Mark Templeton, CEO of application access vendor Citrix Systems, recently worked the crowds at Citrix's iForum user conference. In this interview with Computerworld, Templeton discusses a range of topics, including the company's bond with Microsoft and ongoing user concerns about Citrix's complex licensing schemes.
Q: Citrix has been joined at the hip with Microsoft for well over a decade. Given that Microsoft sees Linux as a competitive threat, do you see Linux as more of a threat or an opportunity?
Neither. We see it as just another part of the application infrastructure complexity that customers deal with. Our role is to make sure we stay focused on our goal to provide customers with a suite of products that allow them to deal with that complexity.
Q: What are the prospects for a MetaFrame Presentation Server for Linux?
It's possible. We already offer a MetaFrame Presentation Server for other variations of Unix -- Solaris, AIX and HP-UX. So from a technical perspective, there's no obstacle in any way, shape or form there.
Q: Is Microsoft an obstacle?
They're not, because this is about doing what customers need for access. What customers need really drives what we build. But the fact of the matter is there aren't any widely accepted applications at the user tier where applications are accessed that are built on Linux. And there are very few on Unix anymore.
Q: Are you helping Microsoft at all in the area of patch management?
Q: I would have thought Citrix's client access technology would have been very beneficial in helping Microsoft solve that problem.
I agree with you on the challenge; I think Microsoft very much agrees. I think they have a very sound game plan where you'll be able to aggregate patches. An IT organization will be a redistribution point for patches.
In some very indirect way, to the degree that a patch is about supporting a particular application, and to the degree that that application is being delivered by IT in a Citrix and Terminal Services environment, then the answer is yes, (Citrix technology is being used for patch management). Because you patch one machine -- the server -- and that patch is relevant for many machines in terms of those that access it. But that's not a general statement about helping Microsoft with patch management.
Q: At last year's iForum you told Computerworld that Citrix's licensing was too complicated, and you said Citrix was working on a technology-based approach to the problem that you would present to customers in about a year. How's it coming?
That's exactly right. We've done several things. Since then, we've provided something we call "pre-activated licenses." For certain size and types of customers, the licenses go to them pre-activated. So we've taken that whole morass of complexity around activation completely out of the picture for them.
The second thing we did is yesterday we announced packaged pricing for the entire access suite. It's been designed around simplicity.
The technology-based approach that I promised we demonstrated yesterday morning. We demonstrated an access suite licensing service that we'll release next year. The licensing service basically allows IT to have one place to go to see all of the licenses that they own, in terms of how many, where they are and their utilization. They can optimize the utilization of licenses so they can buy more when they need more, not when they guess they need more.
Q: You said "next year." Can you nail that down at all?
I can't right now. I've got all kinds of guys on my butt that tell me I can't say. Obviously, we feel this is a very important part of our infrastructure going forward, especially when you add more products to a suite. It is a strategic component for us to be able to add multiple products to the suite without introducing additional complexity for customers.
Q: Is this technology being developed by Citrix, or are you acquiring it from a third party?
We've licensed some technology that's the basis for this.
Q: Licensed from whom?
We haven't announced that yet. I think we will, because it's part of a good message. But we're not ready to announce that yet.
Q: What do you think about the per-employee pricing model that Sun introduced last month?
Nothing revolutionary there. We've been doing that, and others have been doing that, for years. I think the most active company in this area for years has been IBM, because IBM has so much back-end infrastructure. We have done the same thing. I think we probably have 10 to 15 significant customers in the world that license this way.
Q: There's a link on your Web site to an IDC white paper on Citrix technology that's very favorable to Citrix. What's your response to a user who says the white paper lacks credibility because Citrix sponsored it?
I would explain to them that those reports come after IDC does the basic research; (Citrix) then sponsors the packaging and distribution of it. It's all conditional on how the research comes out. It's really not unlike when there's a review in Computerworld on something that Citrix has, and we say, "Hey, we want reprints of that because we want to repurpose that and broadcast that in a wider way."
Q: So is it accurate to say Citrix didn't commission this IDC white paper?
That is correct. We have commissioned work with analysts. All of our TCO stuff has been done by outside analysts commissioned by us, and we disclose that.