Computerworld

Citrix unveils MetaFrame Access Suite 3.0

Citrix Systems Inc. is increasingly stressing remote access and improving the ability of enterprises to deliver applications to a variety of devices -- and it released updated products Tuesday designed to help users achieve those goals.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company detailed a new version of its flagship product, MetaFrame Access Suite 3.0, at a financial analyst meeting. One feature the company touted was the software's SmoothRoaming capability, which gives users uninterrupted access to data as they move from device to device, or temporarily lose their connection after entering an elevator, for instance.

The software includes session-persistent features that automatically re-establish network connections, while preserving the information when the connection is lost. It also includes a password manager that provides for single sign-on, as well as user recognition capabilities that work with biometrics identification and proximity cards.

Remote access is "what's driving our strategy," said CEO Mark Templeton. Access is "much more a strategic element" in a business's IT infrastructure, he said.

It's certainly a message that makes sense to Charles Redding, CIO at Masco Contractor Services, part of Masco Corp. in Taylor, Mich., a building products company with US$11 billion in annual revenue. Redding said he intends to use Citrix's remote capabilities in his fleet of more than 8,000 vehicles.

Masco already has Global Positioning System deployed in company vehicles but wants to extend application access to those trucks. Redding is now investigating outfitting his vehicles with either PDAs or tablet computers with touch screens. "We're blue-collar workers -- our guys are not good typists," he said.

Having that capability would allow Masco to send new assignments to each truck, and as materials are used on a job, inventory can be updated in real time, said Redding. The company would also like to use voice over IP to end the need for calling workers by telephone.

Redding says he is convinced the technology will work and wants to deploy it during the next year. The only question, he said, is whether the company can get network coverage that reaches at least 60 KB/sec.

"The only thing that scares us is the coverage area," he said, noting that the return on investment will ultimately depend on the cost of the network.

Company officials repeatedly emphasized to financial analysts the strength of its relationship with its important partner -- and biggest threat -- Microsoft Corp. Although Citrix supports a variety of Unix-based applications, most of the applications it serves up are Windows-based. Microsoft terminal services can also deliver applications via server, but Citrix believes its strength is its value-added features and services, such as those included in today's announcement.

Citrix officials said that its Windows offerings delivered $250 million in revenue to Microsoft last year.

The company doesn't offer support for Linux on the server, although its server-based system will deliver applications to a Linux desktop. There are few enterprise, Linux-based applications today, said Bob Kruger, Citrix's chief technology officer. "Until that comes and we see that demand" for Linux support, "there's no point," he said.

But if Citrix sees a need to provide Linux support, it would take only about six months to do so, said Kruger.

Citrix, with its emphasis on access, is trying to leverage its established position as a server-based provider into "a much broader realm of support for enterprise users," said Tom Kucharvy, president of Summit Strategies in Boston.

The most important manifestation of Citrix's expanding support is for mobile devices, such as PDAs, he said. Citrix is expanding "beyond a relatively narrow but profitable niche to providing a much more comprehensive proposition for a larger number of customers," said Kucharvy.

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, Citrix last week reported revenue of $161.3 million for the first three months that ended March 31. That compared to $143.5 million a year ago, a 12.4 percent increase. Net income for the just-completed quarter was $9.3 million.