Citrix CEO: 'We've Reimagined The Entire Company In The Last 12 Months'


It hasn't yet been a year since David Henshall took the top job at Citrix, but already he's overseen a major overhaul of the virtualization company's product portfolio and its channel program.

This week, Henshall, Citrix' long-serving CFO before his promotion in June, presented the fruits of that transformation to customers and partners attending the company's flagship conference, Citrix Synergy, in Anaheim, Calif.

Addressing Synergy attendees for the first time as CEO, Henshall and his team showcased new products and integrations that deliver Citrix and third-party solutions as more-unified and comprehensive offerings.

[Related: Partners Praise New Citrix CEO As Proven Channel Advocate]

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"We've reimagined the entire company in the last 12 months by transforming multiple business units into a really end-to-end, streamlined business," Henshall told CRN in an interview at the conference.

"We're working hard to give partners a solution that is more applicable to every user and every enterprise," Henshall said.

That starts with a cohesive and aligned product message—something that Citrix hasn't always delivered.

"The strategy has been to step back and extract away as much complexity as we can," Henshall said. Citrix aimed to break down product silos and ease the experience of using its technology to connect people and information on demand.

In his keynote Tuesday, Henshall presented Workspace, a new product that's a major component of that larger strategy.

Workspace is a client-side app for any device and operating system that serves as a user portal for ingesting all Citrix back-end services, as well as dozens of apps from popular Software-as-a-Service vendors.

Workspace, which essentially unifies elements from Citrix Receiver, ShareFile and XenMobile, is "applicable to every enterprise, every employee," Henshall told CRN.

It's meant as the gateway to Citrix' traditional on-premise solutions like XenApp and XenDesktop; Citrix Cloud, an umbrella platform for about 15 Citrix services and public cloud integrations; and SaaS from vendors like Salesforce and Workday.

For those third-party solutions, Workspace delivers single sign-on capability and a hardened web-browser, purpose-built from the Chromium open source browser, that imposes the same security controls as for Citrix-virtualized apps and desktops.

Complementing Workspace is a new security service called Citrix Analytics, first teased at the RSA conference and now made generally available.

Citrix Analytics monitors user behavior and implements machine learning to detect anomalies. Administrators can set remediation policies for when abnormal behavior surfaces, such as recording sessions, sending alerts, or restricting access.

That product's capabilities are possible because of the Citrix networking portfolio—the NetScaler application delivery controller and NetScaler SD-WAN feed end-to-end data to Analytics for training its algorithm.

"All of a sudden we have these capabilities to provide really rich information back into the Workspace," he said, like contextual access and traffic routing data.

At Synergy, Citrix also introduced Workplace Hub, a small and relatively inexpensive device, built from the Raspberry Pi, that through a Bluetooth connection allows users to cast with a single swipe displays to different screens and interface with VoIP services.

At previous Citrix Synergy conferences, product announcements often teased solutions still in development.

But Henshall, who was known to balance longtime CEO Mark Templeton's visionary tendencies with a grounded approach to the business, told customers this year's conference is only showcasing products ready to hit market.

"Everything we showed this week is available now or in the next couple months," he told CRN.

For partners, that translates to immediate opportunities to sell a broader set of solutions to existing customers, and more opportunities to win new ones.

"We've transformed the portfolio so much in 12 months to really integrate these end-to-end solutions," Henshall said. "So partners just need to engage so they're educated on what we're doing, where we are."

While attention at Synergy fell on front-end service that directly affects the user experience, on the backend, Citrix is shepherding a transition among many of its largest customers from its on-premises solutions to Citrix Cloud.

Citrix won't reveal how much of its install base has adopted the integrated cloud management service that's long been in development. But Henshall told CRN that in the last fiscal quarter, 25 percent of engagements with large customers were around Citrix Cloud.

The dominant paradigm

In the long view, the company expects Citrix Cloud to become the dominant paradigm for delivery of virtualized apps, desktops, files and services, he said. The pace of adoption, however, is entirely up to customers and channel partners.

"We're not going to force partners to cloud just like we're not going to force customers to cloud," Henshall said. "But it is important to recognize that that's where a lot of infrastructure is going."

Citrix envisions a hybrid world in which its on-premise products remain highly relevant, especially for customers in certain industries and geographies.

The goal isn't to become a cloud company, the CEO said, but instead one that enables more contextual engagement through diversified capabilities.

Henshall sees the range of Citrix offerings as a differentiator in the market, especially now that the work has been done to interconnect them in a way that delivers a seamless user experience.

"We have assets around content, networking, virtualization. We have a breadth that's not easy to replicate," he told CRN. And now "they're built together verses needing to be put together by an integrator."

As Citrix worked to revamp its portfolio over the last year, it also introduced a simplified partner program geared for speeding deal registrations.

Carl Gersh, director of sales and marketing for Forthright Technology Partners, a Citrix partner based in Miramar, Fla., said Citrix has unified front-end services with Workspace much like Citrix Cloud unified the back-end.

"Workspace, by presenting a single unified interface for end-users to get the apps, the SaaS as well, their files and data they need, all in one simple interface, gives them the user experience that helps increase productivity," Gersh told CRN.

And Citrix Analytics takes care of any risks in enabling such a mobile experience by analyzing traffic patterns looking for suspicious behaviors, he said.

Workspace Hub will also excite many end users, Gersh said, enabling use cases such as doctors casting patient information to displays in examination rooms to executives transferring conference sessions from mobile devices to big screens.

"They've always said they are changing. What we saw at this event was the change," Gersh told CRN. "They said the future is now."

With the upgraded portfolio, it's going to be easier to present Citrix solutions directly to business leaders without requiring detailed explanations or demos as had been the case in the past.

"That's going to fuel expansion into new markets, new customers," Gersh said.

Channel chief Craig Stillwell told CRN the program introduced at the start of this year that consolidated five partner programs into one, surprisingly, has come off without a hitch

"I'm shocked how smoothly that has gone," Stillwell said of the transition.

More than 16,000 registrations have been approved, or rejected, on the spot by the new, automated system.

Now that Citrix has "substantially expanded" its product offerings, it falls on his organization to teach partners how to position those products in the market.

"I think we'll have a substantial amount of enablement, both technical and sales and enablement, by the end of this quarter," Stillwell told CRN.

Partners are excited about expanded use case, he said, especially SaaS application management.

And customers are telling him that the Citrix portfolio, for the first time, "feels like one company."

"They're telling me, we've never heard a more cohesive, aligned strategic message from you," Stilwell said.