Citrix: The Impact of Bob Calderoni’s Operational Announcements

Late Tuesday, November 17, Citrix provided a public operational review update. The short summary is that the GoTo products will be spun off into an independent business, Citrix is focusing on its core competencies, and 1,000 people have been laid off. Having talked to a few people at Citrix, I know that these are challenging times.

The most exciting part of Bob Calderoni’s announcements is that Citrix is going to focus on its core competencies: i.e., secure delivery of apps and data. Specifically, XenApp/XenDesktop, XenMobile, ShareFile, and NetScaler are all included under the umbrella of secure delivery of apps and data.

Returning focus to XenApp/XenDesktop is most welcomed. Citrix created this technology in the ’90s and is the market leader, but VMware has been nipping at its heels with its Horizon 6 product. VMware has actively enticed Citrix customers to kick the tires on Horizon 6. For some, it has triggered adoption of it as their virtualization solution. Others have become disenchanted with the technical results of a Horizon proof of concept and decided to remain Citrix customers.

Citrix can’t afford to miss a beat with XenApp/XenDesktop; it needs to continue to improve its HDX technologies, reliability, administrative interface, and general functionality. Administration of the company’s technologies needs to be simplified. Common administrative issues don’t need workarounds: they need to not happen or they need to consistently self-repair. For example, within XenDesktop, a common yet critical error that administrators may see is related to unregistered devices. When this error occurs, users can’t access resources. Sometimes this issue self-repairs, but sometimes it doesn’t. Especially for critical issues, Citrix developers need to look at configuration and common issues from the viewpoint of a newbie administrator.

There is a lack of clarity as to whether Provisioning Server, XenServer, and other ancillary XenApp/XenDesktop products are included in the “safe” zone. Especially in large enterprises, a Citrix virtualization solution comprises not just XenApp/XenDesktop but a large array of components, and removing these products would be a mistake.

Provisioning Server, commonly known as “PVS,” is an excellent technology that is used mainly by larger enterprises as a provisioning mechanism for virtualized servers and desktops. While Citrix has been pushing the use of the embedded Machine Creation Services (MCS) within XenApp/XenDesktop, PVS addresses memory and storage much more efficiently. PVS is an integral part of larger Citrix implementations, and forcing these customers to use MCS would be a mistake.

Over the past year, since Citrix seemed to leave the hypervisor to die, XenServer has been starting to regain traction, especially in the mid-market. Many were frustrated when the XenServer team became quiet and ceased following any resemblance of a roadmap. During that time, VMware vSphere increased market share among dissatisfied XenServer administrators. An on-again, off-again approach to XenServer would not send a positive message to administrators who have just started to believe in Citrix’s hypervisor product once again.

The Elliott letter dated June 11th called for “exploration of strategic alternatives for NetScaler.” It’s evident that business and technical sense prevailed, because the tight linkage between NetScaler and XenApp/XenDesktop, as well as XenMobile, is irrefutable. Mobility continues to gain traction, and ShareFile plays an important role in data storage.

Certainly, no one is surprised that the GoTo unit is being spun off from Citrix. Yes, the GoTo products are quite useful, but they never did quite fit into the mainstream Citrix product set. Podio never fit into the Citrix product set, either, so separation may be imminent. Other non-core business units are reportedly on their way to becoming short-lived as well.

About 1,000 Citrites were laid off late last week. To Wall Street, this just means 1,000 faceless employees were removed from the payroll. However, this is a small industry, and it’s likely that readers will know some of the people who were impacted. Word on the street is that those laid off include people with strategic job titles, a few developers, and some sales and marketing staff.

In the past, Citrix has not laid off people at year end but has instead waited until at least January, so this clearly demonstrates that Bob Calderoni is not delaying taking imminent action. Bob Calderoni has only officially been interim president and CEO since October 21, and these are fast, sweeping changes for a few short weeks at the helm.

It’s clear that the metamorphosis of Citrix is in fast-forward, and that an agile, streamlined Citrix will emerge from this hurricane of changes.

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