Citrix seeds the cloud; partners with Cisco and Microsoft

by Anurag Agrawal, CEO, Techaisle    Nov 12, 2012

Anurag Agrawal TechaisleAs the Cloud matures, Techaisle believes that integration is key and the market will coalesce around virtual versions of the client and server concepts – with communication at the core of the client suite and a collaborative, front office multi-user suite in the middle of the Server environment. With its recent product announcements and significant alliances with Cisco and Microsoft, Citrix moves us closer to this concept.

Citrix is on a relentless pursuit of creating continuities between devices, location, apps, data, events and culture irrespective of place, time and environment. It is not an easy objective to achieve. However it is the right objective. Citrix is either a leader in some categories or second in others and a relatively new entrant in yet other areas. It is confident that a focus on delighting the customer with tools that conform to the way end-users work in a multi-modal collaborative world, pining for utmost simplicity will make Citrix the winner.

To achieve its vision, Citrix has set its eyes on some key areas:
Social Collaboration: with carefully selected and integrated product line consisting of – GoToMeeting, GoToTraining, GoToAssist, GoToWebinar, ShareFile and Podio.
Data Sharing: ShareFile is Citrix’s enterprise-grade Dropbox that it hopes will win on security, ease of use and customer service. ShareFile enables employees to send, share, sync files with business features such as follow-me data, access from any device, encrypted in transit and at rest, remote wipe and account locking.
Enterprise Mobility: a strategy built on Citrix Receiver, a client software app that allows access to data, apps from any device for the unbridled, fast growing BYOD market. Citrix Receiver uses XenApp and XenDesktop to deliver self-service apps and data to over 3 billion devices. Add to it CloudGateway for provisioning that is identity-based, scenario-based and secure serving of data on apps whether the device is windows, mobile, web or HTML5.
Cloud Networking: echoing the thoughts of many others that the future network will be fast and flat Citrix is betting on NetScaler, ByteMobile and CloudBridge solutions to deliver a network fabric that meets or exceeds the demands of a mobile world with ever-growing bandwidth requirements from devices, data and applications that are in constant motion.
Cloud Platforms: staking on its belief that Open platforms will win, Citrix has CloudStack addressing the needs of both traditional and cloud workloads. Specifically, Citrix has also rolled out a Cloud Portal specifically designed for service providers that is a single self-service interface for cloud deployments.

Citrix has also announced several other significant products and alliances that fill gaps in the SMB Cloud Computing marketplace. These include:
– An expanded Me@Work mobile applications suite, with new and improved apps,
– A strategic alliance with Microsoft to distribute Windows and Office365 as Cloud Services through XenDesktop,
– A VDI-embedded and secure Ultrabook Client,
– Next generation Gateway and next generation cross-cloud bridge,
– A certified cloud platform developed in collaboration with Apache CloudStack,
– Improvements to the NetScaler line.

And the most consequential announcement is a wide and deep strategic alliance with Cisco that if well executed, will offer a true 1+1=3 result for both sides and have a major impact in the industry. And then another partnership of significance with Microsoft.

Part of the achieving the vision is to ensure collaboration is possible across all hardware environments, that application objects are executed regardless of proprietary operating systems and formats. Citrix is thinking in terms of screens and knows that consumers are driving adoption of connected screens as part of their lifestyle. When selecting a workplace, surveys show todays employees would rather give up a more lucrative employment opportunity than give up their devices or right to use social media.

We found it interesting that Citrix has simultaneously introduced some competitive products in conjunction with its partnership with Microsoft; an email client – most important component of the collaborative desktop – as well as strong offers in file sharing, personal collaboration, and web conferencing. It is a bold move.

But Microsoft gets a lot out of these announcements, especially if execution can follow strategy. Microsoft’s revenue is over 25 times that of Citrix, but it can use the excitement brought by a fast-growing, deeply technical, and cloud-focused next-generation partner. Especially in the SMB space – the 100-249 & 500-999 segments of the mid-market are a real sweet spot for this partnership.

By partnering with Microsoft to bring Windows, Office365 and the SkyDrive to market, Citrix benefits from the practically ubiquitous Windows installed base and opportunity for widespread adoption of Office365, (which we expect to have a banner year in 2013). And access to the most mature global software distribution ecosystem in the world. Microsoft gains an ally that provides substantial support and momentum against Google Apps, a catalyst to move away from packaged software, additional credibility in collaboration, and adds 10,000 channel partners at the same time.

The Ultrabook client is a strategic offer because it supports the tide of BYOD and it is another route to market for XenDesktop VDI. It also aligns Citrix with Intel and the major OEMs who are looking for returns on large investments in the Ultrabook line.

While the Microsoft news is a big deal, the even larger news was a strategic alliance with Cisco that involves major commitments of joint R&D, integration of product lines and joint manufacturing in the future. Key Points:
Citrix and Cisco announced broad cooperation in three major areas: Mobile WorkStyles, Cloud Orchestration and Cloud Networking.

Mobile WorkStyles
The big idea here is any data on any device to support the growing BYOD wave, and leveraging joint strengths to deliver a unified secure environment for applications, data, voice and collaboration. Cisco contributes Jabber and substantial collaboration expertise gained from the Webex acquisition, Virtual Experience Infrastructure (VXI) technology, and MediaNet Technology. For Mobile WorkStyles, Citrix brings a new and improved CloudGateway and Receiver, a new and improved ShareFile service and XenApp & XenDesktop. The alliance aims to bring a richer experience with seamless security and a leveraged support infrastructure than covers the entire stack 24×7 on a global basis.

From a business perspective, Citrix can ride on the back of the 800 pound gorilla straight into the Enterprise, leveraging the industrial-strength performance of Cisco’s premium product lines at a reduced price point. As with Microsoft, Citrix is aligning itself with an old-guard industry titan, in this case, one whose revenue is 16 times that of Citrix. And as with Microsoft, the deal looks like a win for both sides. Our opinion is that it could help revitalize Cisco, whose foray in to software based business created some great products in Webex, but the model was different enough to shake them up. When Cisco acquired Webex they entered a software-based, inbound sales, price sensitive, online-marketed, sold and delivered, six-week sales cycle, user-configured business model that was almost the antithesis of what they were best at: premium quality enterprise hardware-based solutions that are differentiated by making the value of the whole network exceed the sum of its’ parts – sold by an enterprise sales force and delivered by top shelf VARs and SIs.

Cloud Orchestration
The second key area of cooperation is in what is being called Cloud Orchestration, where the objective is to manage the traditional data center functions of computing, network, storage, security, and management, delivered across physical, virtual and cloud environments using Unified Computing, Unified Management and Unified Fabric. This is clearly Cisco’s home territory and they bring expertise and technology including Unified Computing System (UCS), Open Network Environment (ONE) and the Nexus Series of switch technologies to bear on these challenges. Citrix contributes the newest CloudPlatform, a new open source CloudStack and the XenServer to this effort. Using Cloud Orchestration, the alliance aims to deploy Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud environments with unified management that reduces complexity and improves agility, something SMB customers will be happy to see. Embracing Open Source is also a good move for Citrix to increase the footprint.

Cloud Networking
The third leg of the alliance is centered on the Citrix NetScaler Cloud Networking Platform. Here the objective is to adopt NetScaler as the go-to technology and jointly develop the next generation through the alliance. This will be accomplished by offering NetScaler as a strategic component within the Cisco Cloud Network Services Architecture, with seamless integration at the product level in areas including Security and WAN optimization. The order of implementation is that Cisco will adopt, sell and market the NetScaler, it will be manufactured according to a certified Cisco Design specification followed by a joint road-map for product interoperability, development and go-to-market strategy over the long term.

Through these announcements, Citrix has taken several steps to advance Cloud-based services and fill gaps in the market; they have introduced a new channel for Windows and Office365, brought to market their own collaborative suite, and a VDI-embedded client to further the VDI and BYO trends in the SMB space. Other technology announcements were also significant but for reasons of brevity we have not covered them in detail. One thing is for sure – no one can accuse Citrix of being timid. It all falls on execution at this point.

The author, Anurag Agrawal is the CEO of Techaisle, a global SMB ICT Market Research and Industry Analyst Organization dedicated to tracking the future of SMBs and Channels. Anurag’s Twitter handle is @anuragtechaisle

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