Citrix sounds off on portal software

Citrix Systems Inc. made several announcements at its iForum user conference in Orlando, Fla. earlier this month, including a licensing agreement with BEA Systems Inc. to develop an NFuse Classic portlet for the BEA WebLogic Portal 7.0.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Citrix makes software that allows enterprises to port Windows and other operating systems to thin clients over a network. This news builds on Citrix’s recent deal with IBM Corp. and VMware Inc. to deliver an interoperable server/client consolidation solution and existing agreements that connect the NFuse Classic portal software with the Oracle 9iAS Portal, Sun ONE Portal Server and the IBM WebSphere Portal.

The partnerships allow existing end users integrated access to legacy and client/server applications through their chosen portal interface, Citrix said.

The joint solution will be available at the end of the year and can be downloaded at the BEA Portal Solution Center, the companies said.

NFuse Classic is part of Citrix’s access portal product family, which provides customers with roles-based access to applications and information aggregated into a Web portal from an organization’s disparate systems.

Currently using the NFuse Classic portal is Markham, Ont.-based Kinark Child and Family Services. Joe Haynes, director of systems and property for Kinark, said the non-profit children’s health care centre recently deployed an enterprise-wide portal to connect all nine remote offices and 700 users across Ontario. The majority of Kinark’s employees are case workers travelling to children’s homes across the province, Haynes said, so it was necessary to offer the ability to make reports out in the field or remotely from their homes.

Prior to the portal solution Kinard was using a dial-up gateway between servers “and each office had their own had their own database, because there was no connectivity to bring the data together. Come month end…we had to take these nine databases, bring them together and report on them,” Haynes said.

Server consolidation, remote access and integration are the hot issues to Canadian companies right now, according to David Wright, managing director, Citrix Canada Inc. in Mississauga, Ont. “The climate we see in the marketplace right now (is) that there is very strong interest in products that provide immediate hard benefits,” Wright said.

Citrix in Canada has traditionally been in the government and public institution space and seems to be branching out into the larger enterprise market, noted Warren Shiau, software analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto. Even though portal software is one of the hottest segments of the software market, Citrix’s biggest competition may be Web services itself, according to Shiau. The company’s thin client and portal software strategy appears to be a proprietary offering of what the future of Web services promises to be, he added.

Citrix also announced at iForum its first Service Pack for its NFuse Elite access portal server software and previewed new features of MetaFrame XP for Windows.

The service pack speeds portal desktop log on time – including automatic log-in – and enables NFuse Elite administrators to download new Content Delivery Agents (CDAs) from the Citrix NFuse Elite Central Web site, Citrix said.

The CDAs include adaptors for applications such as Lotus iNotes, Microsoft Outlook and Windows NetMeeting Internet collaboration and conferencing solution, as well as database viewers that display on the portal desktop a custom view of data residing in Oracle, Microsoft SQL and Microsoft Access databases.

The new features of Citrix’s application serving and management platform MetaFrame XP with Feature Release 3 include “extended” support for Microsoft’s upcoming operating system, Windows .Net Server 2003, company officials said.

The offering is scheduled for general availability in the first half of 2003, Citrix said, and features a universal server farm print driver, a faster browser, and “simplified” licence activation.

Citrix also previewed Project “Pearl” – an offering the company said enables real-time collaboration on documents. Citrix said Project Pearl will allow geographically dispersed workgroups using Citrix MetaFrame XP for Windows application server software view, edit and share access to published applications in real-time.

Project Pearl will offer collaboration capabilities for any Citrix MetaFrame XP published applications, company officials said, including Microsoft Visio, Project, and Excel and will be compatible with its NFuse Elite and NFuse Classic offerings to run applications in a portal setting.

“The offering allows customers to share documents and develop them together in real time to boost productivity and expedite decision-making,” said Russ Naples, vice-president and general manager of Citrix’s client/server business unit.

Without buying new server farms or architecture, enterprises will be able to share documents among remote meeting participants, Naples said, adding Project Pearl will enable remote employees to function in a “virtual workplace.”

The product is scheduled for general availability in the first half of 2003 and is available now through Citrix’s Technology Preview program, Citrix said.

“Our job in Canada is to take the product and enable our channel partners.”