Guest Editorial: Citrix Needs to Change their Certification Program

Citrix products have always been my favorite to work with, and I have always recommended and pushed them in every company I have worked for or consulted for. Everywhere I go, everyone is always impressed when they find out I am skilled in Citrix products, so Citrix has done a pretty good job building a respectable name for itself in the industry.

Citrix products have always been my favorite to work with, and I have always recommended and pushed them in every company I have worked for or consulted for. Everywhere I go, everyone is always impressed when they find out I am skilled in Citrix products, so Citrix has done a pretty good job building a respectable name for itself in the industry. However, I have feared for a while now that this image may be changing in the eyes of many.

For example, Citrix certifications have always been very highly respected in the industry, but Citrix never really pushed the certifications or supported those people that were pushing for its certifications. Citrix has continuously made it harder for publishers and authors to write and develop products which at the end of the day will ensure Citrix gets the lion’s share of the market in which they are competing.

An example of this has been the way Citrix is constantly changing the Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) requirements. They had changed the requirements in November to add FR3’s new features and now they are changing them again to address the MPS 3.0 changes. This sort of flip-flopping frustrates the certification seeker—no one wants to study again for the certification a few months after they have had it. Now granted Citrix is not expiring the previous certification status but one feels like his skills are already outdated. There is no reason to make an exam for every Feature Release. There is no point. I can understand if within the product cycle they have one update after the initial release of the software, maybe and only maybe if the Feature Release holds enough features and new technology to justify it. Otherwise, my opinion is one exam for one product line.

Microsoft does not update their certification every time there is a new service pack release. I am not saying Citrix should copy what Microsoft does, but I am suggesting Citrix learns and improves. I for one never want to see Citrix Certification depreciate in value and as such am asking Citrix Systems through this editorial to formulate a better and smarter strategy for its certification paths. A certified Citrix Administrator is also indirectly a Citrix salesman. Citrix should help people get certified, help publishers and authors write about Citrix products, and not complicate things and try and do everything internally.

Why should someone pass an eLearning course at Citrix online education to become CCA certified? Why does Citrix add this stumbling block that may discourage a potential candidate from pursuing the CCA certification? Why not let industry professionals and seasoned experts say the products are great?

Citrix should also act now to improve MetaFrame and constantly keep it ahead of the game in the server-based computing market. Microsoft is positioning Terminal Server to take over, and even though Terminal Server is not ready to replace MetaFrame in the enterprise yet, I fear that it will take over if Citrix does not start doing something about it. Citrix should not wait until Terminal Server is ready to replace MetaFrame before acting. Many of us have learned to love Citrix products and we want to continue to use them six or seven years from now, so we ask Citrix to take necessary steps to ensure MetaFrame supremacy in the server-based computing market and to consume the reputation of MetaFrame to the fullest. There are many things Citrix can do. Solve the printing issue once and for all with a better solution that the Universal Print Driver, get a solution that will negate the need for third party software. Revolutionize performance by buying or coming up with a better way to shape application performance.

Today I was browsing and saw this brief news story that inspired me to write this editorial. Even though the short news release does not have much to say, I felt it was written in a frustrated way as if the author is saying “Citrix does it again, they are changing the CCA requirements.” You can just feel the frustration of the author. Why does Citrix do this?

I for one am asking Citrix to first stabilize the certification requirements for all certifications and don’t introduce a new requirement with every Feature Release. There is no point to this and you frustrate the certification candidate. Citrix should create one certification for every product that lasts through the product life cycle.

Second, drop the eLearning online course from the certification requirements. Why should we go through a Citrix eLearning course? Does Microsoft do that? Does Cisco do that? Make that optional not required. Citrix should encourage people to learn the products, not show them how difficult and complicated it is.

Third, don’t try and do everything yourselves. Third party opinions count and are sometimes more credible than the company selling the product. Encourage publishers and authors to create material for your products by relaxing your requirements. This is marketing for you and enhances your position in the market.

Fourth, continue to innovate with MetaFrame Presentation Server. We don’t want to see a strong competitor in Terminal Server anytime soon. Study your licensing prices and develop a strategy for how Presentation Server will remain king in the server-based computing market.

I hope to see some changes at Citrix sometime soon. We expect Citrix to continue to impress us on all levels and we care for the products we have come to work with and enjoy. We don’t want to see Citrix products go away or be consumed and we’re asking the company to act. We see problems and we are criticizing, not for the sake of criticizing, but for the sake of change for the better from people who work with the products day in and day out and who want to see them grow and grow.

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This message was originally posted by Andy Smith on July 12, 2004
I agree on the e-learning comment. I haven't seen much value in the courses I have (been forced to) taken. Seems like Citrix is just being greedy here.

However, I don't agree with the complaint about "changing requirements for certification." First off this isn't true: you don't lose your CCA if you don't have the 222 exam but do have the 220 exam. I don't know where you got this idea.

On one hand, you are asking Citrix to innovate and create new products with new features. To me, this is what the yearly Feature releases do. I think this is good. But you're complaining when it actually happens, in the sense that Citrix (understandably) creates a new exam for that product or feature release.

I thought your comment "Citrix has continuously made it harder for publishers and authors to write and develop products which at the end of the day will ensure Citrix gets the lion’s share of the market in which they are competing" needed more explanation. I didn't see how changing certification requirements was an example of this. Maybe you could write another editorial to explain this comment more fully?
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on July 12, 2004
I would expect that when Microsoft finally will release their 'Bear Paw' enhancement to core Terminal Server Citrix will, without ANY doubt, loose a lot of customers. I think this would be a good thing. Citrix needs to have some more motivation (competition) to maybe once again start delivering the goods...
If they don't I wouldn't care the less if Citrix as a company would disappear from the face of the world.
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on July 12, 2004
more examples of how citrix continues to shoot itself in the foot
This message was originally posted by Jeff Pitsch on July 12, 2004
There seem to be some misunderstandings. Whenever Citrix comes out with a new exam (220,221,222) they have never taken away the CCA if you don't upgrade. My CCA is still current even though I took the FR2 exam. New features are added and they decide to test. You are NOT required to upgrade your exam whenever a new feature release comes out. Who wasn't expecting a new CCA exam with MPS3? Why is this such a surprise? Sheesh, microsoft brings out new exams every time they upgrade the OS.

Now for the e-learning course, hear hear! Absolutely, they are a huge waste of time and money and add absolutely NO VALUE to their certifications. If they are going to require people to take them, they should give them out for free. There is NOTHING within those e-learning courses worth $100. Absolutely, positively nothing.
This message was originally posted by Rick Bell on July 12, 2004
To expand on something you said about pricing and another article I read, I feel that Citrix does need to look at how to make their technology more accessible to the SMB customers. Pricing is pretty steep. I agree with the article I read somewhere that stated Citrix should have something like a Small Business Edition that provides some of the basic services (mostly app serving) to gain market penetration into the SMB market. If SMBs do opt for Citrix solutions, they generally cheap out on hardware or consulting hours due to the high licensing costs. I believe Citrix is at a crossroads and the decisions they make today, more than ever in their history, will determine their ability to stay.
This message was originally posted by Keith Tarantino on July 15, 2004
You stated that Citrix wants its CCAs to be salesmen. The problem is that 95% of people are only familiar with the Presentation Server product and have no idea about Citrix's other products. I believe that including an e-learning course requirement is part of Citrix's strategy to increase awareness of other products. Without this requirement most CCAs would only be aware of the basic Presentation Server product. The required e-learning course was my first exposure to Password Manager, which I am now implementing as a result. Though, I do agree that the e-learning requirement should be removed because there is probably a better way to increase awareness of other Citrix products.
This message was originally posted by Michael Burke on July 15, 2004
Elias, you are right on here, my friend. I've worked with many individuals that are trying to attain a CCA (or higher). Citrix does maintain their legacy certs/tests for qualification - 220, 221 and 222 all counted, although only one test was ever available at one time. The challenge is the "moving target". If you have a regular full-time job, then studying for a cert is always secondary, falling in behind regular job duties, family responsibilities and other commitments. They can take time to attain, and if Citrix keeps updating the test with new content for each FR that is released, it makes it that much harder to stay focused and up to date. As for the online tests, I've already made several comments on these both here and on the Citrix forums. Don't even gat me started on that one...
This message was originally posted by Ron Oglesby on July 13, 2004
I was a CCI for all of the Citrix courses back since the winframe and early MetaFrame 1.0-1.8 days. I taught the 410 advanced, RMS, etc. Even taught Beta Classes for XP and its advanced classes when they came out. Hell I was one of the "Original CCEAs", the first 50 to get the CCEA when it came out. Over the last couple of years they have cleaned out the people all of us CCI's knew at Citrix training. The people that interacted with us and built the whole training and cert program originally that every CCI I knew thought was THE BEST TRAINING AND CERT PROGRAM AROUND. Now it seems that the training department is more like a governement agency creating work for itself to justify its own existance instead of focusing on a great program. The training is updated at a rate that confuses students, requires that people take an online class, etc, etc, etc. Its the whole "Lets not focus on qulaity of our Admins, lets just make more training". Where it used to be about getting the students to really understand the product. But whatever. This is probably the reason that I have decided NOT to keep my CCI current and NOT to deal with their cert process. If they cant make it sensible I will just live on my reputation and experience.
This message was originally posted by Antherus on July 13, 2004
I had certified as a CCEA, and then 4 mos later was informed I had to write 5 more exams to keep my certification valid. They come out with a FR, and can't cover the changes in a single upgrade exam? BS. I don't have time to go through the whole process again. Upgrade? Ok. Redo every FR? I don't think so...
This message was originally posted by Simon Jackson on July 13, 2004
I think the best balance would be that if a Feature Release comes out, the exam content should be updated, but the qualification does not change.
i.e. Someone who takes the MPS 3.0 exam and becomes a CCA for MPS 3.0 has the same qualification as someone who takes the exam for MPS 3.0 FR1 (if it's released) but also becomes a CCA for MPS 3.0

That way people who become certified after the FR is released, do not have to revise content for an outdated product, yet those who took the certification early are not penalised.

I first decided to become a CCA when XP 1.0 FR3 was available. I'd been installing it on customer sites and using it regularly, however when it came time for me to take my exam, the content was based arounf XP 1.0 without any FR's! Half the questions then became ambiguous as I had to imagine XP 1.0 without the FR's in it before coming up with my answer.

This message was originally posted by Elias Khnaser on July 12, 2004
Guys, some of you were fast on the draw a bit. i did say in the article "...Now granted Citrix is not expiring the previous certification status but one feels like his skills are already outdated..." i know that Citrix does not retire your CCA when they release a new exam. What i am suggesting though is one exam for one track. So MF XP 1.0 has one exam. There is no need for an exam every time they update SpeedScreen in a FR. The exam should test your core knowledge of the software etc... FR only add SOME new features. Do you mean to tell FR3 warranted a test? many tests frustrate the certification candidate.

Now with MPS3.0 of course they need a new test, the product changed, they need to test your knwoledge of architectural changes etc... But when FR1 for MPS3.0 comes out there is no need for an FR test.

Microsoft does not release a new test eevrytime they release a Service pack.

One test for one the product life cycle.

Now Andy Smith asked about what i meant when i said "Citrix continuously made it harder for ......." well by puttig stumbling blocks such as the eLearning course now the candidate is required to take an e-Learning course, no one can publish anything to help you or others prepare for the eLeaning course etc...

And Andy, please don't misundertsand me i am all for the FRs they are great but i don't see a need for an exam for every FR, i am only concentrating on the exams here not how many FRs are released.
This message was originally posted by Paul Mansmann on July 17, 2004
I am in the process of gettting recertified and pursuing the CCEA cert. I passed the CCA exam a couple of weeks ago and, as required, just took the e-Learning course this past week. I drove an hour into my office to take the course last Saturday evening only to discover that there was a problem in the ASP code on the Accenture web site that prevented me from creating an account. I tried this from three different computers, using three different browsers on each one. Even tried connecting to different ISPs. I called tech support and left a couple of messages. I sent e-mail requests. It was over 24 hours before I finally got a response. At that point, I was at a 4-year old's birthday party and did not have access to a computer. They informed me that they fixed the problem and told me to try it again when I could get to a PC. The problem was NOT fixed and it was three days later that they ended up creating an account for me (after numerous other e-mails) and then I guess they fixed the code on their web site. Oh, I also had problems logging on to certmanager web site to view my certification progress. I had to verify my profile information - a seemingly innocuous task. Except that it kept reporting that I needed to fill in three different fields on the web form that were already filled in. Tried retyping the info, updating, verifying, various computers and browsers, etc. More e-mails (unfortunately no tech support number for this outsourced portion of their site). When I finally got a response from someone, they said that the problem was with a field in the database and that it had been fixed. I would like to note that both tech support issues were handled by support staff in India. Had the support been timely or helpful, I would say it didn't matter. Well, except for the fact that those are more jobs that have been lost to Amercians. But I'll not rant on that for now. After all these problems, though, I was finally able to take the eLearning course Wednesday night. I understand that they are trying to get exposure for their newer product lines, but requiring $100 people who are already working to get certified and who are going to have to take an exam for Secure Access Manager or Password Manager anyway to pay that money for what essentially boils down to a 2-page marketing brochure is absolutely ludicrous. I have been a proponent of Citrix products for over 5 years since I initally started using and supporting them. I was actually looking forward to getting my CCEA a couple of weeks ago when I started working toward that end again. However, I think if they want to make their marketing course a requirement for certification, they should provide this training FREE to the people they want to go market their products. Oh, and one more note--it is more than 72 hours since I took and passed that ridiculous piece of marketing garbage, and there is still no update in my certification status. I have sent a couple more e-mails to ask how long it should take to pass the information along from Accenture to Integral7, but again have gotten no replies. What is the result of all this? In the last two weeks, I went from being someone who would recommend Citrix as a solution to probably 90% of the customers I might do business with, I have looked for alternatives that I didn't even know existed. I had never heard of New Moon (Tarantella), but am looking into it. Another thing that influenced me here is Citrix's over-reliance on M$ products. Why does IIS have to be a requirement for Secure Access Manager. Is it not possible to use an Apache back-end web server to provide the same service? Why do directory service features have to be tied to M$ AD or Novell directory services. Why can't any LDAP back end suffice? It seems like Citrix has so embedded their solutions with Microsoft technology that the total cost of licensing and use has almost priced them out of the small to medium sized business market, where they could really thrive. Now, I'll admit, maybe I've just had a bad week and am feeling a bit on the bitters about some of this stuff. But I still place the blame on Citrix for letting someone like me--who used to be a staunch advocate for their technology solutions--start looking around for friendlier alternatives. If they don't start shaping up their act, I'm sure I won't be the only free-lance "marketeer" out there recommending other solutions because of our disappointment with the direction Citrix has chosen. If they don't, they could be in serious trouble.
This message was originally posted by Andy Smith on July 16, 2004
You helped me understand the real issue that Elias was trying to convey - the "moving target." You start studying for the FR3 exam and by the time you're done studying for it, Citrix has taken it away and replaced it with the 3.0 exam which is completely different. Citrix could fix this easily by making all exams that qualify for CCA available through the testing centers.
This message was originally posted by Cornelio N. Framil, Jr., MCSE, CCEA, A+ on July 22, 2004

The document are very well said and I do agree on the author for the certification overhaul. I've been supporting Citrix for the past four years and we are the number one reseller in the Philippines. I am the first and only known to hold CCEA in the Philippines and I am really upset the way Citrix update their Certification. A lot of our customers are confused on what exams to take specifically on the CCA requirement. Thanks. e-mail me at:
This message was originally posted by Ashe on July 21, 2004
It was high time someone wrote about this to Citrix. Its a great product but these constant changes put a damper on a person trying to promote this product further.
This message was originally posted by Tharg on July 21, 2004
Great article - it need writing! Some interesting comments above too... Citrix definitely don't have a clue when it comes to certification. I was going to do my CCA earlier this year on FR2 (I'd done the course in November). Then I found out that I had to do the FR3 exam. AND an elearning course.Now things change again.

The hell with it - I've now decided against doing CCA.

This message was originally posted by Jonathan Merrill, CCA, NET+, MCP on July 24, 2004
When I found out about the requirement of the eLearning course, I wrote Citrix to complain as I found it the most ridicious thing I have ever heard. Trying to cost justify the eLearning center using certification candidates smacks of corporate revenue generation on the backs of those who support them the most. At the very least, did they offer a discount to already certified people? Nope. After I took the training, I felt it more marketing driven than technical driven. I didn't learn much - and their feedback form said exactly that. Marketing demos shouldn't cost $125.

Citrix definately needs to do some soul searching here as competion is on the rise. Bear Paw and Tarantella . . . and if you guys haven't played with Tarantella yet, your missing out on a more competetive solution . . .

Lastly, as a 10 year IT professional, reasons cited by others are exactly why I stop at CCA and MCP. There is so little incentive to take the time now to keep the certs that I personally value. What do these companies actual do for CCAs other than send us a certificate? I question the value.

My 2 cents.
The comparison between MSFT and CTXS is a fair one. CTXS doesn't need to follow the leader but they should have some rationale for their choices beyond driving exam revenue. The difference is that most of the decision-makers at MSFT are educators and they hold advanced degrees in their fields. The same can not be said for Citrix Education. I held a high title there for a long time and I know the players involved - they don’t come from educational backgrounds. They are neither technical nor academic. That alone explains most of the problems. The psychometric validity of the programs and the exams themselves is laughable and comes, if at all, as an ancillary afterthought.
i just got a job at citrix and im going to training soon. thanks for this forum because it really helped me out with setting expectations.
i would like to learn Citrix and i just wondering if someone could just point me in the right direction where i should start. after reading some postings on the editorial page and their comments, i still like to pursue a career in Citrix.
like what is the first thing i should learn and which certification exam i should take first. basically i already know LAN and i have been working for several years now (using MS Windows) but still have no experience and never seen Citrix products in action. i'm interested in Citrix administration.