Citrix CEO urges IT to get flexible, use virtual desktops

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton used the Interop keynote stage to preach virtualization and advise IT managers to be flexible in application delivery and networking.

Calling it "the big R," Citrix CEO Mark Templeton said Wednesday that the IT industry has been in a recession since 2001 and needs to rethink network computing.

During his Interop keynote in Las Vegas, Templeton stressed that the industry must move toward hosted Web-based applications that travel over IP networks to virtual desktops -- Citrix's business model.

All of the industry luminaries speaking at the Las Vegas show used the forum to push their worldview. The good news for solution providers is that these various grand plans require lots of data center reconfiguration and rewiring before they can be realized -- and that means partner opportunity.

The enterprise can't afford to be locked into distributed computing, with PCs hooked into one data center and "hard coding holding it together," according to Templeton.

"We have to move away from this rigid system," he said.

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With data center consolidation and the increasing mobility of the workforce, the distance between where applications reside, where they're managed and the location of workers is increasing every day, he said. That situation naturally lends itself to hosted applications and virtual machines.

Templeton pointed to DirecTV's technology, which has three large data centers, headend centers that act as hubs to receive and output signals, and digital receivers at the end-user site. The company stays away from making content, seeking only to aggregate and deliver.

"Why can't our computing systems work the same way?" he asked.

In Templeton's vision, the data center is a "delivery center." That model puts the cloud on one end, followed immediately by an access gateway, a delivery controller, a branch repeater to enhance applications at remote locations, and finally application receivers -- otherwise known as virtual desktops. Applications reside in the cloud and sometimes in the delivery center, depending on their use. That system results in fewer components, thereby decreasing power use and cost.

Midspeech, Templeton touted Citrix's Interop debut of the application delivery appliance NetScaler MPX, which uses multi-core architecture to enable application delivery at 10 Gigabits and has built-in firewall and traffic compression. He said the appliance works between the data center -- or delivery center -- and the cloud.

NetScaler completes Citrix's package of virtualized applications, servers and desktops. Templeton also trumpeted the long-awaited release of the Citrix Workflow Studio, which will manage the service delivery process end-to-end. That product will be launched at the Citrix Synergy conference in Houston May 20.

Though heavyweight companies like Microsoft have taken to desktop and application virtualization (in Microsoft's case, partially as a result of an alliance with Citrix), the technology is still fledgling.

But the model will take hold because most enterprise customers are unhappy with applications and computing as they know them, he said. Much of Citrix's revenue does not come from IT budgets but from departmental budgets, because average workers are frustrated and demanding change. "You have to take computing into your own hands," Templeton urged.

He likened resistance to this change in the industry to mainframe zealots who refused evolution for a long time.

"Mainframe guys got stuck in the tar pit and didn't make the transition to personal computing. Are we going to let that happen again?"

Templeton did not take questions, but later an executive from Citrix and another from Microsoft got together for a discussion about their companies' alliance and simultaneous competition. Beyond questions about how the two companies get along and future projects, they also talked about the realities of convincing end users outside of IT to buy into virtual desktops.

Eric Steinberg of The Boundless Group asked if there would be a "religious argument" over this computing model, reminiscent of the Mac vs. Windows battle.

David Roussain, Citrix's vice president of application virtualization, acknowledged the move away from calling virtual desktops "thin clients," a term that gives the impression that there is less to offer. Citrix is always working on the system and focusing on support for peripherals like printers and other features, so that end users won't notice the difference in environment.

Mike Neil, general manager of virtualization strategy at Microsoft, said the virtues of virtual desktops -- including the ability to assign administrative rights from a single point of management and to turn applications on and off like "turning a knob" -- would win out in the enterprise.

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