Citrix promises to keep the faith in suite release

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On the day of the launch of its Metaframe Access suite, thin-client company Citrix has said it would protect its established channel while enlisting larger players to target the enterprise market.

The suite, which runs on Unix and Windows server platforms, expands on Citrix's Metaframe XP Presentation Server, which presents multiple applications through a single browser-based interface.

The new components in the suite ensure access to this interface over any device or network.

Citrix hopes the suite will dominate a US$8-10 billion middleware market it calls "access infrastructure", defined as software that integrates applications and co-ordinates access to data over multiple devices and networks.

The company already has an established 50-million strong user base worldwide with its flagship product MetaFrame XP Presentation Server and hopes the appeal of the on-demand enterprise - a flexible, software-based approach that securely delivers applications through a web browser to any device on any network - will propel it into the same league as heavyweights Siebel and Microsoft.

Although it has 132,000 customers compared to Siebel's 18,000, many of these are smaller, tactical deployments. Citrix will enlist systems integrator divisions of consultants such as IBM and HP to encourage its customer base to strategically deploy the Metaframe suite enterprise-wide.

Global vice-president of corporate development, David Jones, insisted that although the company would be working closely with Big Five consultancies, this would not come at the expense of the traditional Australian channel that Jones described as “the foundation of our business”.

"We are looking to expand our channel without hosing the guys who got us to where we are," said Jones.

Jones praised the established channel, saying their primary function was as an adoption engine that introduced companies to Citrix through pilots and small deployments.

"For that piece of the equation those small, local resellers are superb," said Jones.

He said problems arose when the customer was a large multinational or a pan-Asian company interested in rolling out Citrix in several countries.

"Then what are you going to do when you're a 30-man shop in Perth?" said Jones.

Citrix is steering away from a fix-it software company to a core infrastructure supplier, and it is looking to companies like EDS and IBM GSA to make the jump.

Jones believes there is room for both types in the market, saying that the Big Five "don't really care about selling licences or doing the physical screwdriver work. They want to sell the idea of process re-engineering and how a company would work differently through doing things in IT."

One thing Jones wanted to make clear was that Citrix was never going to head down the path of direct sales. Even though it has its own integration services section, Citrix Consulting Services, this is used to troubleshoot larger projects, help in the initial consulting phase with proof of concept.

"We don't need to be a direct sales company. We need to add another type of channel, more knowledge-based," said Jones.

The new business will be mutually beneficial, says Jones. The Big Five consultancies are always looking to be more profitable within their current outsourcing contracts, "because there's not a heck of a lot of new big ones up for grabs".

Citrix will work with the Big Five to drive down the costs and raise profitability through detailed account analysis leading to much-needed growth at the big end of town.

Part of the attraction the new suite is that it allows customers to pick best-of-breed applications and use them within a single interface rather than lock themselves into one vendor's package.

This customer-driven approach has some sympathy with open source, and Citrix does support Linux on the desktop. However as one of ten Microsoft gold partners that has access to highly sensitive source code, it is extremely reluctant to develop a Linux version of the Metaframe Access suite.

“That relationship would be if not jeopardised then strained” if a Linux version was produced, but “we'd do [a] Linux [version] based on customer demand, and Microsoft would understand that,” said Jones.

The company believes there are not enough mission-critical applications on Linux just yet, and has been resisting pressure from integrator partner IBM which has bet heavily on Linux's success.

“Being Switzerland is not going to be any easier,” said Jones.

Citrix has been hiring an increasing number of enterprise relationship managers (ERMs) to co-ordinate resellers across the country with Big Five consultancies. ERMs were needed to “orchestrate a sale and make sure a customer gets all the pieces they want”, said Jones.

At the launch of the Metaframe Access suite at the Nasdaq stock exchange on 18 March, Scott Hillier, vp of US-based integrator DataLan confirmed that he had been working successfully with several ERMs on a number of projects.

DataLan was taking part in the trend moving away from customer application development, when the custom was to "park people on [application development] and the project would never end", he said.

Now the integrator worked more as a problem solver with ERMs, rolling out Citrix's Presentation Server rather than integrating each application.

Mark Templeton, CEO at Citrix, said it was an example of a megatrend where customers are "wanting more short-term, higher-impact projects" from their IT budget.

Citrix's director of marketing in Australia, Michael McGrath, added that the Australian reseller channel has been "fantastic" given the size of Citrix's current customers. But for Citrix to succeed in the access infrastructure market, it needs bigger systems integrators.

"We need the right go-to-market strategy and a more sophisticated selling and SI environment that has the right project methodologies, business analysis and testing prior to implementing Citrix," says McGrath. "It's a very different sales approach.”

McGrath says that Citrix has been warming up the larger systems integrators for a number of years and it will try to increase the momentum to win big accounts.

Australia counts as one of Citrix's most successful regions for big wins, with a 10,000-licence rollout to an as-yet unnamed bank in the second half of last year.

McGrath says the company will protect smaller resellers through schemes like its Influencer program. If a reseller registers a tender bid for a large enterprise customer, puts in the groundwork only to see the contract taken on by a larger SI, then it will still receive a "healthy" commission from Citrix, says McGrath.

Laws Clause: Sholto Macpherson travelled to New York as a guest of Citrix Systems.

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