While unveiling a very lucid product and service strategy today, Citrix announced several 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 of the day - 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.
As 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 today’s announcements, Citrix moves us closer to this concept.
We will focus on three of the announcements with a point of view on how we consider them to be both strategic and timely, and finish up with huge potential impact of the slew of new alliance announcements.
Part of the achieving the vision is to ensure collaboration is possible across all hardware environments, that application objects can be executed regardless of proprietary operating systems and formats. By supporting all the formats shown here through their Receiver, Citrix already enables apps and data on three billion devices, which is expected to grow to ten billion in the next five years – Like many Korean manufacturers, Citrix is thinking in terms of screens, and knows that consumers are driving adoption of connected screens as part of the lifestyle – my teenage daughter has a MacBook, iPhone, and Satellite TV running all at the same time, each screen running multiple applications. When selecting a workplace, surveys show this generation would rather give up a more lucrative employment opportunity than give up their devices or right to use social media. As Kevin Kelly observed in his visionary work, New Rules of the New Economy, back in 1998:
“Because communication—which in the end is what the digital technology
and media are all about—is not just a sector of the economy. Communication is the economy.”
- Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy, 1998
We could not agree more, and the ME@Work announcement shows Citrix is taking the long view.
The ME@Work mobile app suite includes several productivity and collaborative applications, including the #1 web-conferencing solution, GoToMeeting. We found it interesting that Citrix is simultaneously introducing some competitive products in conjunction with the partnership; 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; for those of us who have been watching the industry for a while, we remember when there was a triumvirate – Windows, Intel and Novell - and then there was NT with OS-embedded LAN capabilities - and then there were two. And then Netscape came out swinging with a better web browser that seriously pressured Microsoft - and then there was Windows-embedded Explorer - and then there was one.
But Microsoft gets a lot out of these announcements, especially if execution can follow strategy. Microsoft revenue is over 25 times that of Citrix, but they 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.
The big idea here is any data on any device (the billions of screens mentioned above) 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 24x7 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. We continue to write on the rise of the digital channel at the expense of a traditional HW VAR Channel. 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. Especially within SMBs, the right combination of price and SLA to solve business, not technical problems, are overriding criteria when buying, and traditional hands-on VARs might not even be called - cut out by online marketing and inbound sales teams. In hardware, it is more about scale economies, quality engineering and brand management - software is all about market share and developing accelerating returns and an ecosystem of fellow travelers.
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.
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. Of course, when snuggling up with the big guys the way they are, Citrix themselves said it best in the announcement: "POs are better than PR". It all falls on execution at this point.