This year’s Citrix Synergy was a very interesting and successful event. From my point of view, Citrix has found their stride in representing their unique value add to the market. They took the opportunity to show some early stage technologies, such as the Citrix Receiver for iPhone, Merchandising Server and Dazzle (see my and Joe Shonk’s thought on this here). This was a pleasant surprise to see this large, well established technology company able to shift to stay ahead of emerging trends. It was pretty clear, pretty quickly, that Mark Templeton is not resting on 20 years of success and that he and his team are in touch with the emerging Web 2.0 and Could Computing spaces. I was pretty happy overall…
After arriving home though I had a follow up meeting with a key client with a highly visible Educational Citrix project. They were at Synergy and were featured speakers and panelists, and, were a semi-finalist for the 2009 Citrix Innovation Award. They were NOT happy!! But why??
As a publicly funded educational institution who had committed their entire budget and personal reputations on a full scale adoption of the End to End Citrix solution they were confused. They had invested in hosting applications with XenApp, virtual desktops with XenDesktop and invested in virtualizing all of their servers with XenServer. Why was Citrix now featuring rich clients, client side virtualization and highly personalized PC’s used for business purposes?!!?!?
Hmmm, good question…….
I tried to explain that contrary to the appearance of it, that Citrix was not turning their back on their past and existing products/approaches, that everything they had invested in is still the best way to build an infrastructure and deliver applications. However, they made a strong series of arguments that it appeared Citrix was now suddenly touting rich clients and unmanaged PC’s and Mac as the delivery method of the future. They needed to know- did they make a big mistake deploying their system?
So, I turned to the source and contacted Mark Templeton directly. He responded quickly and personally to provide an explanation. Mark clarified that the direction is really about being endpoint agnostic. Emerging rich client scenarios, such as BYOPC (bring your own PC) are NOT being pursued at the expense of the thin client paradigm. The idea is to transcend the dichotomy and choice between thin and fat clients completely. In the DirectTV analogy that was used at Synergy , any content (application) is broadcast and can be used by any desktop (receiver)- the system should ‘automagically’ adjust to the device you are on. In the past there were limits to what a thin client could do, and, certain kinds of PC scenarios couldn’t benefit from hosted/centralized solutions. What Mark explained is that in the future all client platforms can subscribe equally to applications and the user can have whatever type of endpoint system they want.
So, the new focus on rich desktops and highly personalized personal/business endpoints should not be taken as a shift away from the proven benefits of centralized, virtualized and remote “thin” computing. Virtualized apps, desktops and servers are easier to manage and save money , they will continue to be the back-end infrastructure of this new rich client world.
So which is it Citrix, thin or fat? I think the answer is that it won’t matter going forward, centralized/virtualized content will be tailored and delivered to endpoints based on their capabilities. Personal content can remain local under your control and whatever needs to be secure and separated (i.e.confidential business data) can co-exist in a separate execution space. The cool thing is that your device could be a thin client, a PC, a Mac, a Netbook, a remote virtual machine or some other device we haven’t seen just yet (think of iTunes for applications).
Okay, so it not Fat or Thin, but potentially our client in the near future will be PHAT!