Citrix Synergy – selling the ampersand, not the silos


The company faces up to providing users with a cohesive workspace of `this tool & that service & simpler management &…&….&. Bye bye to those silos of technology.

Mark Templeton
Mark Templeton

Citrix may have had a slightly rough few weeks recently, what with posting Q1 figures that were slightly off expectations and attracting the attention of speculative investors looking for a possible sale of the business, or break up at the very least.

But it’s Synergy conference in Orlando this week showed the company not just fighting back but repositioning itself with a far stronger business service delivery model.

As Geir Ramleth, the company’s SVP, General Manager and Chief Strategy Officer for Workspace Services, , said during the post keynote Q&A:

This is a new Citrix. We are moving in a more cohesive way.

Or as CEO Mark Templeton explained during his keynote, the company is now in the business of  ‘&’ – bringing together its apparently disparate product elements, which the speculative investor community had started to question, under two unifying and closely-allied groupings: Workspace Services and Citrix Workspace Cloud.

The company is now pushing the ‘Workspace’ moniker as hard as it can, and slotting in all its current and new products into its underlying objective – providing business-related tools for customers and partners to build business-focused solutions. As Templeton puts it:

It no longer matters how it works; it’s what it does that is important now.

The appearance of Workspace Cloud in particular was enthusiastically welcomed by the audience of some 12,000 delegates: something Templeton admits surprised him.

Workspace Cloud has not come out as a complete surprise, of course. The company has been developing technologies and services in the area for some five years, when it set out to re-invent its established XenApp system for the cloud.

For example, it created Blackbeard, a reference architecture that many Cloud Service Providers took up, and introduced the Rainmaker application orchestrator, a control panel, and service provider licencing technology. Today it has 1,900 active service providers delivering some 500,000 apps and services.

The company also set out to create what it thinks of as a commercial alternative to OpenStack, known as CloudStack. This has, however, never really achieved significant acceptance in the market, despite being available a good while before OpenStack got close to prime time.

That may be why the company has now decided to join the OpenStack Consortium and become a contributor to its on-going development.

On the plane

One of the latest additions to its cloud toolset has been the development of a cloud based Control Plane Architecture, which Templeton sees as being key to the service delivery ethos behind the `Workspace’ concept. This is built as a service to power service delivery from Cloud Service Providers, with the aim of keeping systems always up to date. He explains:

The Control Plane design makes infrastructure more consumable, so it takes the management and scaling issues off the users’ and partners’ plates.

The company has come up with new workspace cloud connectors that allow both new applications and old legacy code to be added to the management console. This will give users the choice of where applications are run, which means they can experiment with legacy applications to see how they operate in a cloud environment.

This gives the flexibility needed to create and dynamically manage hybrid business environments that can be adapted to fit changing business needs.

The system allows users and partners to create new workspaces easily. These can then have the required apps attached to them and then be published to subscribers or staff. So individual companies, indeed individual department heads, can create workspaces and publish them for their own staff. According to Templeton this should also allow them to embrace shadow IT rather than fight it.

It also means Citrix partners and even user companies can create their own blueprints for their own service environments. These can then use Docker Containers to deploy them, with admins able to choose where such services are deployed from.

General availability of Workspace Cloud is expected in Q3 and if you can’t contain yourself, you can get a free test drive now of the capabilities via the company’s website.

Ampersands for sale
Ampersands for sale

The other half of this package is the bringing together under the Workspace Service of many of the company’s existing applications delivery and management tools that are not specifically cloud-based. These in particular are the under-pinning of why Templeton describes the thrust of the company as being in the provision of  ‘&’:

We see five things going on that are causing increasing problems for customers and partners. The first is the explosion of devices of many types now in use. Second is the change in applications, where it used to be Windows apps but now there are lots of mobile ones. Third is content, where it used to be analogue, but is now digital and easier to steal, which raises the fourth issue, security. Finally, there is the workforce, which used to be born analogue but is now increasingly borne digital.

He sees these as the problems that now need to be solved, where the solutions provide for more efficient business. This, he suggests ,needs experience, security, and flexibility, and they have to work together:

You do that by building a software-defined workspace that has the ability to deliver all the apps required, unify then into a single screen, and broadcast that to all the users and collaborators required. So it is an `&’ .The need is to be able to do it and do it fast. The aim is to give business managements the tools through which they can say, `yes, we can do it’.

There is the question about what is a workspace. Many companies promote is as desktop service, and that is OK as far as it goes. But we now think a workspace is anything the user wants or needs it to be. So we have to think of it as an ‘&’ that they can carry in their pocket.

On the phone

This obviously brings the smartphone front and centre as an end user client of choice, which means some of its weaknesses must now be addressed. For example, they sometimes don’t have enough I/O for every task.

With that in mind, Citrix has created a tool to allow a smartphone to connect directly with a desktop application to provide greater resources for the user. Templeton demonstrated this by linking his mobile to a desktop app which then ran applications that were being hosted in Santa Clara.

Possible use case scenarios, he suggests, include a doctor using a smartphone running such a Workspace, accessing patient data on the move, from a number of sources while seamlessly shifting from one service source to another, and one POP to another.

The shift to the Workspace concept is a major re-positioning of what some see as a disparate collection of `bits of technology’ into a cohesive set of tools with which end users and partners can build the workspace solutions they need to achieve the business results they are targeting. It does seem to provide an answer to the speculative investors and financial analysts currently targeting the company.

So, many of the company’s existing apps get at least an update or two, while some get significant new features. XenApp for example, gets a new add-on called CubeFree, an app that can help users find places to work, and collaborate with co-workers. This is a version of Yelp for a mobile workforce.

XenServer 6.5 S SP1 now allows users to work with containers from Docker, while the latest  NetScaler SDX, can connect with Splunk to give what he called incredible analytics on traffic and great control over datacenters. There is new storage virtualisation software, called Melio.

These services now work with Chromebooks and Linux desktop systems. The latter has been introduced in response to market demand from Citrix partners that work in markets where Linux is widely used, such as in the energy and engineering sectors.

My take

This is interesting; a big, well established tools and technology company is biting the bullet of approaching its real market – the end users in business and organisations – in ways that are much more focused on their needs and why those needs exist. The technologies underpinning it all are still important, but they are the enabler of the real story, not the story itself. It seems not unreasonable to expect the established products and cloud services to come together under a single ‘Workspaces’ tag in the not too distant future.