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Citrix SaaS efforts focus on partner channel expansion

Citrix is executing on a long-term strategy to enable partners worldwide to sell, manage and provision SaaS services.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Citrix SaaS Advisor (CSSA) program, which went live on May 1, is just the beginning of a long-term strategic play by Citrix Systems Inc.'s Online Services Division to expand its Software as a Service offerings -- up until now sold solely through the direct channel -- to the indirect channel.

The first part of the announcement introduced the SaaS resale and referral rewards program for the vendor's suite of collaboration, support and data sharing products: Citrix GoToMeeting, GoToAssist, Citrix ShareFile and Podio. The program allows partners to buy and resell these products through the vendor's distribution partners or to refer customers to Citrix and get paid a referral fee.

The second part of the announcement was directed at managed and cloud service providers, as well as SaaS aggregators that are building marketplaces for SaaS products and would like to integrate the GoTo services into their marketing plans.

According to Mike Musson, vice president of strategy and business development with the Online Services Division at Citrix, the company's global initiative to build strategic SaaS partnerships is underway with the announcement on May 7 that a Citrix GoToMyPC offering will be available in Japan through KDDI Corp., Japan's second-largest telecommunications carrier, and Ascentech K.K., a technology distributor in Japan.

There are also ongoing negotiations with providers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Latin America as the company looks to form strategic partnerships to accelerate its efforts to sell services in those markets. Citrix plans to develop partnerships in the U.S. and Canada as well but is placing a lower priority on partnerships in those countries because it already has a strong presence there. By 2014 Citrix wants to have strategic partners in all major geographies, Musson said.

"Our strategy over time for any customer or partner that is interested in Citrix SaaS technology is to give them a frictionless way to acquire it. What that means is becoming partner-friendly in terms of letting the partner and the distributor sell, manage and provision the account, and manage the subscription service," Musson said in an interview at Citrix Summit here this week.

Although still in its embryonic stages, Citrix is investing in and building teams to have the capacity to have the relationships; structure the agreements; and, from a technical perspective, to integrate with the different billing and provisioning cloud services that are sprouting up in the indirect channel world, added Musson.

Today, in the U.S., for example, Citrix acts like a telecommunications carrier running phone traffic, minutes and sessions of its GoToMeeting collaboration product. The vendor's future plans are to tightly integrate its SaaS infrastructure with a telco partner's infrastructure in a way that is seamless to the end user -- to enable the telco to resell Citrix online services.

Musson believes the market is big enough for all cloud service providers. "Our view is that it's still early in the adoption of these technologies with a lot of market demand that hasn't been met, and there's opportunity for all types of players to meet that demand," he said.

The Citrix executive envisions different players bringing different advantages to the deal. For example, a telco may address customers interested in doing a bundle with broadband and PBX audio conferencing services adding Web collaboration into the mix, while a channel partner might support a customer that's interested in rolling out a "poor man's" unified communication solution with Logitech webcams on a laptop in a conference room with Web collaboration.

There's currently no way predict what the demand pool will be for these different services and it's likely that there will be a lot of ways companies will want to acquire the technology and be supported by the partner, according to Musson.

"Our view is, let's set up a structure that we can integrate with, sell and support all types of channel partners, maintain an agnostic Switzerland-like status and let them all fight it out," said Musson. "We'll be fair. We won't play partners against each other. … [Everyone will get] the same pricing, everyone [will get] the discounts based upon volume, and we'll go from there."

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