Citrix recently released version 2.2 of their MetaFrame Secure Access Manager (MSAM) product. All of the “competing” server-based computing news and information websites have links to the press release from Citrix, but I’m still not sure how MSAM is relevant in the server-based computing world. In fact, I'm not sure how MSAM is relevant in anyone's world.
MSAM is not the same thing as MetaFrame Web Interface / NFuse. MSAM is not the same thing as Citrix Secure Gateway. So what exactly is MSAM? According to Citrix, it's three main features are (1) It's cheap, (2) it's easy to set up, and (3) it seamlessly integrates with MetaFrame XP Presentation Server. Citrix's marketing literature mentions these three facts before they tell you what it actually does.
So what exactly does it do?
This product is the grandson of a portal product that came from Citrix’s acquisition of Sequoia several years ago. That product eventually became Citrix NFuse Elite, and then ultimately morphed into MSAM. I don’t know a single customer who is using or has used Sequoia, NFuse Elite, or MSAM. But then again, why should I? I’m a server-based computing guy, not a portal guy. MSAM is a portal product, not a server-based computing product.
Citrix says that by using MSAM, “you can give users access to Windows, Unix, and Java applications via the Internet – anytime, anywhere.” This is cool, except that you can do this with the MetaFrame Web Interface (formally called “NFuse”) for free, so I’m not sure why you’d pay an extra $145 per user for this feature.
Citrix says that MSAM “provides fully secure access over the Internet to applications and information without the cost or complexity of a VPN.” This is cool, except that you can do this with MetaFrame’s Secure Gateway (formally called “CSG”) for free, so I’m not sure why you’d pay an extra $145 per user for this feature.
Citrix says that MSAM provides a “personalized user experience,” and that users can “personalize their access by rearranging content and selecting desired color themes.” Cool, except that’s a basic feature of just about every portal in the world, many of which cost less than $145 per user.
Citrix talks about CDAs, or “Content Delivery Agents.” These are drag and drop bits that an administrator or a user can use to customize their content. While cool in theory, I don’t think people are still buying into the whole “digital dashboard” concept. I really don’t think people want to have a single web page where they can view a tiny little snippet of all their information. This is cool for consumers who want headlines, sports scores, and weather reports. For business users, I think most people would rather have all their email on screen one, all their applications available on screen two, all their sales information on screen three, etc.
Plus, Microsoft’s Windows SharePoint Services is basically free, and it provides so much more functionality than MSAM. There are thousands upon thousands of “web parts” for SharePoint-based portals. (There are many more web parts in the world than CDAs.) In fact, you can easily get a SharePoint web part that lets you display your MetaFrame Web Interface icons.
Even the “enterprise” version of Microsoft SharePoint (called SharePoint Portal Server) only costs $65 per user (compared to $145 per user for MSAM). [EDITOR'S NOTE: As pointed out in the comments, this price comparison is not valid, since MSAM is priced on "concurrent users," while SharePoint is priced on "named users." Also, SharePoint costs $4000 for the server license, and MSAM does not have a server license.
The bottom line is that I can’t figure out why anyone would use MSAM, let alone how MSAM relates to the server-based computing world. I'm sure MSAM is a great product for someone. Let me know if you find that person.