Citrix CTO Christian Reilly on cloud migration and ‘life after icons’


I caught up with Citrix CTO Christian Reilly to hear how the vendor sees the future of the digital workspace and enterprise cloud migration

Christian Reilly CTO Citrix 370px
Christian Reilly, Citrix

Citrix Systems rose to prominence at a time when the digital workspace was something you found on a computer screen. Today, digital is everywhere. Instead of sitting at a desk and clicking on icons to access computing, it comes to us via mobile phones, voice assistants or IoT sensors. I caught up with Citrix CTO Christian Reilly recently to get a sense of how the company is adapting to this changing digital landscape, or to “life after icons,” as he calls it:

Historically, Citrix has been probably the best in the industry at delivering icons — icons for your application, [an] icon for your desktop. That will be around for a long time as organizations continue to need to leverage the value that’s in those applications, in those desktops.

But think about this from the point of view of, what do the end users need to do at different points in their workday or different locations? It may well be that you just need to surface bits of information. So understanding a combination of identity, the device, the location, and the task, is really a critical part of our go-forward plan.

A digital workspace in a hybrid world

Citrix, therefore, is adjusting to a hybrid computing landscape that combines on-premise, mobile, SaaS and even conversational computing, presenting functions and information in the format that’s most convenient and relevant to the user’s context. In such a world, its role is to deliver a secure digital workspace across a wide variety of user experiences, Reilly explains:

There’s a mix now of digital assets, let’s call them. So whether they continue to be the traditional on-premises Windows world or whether they are made up of mobile and SaaS, the Citrix strategy for a secure digital workplace is to actually put ourselves in the path of all those applications.

Wherever they come from, whichever cloud, however they’re served, whichever users need them on whichever device, the secure digital workspace is a framework for us to allow customers to adopt all those services at the pace of their business, but to also provide performance, security, flexibility for them to do that across any cloud.

As this hybrid world evolves, Citrix is also analyzing what’s going on so that it can help organizations make the digital workspace not only more secure but also more productive, he says.

What we’d like to do there is really push the productivity analytics side. Think of that as an extension of the workspace — we’re gathering lots of information about what users do, what devices they’re coming from, which applications, how they interact. The more we do that, the more we can actually help that adaptive context of the workspace.

The other aspect of the Citrix proposition is in helping enterprises navigate the journey to this hybrid world. The infrastructure element is familiar ground to Reilly, who joined Citrix in 2011 as part of its acquisition of infrastructure-as-a-service software provider He had previously been cloud architect at engineering group Bechtel, an early adopter of private cloud technology. Citrix continues to invest in technologies that help enterprises manage a multi-cloud environment, most recently with its acquisition in February of Cedexis, a service that dynamically optimizes traffic flows across multiple public clouds and data centers as well as CDNs and ISPs.

Three core elements of cloud migration

For many Citrix customers, this migration from the traditional on-premises world to one in which applications sit on many different clouds is a long and complex journey. Reilly believes the strategy for managing this process has three core elements.

So the first one is the acceleration to cloud. As a technology provider, we realize that building cloud services is more efficient, and it drives a quicker return to value for customers than on-premises software. That doesn’t mean that it’s the end of on-premises software.

There’s no magic switch overnight to move from one model to the other. So the acceleration to cloud is really about building a platform that will help customers to realize that value, at the pace that their journey takes them.

The second part of the equation really is about unification of the portfolio. In a traditional world that we came from, of on-premises software, you can configure it — or customize it, in the worst case — a number of different ways.

The goal of the unification of the portfolio is to make it very simple, to make the on-ramps very low, and to allow customers to adopt cloud in a very quick way, but in a way that gives them maximum return.

The third part of the equation is about the expansion into new opportunity areas. So if you accelerate to cloud, if you build a unified portfolio that is the entry point to all work — then through those transactions and through the data that you collect, as an example, we can get some very interesting analytics components around security, around performance, and around productivity, which will really help to drive that future of work.

In this way, Citrix can be a trusted provider, guiding customers on their journey into the future, he believes, even if the final shape of that future remains uncertain. The current hype around digital transformation is like the way people used to talk about cloud computing ten years back, he says, when the world “didn’t really know what it was but everybody wanted to do it.”

Those who are finding digital success are going beyond the technology and working with colleagues to implement it for business reasons, he believes:

I think the more advanced plans that we see from big customers who have got this right, they are closely in a lockstep with the people who own the business process. Because bringing in new technology for the sake of digitization without addressing the business processes is a fool’s errand.

The ones that we’re seeing that are doing it very well have that seat at the table — they are the enablers. They understand the business, and they understand exactly where to bring the technology to meet it.

My take

An interesting catch-up with an early pioneer of enterprise cloud computing. We’ll have more on Citrix next month when we report from this year’s annual Synergy conference.

Image credit - via Citrix

Disclosure - Citrix is funding travel for a diginomica writer to attend its Synergy 2018 conference.

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