So what exactly does MetaFrame Secure Access Manager do again?

Citrix recently released version 2.2 of their MetaFrame Secure Access Manager (MSAM) product.

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.

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This message was originally posted by MSAM test user on March 18, 2004
Brian. At the very least, test the product before you knock it! I am currently testing the product and like the ability to present only specific items based on a user’s role and permissions within the role. The MSAM integrates any of the MS web parts. The product definitely is the next step for any Web Interface environment. The ability to now sync my remote user’s outlook offline folders in the new version will really make me consider deploying MSAM 2.2, Citrix has great engineers who do a decent job resolving complex issues, to bad the marketing department never seems to effectively get the point across. I like your side by side comparison of Citrix in past I suggest you do this with MS SharePoint, Plumtree, MSAM, ect. I'm not sure if I will use MSAM but I like what I have seen so far.

Steve, NJ.
This message was originally posted by Help on March 19, 2004
to a degree Brian is right. I have used it and believe its just a portal. And in the portal world is a very big place, MS SP, CA CleverPath, IBM WebSphere, Citrix MSAM. All have there pro's and con's. I believe MSAM offers nothing that the other solutions can not offer. Like Brian said, get you non-citrix portal and mod it view the Citrix web interface, with CSG in the backend and you have a secure web portal...."access everywhere".... Sorry Citrix, you should never of entered the Portal market..I hope you did not blow too much money on take overs and R&D on a product that nobody uses..

This message was originally posted by company policy forbids on March 19, 2004
I would have to agree that you've left quite a few facts out about the other product choices out there (highlight Sharepoint) as they compare to MSAM. When we did our review, we looked at everything (hardware SSL VPN appliances, IPSEC VPNs, Sharepoint, a few portals - you get the idea). All of it came up costing way more than MSAM did. Next we a demo version of MSAM and tried it to be sure, with a couple of the others we felt were top contenders. Bam! It took much less time than we thought to make MSAM work. Everything else took more time and gave us less. We eventually bought. We did our homework, and it came out good. After reading your review, I can't say that you did.
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on March 19, 2004
YOu left out a thing or two on SharePoint pricing. SharePoint Portal Server is $3,999 for a Server license (includes 5 CALS), then $71 per user or device. MSAM is $145 per CONCURRENT user, no Server price. BIG differnece there. If you want any external users of Sharepoint, that will cost you $30,000 for a External Connector. Oh yeah, you can import just about every web part or web form into MSAM.
Of ocurse, Sharepoint also provides Document management. I think Stellent offers many more document management features than Sharepoint and costs ALOT less. YOu can integrate MSAM with both, BTW.
If you want to compare it to Plumtree, throw in the price for 6-12 months of consulting for an army of consultants. That consulting will get you alot more functionality when it is done, but it will cost a hell of alot more money. Plumtree's stock is in the toilet for a reason.

MSAM is essentially a combination SSL VPN and portal. Have you priced an SSL VPN? I looked at the Neoteris 3000. It is only $29,995 for about 300 users.
MSAM allows you to give users the same interface internally and externally over a secure connection. We looked around at the options, and felt since we already had alot of MetaFrame, MSAM was by far the best deal. If we didn't have MetaFrame, we wouldn't have looked at it.
You usually are well informed on Metaframe. You are missing alot of facts on this one, though. It is clear you haven't given it a serious evaluation.
This message was originally posted by Some guy in Cali on March 19, 2004
This is an excellent review of Citrix's marketing materials, but frankly I don't buy marketing materials. I buy products and solutions. At no point was I even close to thinking you had actually tested this product. A shallow, weak "technology" review to say the least. You've had some decent reviews in the past and this is just poor, irresponsible writing.
This message was originally posted by SharePoint ROCKS! on March 19, 2004
MSAM is Not a Portal, not a SSL VPN, not as good as WI...... What is MSAM again?
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on March 21, 2004
Maybe everyone at Citrix HQ read your article at the same time and they all connect through the same proxy server? <g>
This message was originally posted by Brian Madden on March 21, 2004
Man oh man.. what great feedback! I guess my biggest mistake was listing this article as a "Product Review" instead of an "Opinion." I will will list this as an opinion and check out some of the other resources mentioned in these comments.. Thanks everyone!

Ohh.. This article also taught me that I need to write a stored procedure that runs each night an deletes duplicate votes from the same IP address. :-) I mean I'm all for "fair" voting, but 150 ratings of "1" from the same IP address in a ten-minute window is hardly fair.
This message was originally posted by Oke on March 20, 2004
Since I have never heard of Brian doing such a short and biased sounding product review I have come to the conclusion that he is testing our reaction and fishing for comments. What do you say Brian?
I have my own expectations from MSAM and they won't be satisfied before Citrix incorporates SSL VPN type of policy management features to it. If Citrix wants to make BIG money then they have to go for the SSL VPN market not portal.
This message was originally posted by Author of MSAM in a Box on March 20, 2004
Hi Brain and Co! If your looking for a detailed review of MSAM I would like to point in the direction of the latest version of "MSAM in a Box" available @ as well as from I've also posted some other MSAM goodies. Please note that I'm currently working on the 2.0 version with all the MSAM 2.2 info, heavy on alternate UI's like Twiki v WSS + SP (if I can get the new code!), WIN3K builds & challenges, OpenSource Web application integration and how to leverage Samba with MSAM. I've been working on this doc since NFuse Elite and still enjoy developing this project. I'm looking for proof readers as well as new content. If you would like to see some specific information in the next rev or would like to lend a hand please shoot me an email.
This message was originally posted by Mark Verhagen on March 21, 2004
It always comes down to Florida causing all the voting problems :)
This message was originally posted by Benny Tritsch, author of Win2003 Terminal Services by Microsoft Press on March 22, 2004
Hi Brian! Even if you are my toughest competitor on the Terminal Server book market, I really like your Web site and your product reviews. But this time I agree with some of the comments (not the votings!) concerning your article: It looks like you never tested MSAM seriously or you didn't understand the needs for an application access portal (which is something like "Web Interface on steroids"). Most of the Web Interface functionalities are covered by the MASM Access Center (which is the core portal) and one CDA (the program neighborhood CDA). All the other CDAs enhance MSAM beyond the MetaFrame scope. As a consequence, MSAM is different to NFuse or Web Interface, not only concerning costs. But I guess that Citrix needs a story that goes beyond NFuse, WI and published apps if Microsoft will make "Bear Paw" come true one day. MSAM could be a major part of this new story which may not only be about server-based computing any more. Yes, MSAM costs real money, but it is an integrated and rather scalable special-purpose portal solution including full support. Yes, the current technical status and the target market for MSAM is a little bit fuzzy today, but this was the same case for many good products when they where first introduced to the market. Yes, adapting MSAM to all the needs of a corporate environment requires some extra work, not only "setup and run". But you invest the same kind of work when you install SAP, Siebel or Peoplesoft corporate software - or even Microsoft Exchange Server. And yes, MSAM is different to SharePoint Services, WebSphere and all the other "conventional" portal products. It's gotta be different, because Citrix might not want to play silly games with Microsoft or IBM! In the future, the REAL MSAM competitors could rather be Tarantella New Moon, Terminalsoft or even Jetro - and you reviewed them, so you should know. One last remark concerning the need for portals like MSAM: In Europe, we currently see several MetaFrame projects coming up with up to 50,000 users devided into multiple corporate units with their individual corporate identities (such as colors and logos). These users will have access to dedicated corporate datacenters with hundreds of published good old Windows apps and up to 3,000 MetaFrame servers!!! Secure access, authorization and hierarchical personalization are the key concepts within these projects. Now, think about this scenario and try to suggest an adequate alternative to a good application access portal and some established Citrix technology. I bet, you can't. Today, we have to implement our own portals for these projects -- and pay a hell of a money for this task. Tomorrow, there could well be a better MSAM for this purpose, including SSL VPN and all the other goodies we need. So, this should make clear what Citrix means with the "personalized user experience"! If you need real scalability, the corporate scenario described above is something you can't cover by just using Web Interface and CSG! This scenario is something that usually costs much more than $145 per user! (BTW, I neither work for Microsoft nor for Citrix)
This message was originally posted by Kimmo Jernstrom on March 24, 2004
As I recently commented on my site
"Once I thought that MSAM would be something, hell the company I work for was on the Fast Track 500 program and I was really looking forward for MSAM/NFuse Elite, I even got myself certified on the damn thing.
IMHO I just can't see a single reason why to pay $145/user for such a mediocre product when I could get Sharepoint Services (WSS) for free, not to mention all of the open source portal systems that are equally free. "
This message was originally posted by Aaron on March 25, 2004
I must admit, I'm asking myself the same question - and I did the course and passed the exam..
This message was originally posted by Someone who used to have respect on Brian's texts on March 24, 2004
Brian, Who has ever told you that MSAM is about Server Based Computing. Go and listen even one of Citrix seminars and you will learn that MSAM 2.2 as all of the current Citrix products are about access to information. SBC is just a box in the presentation area of the infra.
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on March 23, 2004
Brian, I agree that you may want to do your homework (which you typically do) before posting an opinion/article. So, your homework assignment is to go back and investigate MSAM and other Citrix Access Suite products until you uncover your mistakes! (I will give you a hint...Citrix does not have a product called secure gateway...let's see how fast you can correct yourself on this one!)
This message was originally posted by Yonderbox on March 23, 2004
Sheesh. I looked up to you, as some sort of TS savant, not tethered to Citrix as a solution, yet smart enough to know Microsoft needs a shove now and then. Snide Remarks like that usually come from effete NewYorKCity intellectuals, not a true thinker. Come on, Brian, I want to BELIEVE. I'm evaluating MSAM, and it's growing on me. There's some quirks, but it's mostly there. It's really looking like a construct that non-HTMLers can use, and not stare blindly into the sun trying to get that damned CSS to work right. I've put it up, and at random times of the day, I get the urge to ...add to it. It started innocently enough with the Homer Simpson Quote of the Day WebPart, but it's evolved to targetted Google pages, links to docs, embedded web pages, and on.
Oh, well. I'll just let this one slide...Jetlag, maybe?
This message was originally posted by Marc on April 19, 2004
Hi Brian,
this article was one perhaps the worst written article. It seems that wrote the article with "I think I need something to write about MSAM" in mind. That is obvious. You compare it with Sharepoint and the prices - you missed the point with scalability and at least these are not competitive products - more complementary. I personnaly now over 15 companies running MSAM live and love the benefit to get business relevant information out of tiny "windows" called CDAs. It is about information access with a minimum of work. This is the benefit. Again like other already that - Do your homework and think before you write - like you did in the past.
This message was originally posted by Freddie on April 19, 2004
As many of you already have said, Brian have probably not used MSAM that much.
But isn’t that the point of the article, as some one here said, This article seem to be written just to start a discussion on the MSAM subject and I have to say, even if the article vas a little diffused, he succeeded to start a wild discussion. Good on ya.

See ya…
This message was originally posted by Roddy Rodstein on June 28, 2004
Hey guys, MSAM in a Box 2.2 is available @
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on July 13, 2004
We are rolling out MSAM becasue it allows access to internal web sites and web applications without using a Citrix Metaframe Terminal Server license. Access to web resources goes directly to the internal web site, and does not require any of the traditional Citrix resources, i.e. access to the Citrix farm. This allows us to let our 7000+ employess (75% of which do not access the Citrix Farm) access internal web applications. I agree with previous comments that Citrix is not marketing this product well. The key for us was not needing Citrix terminal server licenses when allowing access to internal web applications.
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on September 10, 2004
I have been, like you (Probably), implementing Ts/Citrix for a while..
Well, we are currently in the process of evaluating MSAM and what am i gaining with this again ?
Isn't Real life about Management being comfortable and happy with users comments about those little PA-Icons appearing and disapearing on their desktops. WI providing Apps for Mobile users....
MSAM brings Portability .... Is that it ?
The question i have is this: What does MSAM gives you more than MPS,WI and CSG?
CDA's ? Is that it ?.... Not Sure... Benny said "a bit Fuzzy"... I get what CDA'S are but what do they offer more to Management other than PA?
Sure..Citrix is MEGA MArketing IT...
Management are asking :
Why ? We've got a HIT with users!
What? You want us to use IE as a MAIN PAGE for all ? With "Goodies" (CDA) for "digital dashboard" ... What the Hell is that ? .... Your the can make anything appear in their workspace. So whats the fuss Mr Consultant !!!!????

Cause you got lots and lots of users and you might want to change their look and feel workspace ? Licensing ?

Is this Clear....or Fuzzy ? MSAM!
This message was originally posted by A Web Developer on November 30, 2004
This is fantastic content for a Web/portal person trying to understand how MSAM fits into the portal marketplace. I know Citrix swears it is not, but it meets the basic portal needs for a company that does not do much custom development.
That a comment is just a comment and an opinion is just a sugestion. To be fair, im going to asume that all of you who posted before me are IT pro's. Each one of you knows what you need or dont need, what works or what doesnt. Bottom line is that all of you should do your own testing and an opinion from a 3rd party is just a way of helping you come to a conclusion. Yes the writting was a little one sided and it seemed like microsoft goonies forced our friend to write such review, maybe he sleeps walks and his alter ego tooke over...maybe using too much MSN Messenger can brain wash a person? Well I dont know the answer to any of those...but I love the fact that such a review can bring such a high element of dialog....Bravo...
Brian's Mind was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel...

I'd just like to point out that I think this is one of the coolest quotes of the year.