Yes, this year Citrix turned 32 years old and if you were on Twitter yesterday you noticed pretty much every employee tweeting using #UnlockPotential. And then, today we were all greeted with a new logo. website, product names and so on.
As a couple people know me from Twitter only, they truly believe I am a harsh, critical Citrix basher, and for that reason I was dragged into the whole marketing campaign/new logo discussion. With that in mind, I believe it is time to set the record straight about my love/hate relationship with Citrix and of course provide you with my view about the company at 32 and with the whole rebranding that is taking place.
To the love/hate: please, there is no hate. To be completely honest my career was built around Citrix. Back in the day I provided technical support at Compaq, being a senior Engineer and dealing with all the OSs that most people did not want to touch like OS/2, Banyan, SCO and at the time the new to the market Windows NT 3.1. Due to that OS/2 background I got into WinView and once Microsoft got into the multi-user game with Hydra (NT TSE), I already had a bunch of Citrix projects under my belt so it was just natural to start working with TSE.
Around 2001 I realized a ton of Citrix customers were paying for a product that could do quite a lot but they were really using a small subset of that. That is when I thought taking a modular approach and breaking up what Citrix could do into modules and sell these separately, should work well from a business standpoint. So one more time, thanks to Citrix products like WTSGateway and WTSPortal came to the market, later acquired by 2X and then Parallels (this is how Parallels RAS started its life).
How can I hate a company that gave me a career in the EUC, got me to develop products and so on? There is no way. I do love Citrix products and technologies but I never forgot what I learned when creating what RAS became: a product is another tool in your toolbox, to be used when required. There is no such thing as an universal tool, what most forget at times.
Citrix as a company did very well during the late 90s and into the 2000s but IMHO the biggest mistake there was the fact once the plane took off and was flying well, they forgot to innovate, deciding to simply milk the cow. On top of that, Mark Templeton, the same guy that got Citrix to that point, did not realize it was time to let it go, for the old dog to pass the bone to someone else and competition (i.e. VMware) caught up (to a certain point – IMHO Citrix is still king). So yes, Mark did great things and terrible ones for the company.
Where then people get this impression I hate the company? In ways simply due to the fact I am very direct and honest, and sometimes blunt. People take my comments personally when they are not even directed at an individual per se but towards a company decision really. Then what happens is you have people that cannot take any criticism and that will do whatever they can to get rid of you. That is the reason why I was banned from Citrix Consulting Services (CCS) after delivering several projects for them, many where other people had screwed up and I was brought in to get the house back in order. A simple tweet about how I thought one of the Citrix training offerings was complete insanity cost wise led to that permanent ban.
That is where there may be a bit of hate on my love/hate relationship with the company.
With that out of the way, what about Citrix today as a company? Well as I said, IMHO they are still king. The product is more polished than the competition, no question about that. It starts with little things like a polished installer as an example (something that a decade later VMware was not able to deliver). Not saying others are bad, not the case (just look at how far along Parallels RAS came – and yes, I did spend four years there as the Advisor to the CEO, helping shaping up the product as it is today and raising its awareness – and got two patents along the way – YAY!). It is just that Citrix is still better and may be the better tool in certain cases. That is all.
Now they did make several mistakes in the past. Some terrible acquisitions with some unbelievable behind the curtains stories (XenServer is one of these but unfortunately I cannot comment on the stories that led to the acquisition). Products that were renamed like a thousand times to a point some people do not even know what to renew any longer. And then we get a new logo and new licensing (what seems to have pissed quite a lot of people).
Do I think Citrix is in the right direction? Well I believe so but the key here is delivering the right message to the customers and being completely upfront. As I mentioned a ton of people are pissed but then you hear stories about customers contacting Citrix and getting the licensing sorted out with the new model. Typical example of bad communication. Such changes, if perceived as terrible, have to be addressed proactively and customers contacted like at 8:00am the day you are announcing these, instead of waiting for them to get on your back.
Also the CEO… Citrix now IMHO needs either a technical CEO with great business experience or even a co-CEO that is technical to work with David (that is not technical). That should help polish the product (as sometimes you ask yourself if a PM at Citrix has ever used some features of the product and if he did how that feature implementation was approved the way it was shipped) while having a much better understanding at the competitor’s level. And to top it up, being technical allows you to quickly understand if your SVPs or VPs are bullshitting you on a technical level or not. Trust me, that helps quite a lot in a meeting with technical folks.
I believe David will be smart enough to realize Mark Templeton made a mistake by not letting it go and will at one point transition his role to someone that can take Citrix to the next stage of its existence as a company. Please, do not take that in a bad way. David did what he had to do to put the company back on track but like anyone else, no one is perfect. The real smart people understand their own limitations and know when to pass the torch around. Simple as that.
I am definitely excited to see what Citrix has up its sleeve. The market needs that. Competition needs that, This is, at the end, what drives the industry forward.
To the next 32 Citrix. Go get them and remember, no hate here.
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