I'm writing this entry on Sunday night from my hotel room at the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel. Citrix iForum 2004 officially kicks off tomorrow, and I'm here to cover the event.
I decided to sit down and think about what I actually want to get out of this event. Of course it's always great to talk to everyone and all the vendors, but what do I actually want to hear from Citrix?
I guess for me the biggest uncertainty is the future of Citrix. I don't think they're going to go out of business or anything, but I do wonder what Citrix will look like in five years. Will the MetaFrame Access Suite be a single integrated product? Will Secure Gateway act more like a traditional SSL VPN? Will Citrix move into the hardware appliance market? (A "Citrix Access Appliance" maybe?)
Right now the whole industry is watching them attempt to transform themselves from a one-trick pony (Presentation Server) into a more general software infrastructure company (Access Suite).
What I Need to Keep in Mind about Citrix
What's hard for me here is that I'm a "server-based computing guy." From the Citrix standpoint, I care about Presentation Server. I don't really care at all (at this point) about MSAM, PM, or GoToMyPC.
I spend a lot of time writing about the future of Presentation Server, sometimes questioning the value it will add on top of Bear Paw or even Longhorn. However, I think it's safe to say that Citrix will be able to sort that out. I would imagine that in a few years we'll see a version of MetaFrame Presentation Server that incorporates good printing and authentication and process shaping and memory management and application protection and all sorts of other things that we need third-party tools for now.
Let me rephrase this in a way that I think will be more clear:
I fully believe that the core Presentation Server product will continue to add value on top of Bear Paw, Longhorn, or whatever else Microsoft decides to offer. We have to keep in mind that all this new Microsoft stuff is not due out until 2007 at the earliest. Add to that the fact that it's going to take companies a year or more to actually implement, and we're suddenly looking 3-5 years down the road.
This means that Citrix also has 3-5 years to figure out what they're going to look like in the post-Longhorn world.
I make a lot of noise about Bear Paw and Longhorn because I think these are cool technologies. However, we can't forget that there is a lot of business to be done between now and then. For example, Citrix's current annual revenue is about USD $700 million. This means that worst case, Citrix will probably do something like $3 to $4 BILLION in sales between now and the time this new stuff comes out.
To me, this is the real reason that Citrix doesn't focus on how they will look in the Bear Paw / Longhorn world. I think it's just too far down the road, and there's too much money to be made on real products in the meantime.
Don't get me wrong. I think that Bear Paw and Longhorn will have a huge effect on Citrix. However, I'm not really sure that there's anything that Citrix can do about it today. I mean what should they say? They can't publicly comment on Bear Paw because Microsoft hasn't publicly announced anything about it, and they certainly can't comment on what MetaFrame Presentation Server will look like in the Longhorn timeframe because no one knows what Terminal Server will look like then.
So what's Citrix to do? All they can really do is to keep doing what they're doing, which is to convince people to move from Presentation Server to the other components in their Access Suite.
What does this have to do with iForum?
I guess this all means that apart from some incremental technology announcements and a heavy Access Suite push, I'm not expecting too much from this year's event.