Citrix, Microsoft Unveil Access Version For SMBs

Called Citrix Access Essentials, the product--slated to make its debut at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis--offers a new named-user pricing model and, for the first time, includes Microsoft terminal services client access licenses (CALs) in the base price. Other features include a new management console and wizards to ease installation and deployment.

Citrix Access Essentials will cost $229 per named user. That includes the $100 to $150 fee for the terminal services CALs required for the product's use with the Windows server. The product ships with a 75-user limit, Citrix said.

Customers of the current, more enterprise-focused version of Access Suite pay according to a concurrent licensing model and must license terminal services through Microsoft separately. A similarly configured version of Access Standard with terminal services CALs, for instance, would be priced at $425 to $450, Citrix said.

In April, Citrix announced that it would provide new versions of Access for SMBs and the VARs that serve them. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based software vendor also said at the time that it planned to engage with Hewlett-Packard's and IBM's services arms more deeply.

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Plans call for Citrix Access Essentials to be sold entirely through the channel. Ross Brown, worldwide vice president of channels and operations at Citrix, said Access Essentials is ideal for the company's Gold and Silver partners and noted that Citrix aims to recruit Microsoft partners at the conference to join Citrix's channel program and help sell Access Essentials. Citrix's Platinum partners focus primarily on the enterprise market.

Access Essentials eliminates the need for users to deploy a corporate VPN to access their applications remotely. That makes the product well-suited for SMBs, said Paul Freeman, president of Coast Solutions, a technology services distributor in Irvine, Calif.

"I am a big believer in selling packaged services to the SMB space and believe that this fills a need that both partners and customers have," Freeman said. "Microsoft should form more of these types of solution alliances and bundled offerings to deliver a wider variety of best-of-breed solutions to the channel."

The bundling of Microsoft CALs into the base Access Essentials product makes it less of a stumbling block for SMB customers and an easier sell for VARs, said Greg Gatzke, CEO of ZagTech, a San Jose, Calif.-based Citrix and Microsoft partner.

"I've been hearing rumors about Access Essentials and have been looking forward to it. It's great to see them roll in the pricing of the Terminal Server Client," Gatzke said. "Customers have always seen this as a direct cost, anyway. Adding it as a combined SKU makes it cleaner for the customer and easier to accept."

Citrix's Brown said Access Essentials has been in the planning stage for more than a year and will address the needs of the channel. Though the product lacks the high-end features of the full enterprise version, such as load balancing and server farm management, it offers all of the core capabilities of Access, formerly known as the MetaFrame Presentation Server.

"One of long-term channel criticisms of the Citrix product is that it was more enterprise-focused and [for SMB customers] it's overkill and hard to manage," Brown said. "It's a hard sell into the midmarket and small businesses."

Citrix is launching Access Essentials closely with Microsoft and plans to pitch the product as a complementary offering for Microsoft Small Business Server, Brown added.