“So, what do you think of the show?” (Citrix Synergy 2019 edition)

I love all the moves in identity management, and I’m looking forward to digging into the new tech. Time will tell how Citrix’s broader strategy works out.

It’s Thursday morning (Day 3) of Citrix Synergy 2019. I wrote a live blog of the keynote on Tuesday, and Kyle published his initial impressions, too.

The big question that I get asked is, “So, what do you think of the show?”  If you were to cask me that at Synergy, here’s what I’d say.

General purpose strategy

First things first. Today, Citrix has an overarching strategy to go after all users (sometimes referred to as general purpose users), not just users that need some sort of desktop virtualization-based workloads. I think this is a fine strategy, and I’ve discussed it at length in several posts since last fall.

When someone asks what I think of the show, I always turn the general purpose user idea around. Are Citrix partners, CTPs, consultants, and others in the community ready to shift their focus to go beyond virtual desktops to all these other things? Of course everyone’s response will be different—some will and some might not be, and there’s no single right or wrong answer—but I think this is a key question when looking at the future of Citrix.

Identity

Getting a step closer to the tech, I love Citrix’s embrace of identity management and SaaS app security, which we first saw last year. This is a huge part of addressing general purpose users, and as I noted in my Synergy breakout session, identity is the most important trend that EUC pros can be thinking about. So this year when Citrix announced partnerships and integrations with Okta, Google Cloud Identity, and Ping Identity, on top of their existing Azure Active Directory relationship, I was very pleased. Great move.

In addition, with the whole industry talking about conditional access and zero trust, I think many in the Citrix community have a much more clear view of where Citrix Analytics for security and access fits into this trend.

Sapho and productivity

The newest component of Citrix’s general purpose user strategy is now based on micro apps, workflows, feeds, actions, and a digital assistant, all built into the “Citrix Workspace intelligent experience.” In other words, Citrix is all-in on the tech that they got from acquiring Sapho, and they have very lofty ambitions. The first half of the keynote was all about how this tech could help with employee productivity, engagement, and retention, and they said their internal goal was to give users one day a week back in time savings.

Reactions to this new strategy were mostly positive, though occasionally mixed. There was certainly a lot of excitement—the Citrix community has always loved innovative tech, and I know a bunch of folks will enjoy digging into this. In the larger world, robotic process automation is a thing, and there’s a space for this. I have no doubt that we all have some workflows that we could streamline, and that tools like Citrix Workspace actions and the digital assistant could save us time. Again, congratulations to the Sapho team for making a big splash.

On the other hand, there are some reservations, particularly around the feed functionality. We already have email, Slack and Teams, and a bunch of other things vying for our attention. Every one of these aims to make you more productive, but in reality just gives you another thing you have to pay attention to. What’s to say that this is the one that makes us way more efficient?

Lastly, there’s the question of getting Citrix’s brand new productivity products in front of the right buying personas, at the right customers, via the right partners. So, overall, it’s cool, but we’ll see where it goes.

Energy

The general energy of the show seems fine. It’s a little bit challenging to measure because everything is spread out through a large conference space (lots of walking this year!) but there are just as many energizing conversations as ever. The keynote had a good energy, too, and I appreciated that it was straightforward and easy to follow. It’s hard to judge the number of attendees in this big space, but it’s definitely evident that there aren’t really as many sponsors and exhibitors as in years past. I’m told that 60% of the attendees are first-timers.

As I wrote in my Synergy preview, there have been some clouds hanging over Citrix, in particular the recent data breach. I haven’t heard anybody from Citrix address this directly, but I guess that’s to be expected. It comes up in conversations with other attendees from time to time, though.

Core tech at the keynote

On to desktop virtualization, the keynote had a segments about Citrix Managed Desktops, how Citrix will support Windows Virtual Desktop, Citrix Analytics for Performance, new security features in Workspace App, networking, and other core Citrix products. These are always good for connecting with longtime community members. Another highlight was the enhanced partnership with Google Cloud. My main thought was “more please!” I know that there are a ton of sessions I’ll have to dig into, but I would love to have more of these core products in the keynote.

Also, I feel that just having one keynote feels like a missed opportunity. I would love it if they had a Day 1 keynote covering their vision and all their plans about the future of work, and then a Day 2 keynote dedicated to all of their latest, most interesting, and important core technology updates. But again, there are a lot of sessions to get to for all that. (I had a busy few days with meetings and two presentations, so I’ll be catching up on videos all next week.)

Final thoughts

My final thoughts? Citrix Synergy always feels like a homecoming for me. There are many great friends and industry colleagues and interesting conversations—I just love being here. And while nobody can predict the future, Citrix has some interesting products, plans, and ideas, and Synergy is a great place to dig into them.

Now I’m off for the last day of sessions, expo hall time, and the party. See you out there for Day 3!

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