Citrix customers point out messy marketing

A Citrix Systems Inc. marketing manager predicts a bright future for the sort of server-based computer systems that his company sells, but judging by comments from Canadian Citrix users and partners, the firm has some explaining to do before such a vision can come true.

In a one-on-one interview at iForum, the vendor’s annual get together for customers and partners held in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Oct. 4 to 6, Citrix’s Solutions Marketing Manager John Prestridge said evermore strict data collection and dissemination rules might cause some enterprises to rethink their penchants for PC-centric computing.

As governments enact strong regulations regarding data retention and distribution, such as Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, enterprises might seek ways to better control their computing environments, Prestridge said.

Whereas many companies distribute computing control about the enterprise via individual desktop PCs, Citrix purports a more centralized approach, whereby users access applications resident not on the desktop, but on back-end servers.

The server-centric architecture makes it easier for businesses to manage applications, keep systems free of viruses, and coral their electronic assets, according to Prestridge.

“I think we’re going to see a next wave,” he said. “There’s going to be a consolidation of IT infrastructure into a tighter, more controlled environment.”

But according to Canadian Citrix users and partners at iForum, the vendor might have to iron out some wrinkles in its marketing messages before such an evolution can come about.

Canuck iForum participants said Citrix’s product descriptions make it difficult to know just where the software vendor stands today, let alone where it’s headed.

Todd Hsu, president of THConsultants Inc., a Citrix systems developer in Montreal, pointed out that Citrix has two programs that seem to do the same thing. There’s a component in the Citrix MetaFrame Presentation Server that provides Web-based access to applications; and there’s the MetaFrame Secure Access Manager, a program that provides Web-based access to applications.

It’s difficult, at first glance, to recognize the difference between these two programs, Hsu said. The current state of affairs, in turn, “makes it a little difficult for customers to appreciate” what Citrix has to offer.

Meanwhile Tom Rutherford, senior systems developer at Applied Industrial Technologies Ltd., an industrial product supplier in Saskatoon, said it’s tough for customers to know just where they stand in the Citrix product lifecycle, because the vendor seems to change its product names so often.

“It’s hard to tell sometimes,” Rutherford said, adding later that Applied Industrial uses Secure Access Manager (formerly known as NFuse Elite) and the Presentation Server (formerly known as MetaFrame). Rutherford’s firm has also tested Citrix’s Conferencing Manager for projects that require collaboration.

For the most part Rutherford seemed pleased with the Citrix environment that his company runs. Applied Industrial operates 50 branch offices between Winnipeg and Vancouver. Citrix lets the IT department manage applications across the entire enterprise, without having to employ IT staff at the remote bureaus.

Rutherford said he came to iForum to gain further insight into Citrix. “We relied heavily on a VAR (value-added reseller) for the Citrix installation and support. We felt it was time…[to] come and look a little closer.” Rutherford also came to the gathering to find solutions to printing and connectivity issues. He said a brief discussion with other iForum attendees suggested to him that Applied Industrial isn’t the only firm facing these problems. “There’s a whole bunch of us in the same boat.”

Prestridge from Citrix said the vendor is aware of the confusion that some of its products cause. He explained that the Web Interface portion of Presentation Server provides Internet access only to apps associated with Presentation Server, and Secure Access Manager provides Internet access to all applications.

While Prestridge couldn’t say if Citrix would amend its product descriptions to make this distinction clear, he did say the firm is “always looking at ways to make it easier for customers to understand what we offer.”

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