There has been a lot of talk recently about the future of Citrix, especially now that Citrix is very openly trying to move beyond being a pure server-based computing company. Does this growth represent a product strategy or is it the result of throwing darts at high-value targets?
In this editorial I’m going to share my personal view as to where I feel Citrix is going and why I think they’ve chosen their direction. As always, this is purely my own opinion, and I’d encourage you to share your comments and opinions at the end of this article.
Screw the Products! We're a "Solutions" Company!
With the kickoff of their $14M ad campaign last fall, Citrix began the brand metamorphosis from what we could call “traditional server-based computing” to “access infrastructure.” Being a public company with a stated revenue target of $1 billion per year is probably the biggest influencer of this, as is the desire to maintain profit margins as Terminal Server add-on software becomes less “value-add” and more “commodity.”
To that end, Citrix’s new end-to-end “access infrastructure” focus is causing them to branch out of their roots and to sell products that solve single sign-on, collaboration, and secure access problems. It’s caused them to try to buy SSL VPN companies like Neoteris.
Citrix wants to sell solutions, not products. This is the holy grail of every IT vendor. (No one sells services or products anymore—everyone sells “solutions.”) The challenge Citrix faces is that they are a product company, and they make revenue by selling software products.
The McDonald’s, “Do you want fries with that?” approach has served many industries well, and Citrix hopes to add portal products, SSL VPN solutions, and single sign-on capabilities to their Value Meal. This is what Citrix is packaging into their “access infrastructure” solution. Remember, McDonald’s doesn’t sell burgers and fries, they sell “solutions” to your hunger problems (even though the “solutions” is a burger and fries).
The desire for Citrix to move up the value curve to the “solution” space and out of the “product” space is a necessary evil of being a software vendor in today’s world. It’s an insurance policy that helps them manage risk. If Citrix can convince customers that they provide the solution for access, then customers will go to Citrix regardless of what product features get added to competitors’ (or Microsoft’s) products.
What about their roots?
Citrix’s new direction is making a lot of people nervous. Technical people are worried that Citrix’s newfound direction will hurt their traditional server-based computing products. Financial analysts are worried that Citrix will not be able to become a leader in the wider access solutions market.
It’s important that Citrix continues to focus on its traditional market. But it’s also just as important that traditional server based computing engineers don’t freak out just because Citrix is entering new spaces. (The future is very bright for Terminal Services, and we have nothing to worry about.)
Access Infrastructure = IT Infrastructure
From the “solution” standpoint, Citrix’s new message is right on. A true “access” solution must involve application delivery and management (Presentation Server), a secure network component (SSL VPN / CSG) and an end-user touch point (portal). Of course then again this is not that different than any IT infrastructure solution.
Regardless of how unique Citrix's solution message is, we as technical folks can’t forget that solutions are made up of a collection or technical products.
For example, Microsoft’s “messaging” solution is made up of Windows Server, Exchange Server, Internet Information Services, and Outlook. Even though all four components are needed for the true messaging solution, experts and communities have been cultivated around each of the four specific products.
To that end, now that Citrix is growing, we technical folks can no longer be experts on “Citrix.” Instead we’ll have to start to pick and choose which technical products of the access solution we want to follow. (From an architecture level, it will be nice to be familiar with the whole access solution, but from the product expertise level, that’s not realistic.)
For example, I personally am what you could call a “server based computing” guy. I focus on Terminal Server, MetaFrame Presentation Server, Tarantella, etc. I do not focus on web portals or VPNs, so even if Citrix offers a web portal product, it won’t really affect what I’m doing. (The same holds true for Microsoft. They just announced Commerce Server 2006, but I don’t care because I don’t follow “Microsoft”—I follow their server-based computing products.)
I guess the bottom line is “No, I will not write about MSAM. I will not write about Citrix’s rumors in the SSL VPN space. I will not write about Password Manager.” It’s up to the analysts to write about Citrix—The Company. I write about Server Based Computing—The Technology.
The future of server-based computing technology is very bright, regardless of whether it's Citrix's main focus.