, will let you merge. May be that’s crazy and too much overlap-just be bold to inspire!

9) Hurry up and get a CEO, don’t wait a year.

10) Get comfortable with having real competitors for the first time in your history vs. suckling on Microsoft. To grow this mindset has to change.


In Altai Mountains, there is a saying - "you bake with the dough you have!"

If you haven't produced good bread in a while something must be wrong.

Clearly, Citrix has lost talent -- they are bleeding good people and it's time they do something about it.

#1 - Both Citrix and VMware are acquiring innovation. Nothing is home grown.

The real smart people are folks who start companies and then join the big vendors. Citrix needs to make sure the smart guys stay back after acquisition.

#2 - XenApp alone can not save Citrix. VDI was all "over-promise and under-deliver". A full stack play from Citrix doesn't make sense with crap hypervisor and converged storage offerings.

#3 Nutanix will be bigger than Citrix in market cap in only 4 years. So unlikely Citrix can afford that. They are better off going aggressive with M&A. For every XenMobile (bad talent and product) they are also going to get a ShareFile (good product and leadership). Fire the current corp dev team if they are under performing.

#4 Understand that the industry is changing and cloud/mobile is the future. Find and invest in people who can help with that.

#5 If you like IoT, do something big - make bets; don't take small steps and allow marketing folks to show tesla demo's. Demoware will not save the company.

@brianmadden @appdetective CEO needs to be a product person. Marketing/Sales/Schmoozing skills are all secondary. XenApp will not save CTXS

— EMM Borat (@EMMBorat)

Class Dismissed. Let me go back to my Startup_L_Jackson role!


@brian I fully agree with your piece. One example that stands out for me is XenDesktop and XenApp. Both embraced a multi-hypervisor approach - XenServer, ESX, and Hyper-V. This allowed a customer to retain their server virtualization platform and still deploy XenApp and XenDesktop. Think of the consequences if XenDesktop had only run on XenServer.


@appdetective I agree with you  that the majority of devices in the world are going to un-managed. But I don't think a 100% of the devices will be un-managed.

One mistake we as vendors always make is to try to force-fit a solution to solve every problem.  I believe that there are three classes of solutions IT needs to solve app delivery:

(a) Device management solutions for use cases when you can manage the device - PCs, Macs, iOS, and Android. The benefits of this solution include a rich client experience for end users, even though they might have limitations on what they can and cannot do. A good use case might be field service employees.

(b) Thin client solutions like VDI to deliver desktops to unmanaged devices. A use case for VDI is when the end user needs a Windows OS, for example developers, testing, etc.

(c) Rich client solutions for un-managed devices. This includes type-2 hypervisors like Parallels & Moka5. At Workspot, we are building a light-weight cross-platform workspace that delivers a rich client experience even on un-managed devices. Good use cases for these are personal devices, contractors, M&A etc.

The exact ratio of (a)-(c) in an organization depends on the use cases in that organization imho.

(a) and (b)