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Citrix Summit 2017: Partners say company is back on track

Channel partners working with Citrix believe the company's refocusing efforts are paying off, citing opportunities in VDI, HCI and SD-WAN technologies.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Citrix partners expressed confidence that the company is back on track after a period of restructuring and leadership changes.

Channel company executives attending this week's Citrix Summit 2017 were generally positive about developments at the company, which cut 900 positions, scuttled some products and saw its CEO depart back in 2015. Since then, the company's drive to refocus on core technologies has resulted in improved financial performance, including third-quarter 2016 results that capped five consecutive quarters of continuous operating improvement.

"Overall, Citrix kind of has its groove back," said Beau Smithback, CEO and architect at Envision IT LLC, a Madison, Wis., company that offers consulting, software development and managed services. "For a couple of years, Citrix was ... trying to figure out what its identity was."

The company now demonstrates "a clear purpose and vision," he noted.

Carl Gersh, director of sales and marketing at Forthright Technology Partners Inc., a consulting, implementation and managed services firm with offices in Florida and North Carolina, said Citrix officials talked about focus at last year's Citrix Summit, but demonstrated that commitment at this year's event.

"They are following through on that plan," he said. "Citrix's management team is very focused on working on fine-tuning the offering, but not trying to be too expansive."

At Citrix Summit 2017, the company cited core areas of emphasis, such as workspace technology -- including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) -- security, cloud and mobility.

Unidesk deal offers differentiation

Partners viewed Citrix's technology investment approach favorably, citing the company's newly unveiled acquisition of Unidesk.

Citrix's management team is very focused on working on fine-tuning the offering, but not trying to be too expansive.
Carl Gershdirector of sales and marketing, Forthright Technology Partners

Gersh said Citrix has made numerous acquisitions in recent years, some of which were in line with the company's core mission, while others seemed more exploratory. The Unidesk deal, however, falls into the former category. Gersh, whose company partners with both Citrix and Unidesk, called Unidesk's application layering technology "a critical component of a VDI environment."

Unidesk's layering approach packages and manages Windows applications, making it easier for partners and their customers to deploy virtual applications and desktops, according to Citrix. The Unidesk purchase will provide Citrix with an established layering technology and help boost its market share.

Nancy Pautsch, president of Envision IT, said Unidesk provides Citrix "a big differentiator against VMware."

Smithback said Envision IT had begun working with Unidesk, noting that the product won the Best of Citrix Synergy award in 2016. He said the company worked with customers last year to get Unidesk into customers' budget cycles for 2017 purchasing. Having Unidesk as part of the Citrix technology stack will encourage customers to accelerate their adoption, he added.

"It really does help drive virtual desktop deployments," Smithback said. He noted that organizations that want to roll out large application stacks may not want to do all the image management associated with such deployments.

Infrastructure moves

Citrix, meanwhile, also emphasized its hyper-converged and networking infrastructure offerings at Citrix Summit 2017.

Calvin Hsu, vice president of product marketing for Windows services at Citrix, said the company has been talking about driving opportunities in the midmarket for the past couple of years, noting that it has been working with ecosystem partners in the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) space to accomplish this. For example, Citrix and Nutanix in 2015 announced plans to combine Citrix's XenDesktop and XenApp desktop and application virtualization software with Nutanix HCI hardware in preconfigured offerings. Customers use the combination to support VDI use cases.

Hsu said that technology alignment has continued, noting "tighter integration" with Nutanix in the last quarter. Specifically, Citrix in October announced that Nutanix supports the latest version of its XenServer, Citrix's server virtualization platform and hypervisor. Customers will be able to run XenServer 7 as a tech preview on Nutanix.

In addition, the company announced its Citrix Ready HCI Workspace Appliance Program at Citrix Summit 2017. The program's initial offering is a collaboration of Citrix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Atlantis Computing: the HPE Edgeline EL4000 Intelligent Edge Workspace. Such HCI appliances link with the Citrix Cloud to automate setup, management and maintenance of XenApp and XenDesktop deployments for midmarket customers.

Gersh said the HCI appliance program helps Citrix address customers with questions on where to run their workloads. He said Citrix Cloud provides a hosted control plane for managing Citrix technologies, but noted that workloads still have to reside somewhere. Now, Citrix can direct customers to Microsoft Azure for customers seeking a cloud option and to the new crop of HCI devices for those who want to run workloads in-house, Gersh explained.

"It makes a much more elegant answer," he said of the arrangement.

Citrix and Microsoft have moved to more tightly link XenDesktop and XenApp to Azure, but Citrix also works with other cloud providers.

In networking infrastructure, Citrix pointed to partner opportunities around its NetScaler application delivery controller product, especially in the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) field.

Ash Chowdappa, vice president and general manager of Citrix's NetScaler business, said SD-WAN will become a $6 billion market by 2020, citing IDC research. He said the key driver is a trend among large organizations to consolidate the technologies they use to support branch offices: firewalls, routers and WAN optimization boxes, for example.

He said finance, banking, insurance, retail and healthcare -- organizations with remote clinics -- are among the industry segments adopting SD-WAN technology, which he termed a "tremendous opportunity."

Pautsch likened NetScaler to a Swiss army knife that can do a lot of things and do them well. She said some clients are hesitant to believe one product can handle a range of networking chores, but said once they gain confidence with one feature, they tend to expand into others. A customer might start with load balancing or application firewalling, for instance, and then unlock additional functionality over time.

And one such direction will likely be SD-WAN.

"On the SD-WAN side, we will see a lot of growth," Pautsch said.

Next Steps

Read about the appointment of Citrix's new CEO

Learn about NetScaler Unified Gateway

Find out how XenDesktop applies to BYOD

Dig Deeper on Virtualization Technology and Services

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