The final technology mile often the toughest: Citrix chief

It’s the last mile that’s the toughest for marathon runners and the same is true for the world of IT, according to Citrix Systems Inc. CEO and president Mark Templeton.

In IT, the last mile is access. The world is becoming more digital but accessing the data that is now available to us from all kinds of different sources is still a hurdle we need to cross, said Templeton during a keynote address at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Citrix’s iForum conference, held recently in Orlando.

“We’ll be way further down the road in gathering all this information together and making it digital before we can actually make it that accessible,” he said.

Before we can achieve true accessibility, we’ll have to tackle a whole slew of financial, technical and social problems, Templeton said.

The struggle will be worth it, he promised, because accessibility will lead to greater mobility and increased productivity.

“We’ll know when we get there when we can walk up to any kind of screen anywhere whether it’s in an airport kiosk, or at a customer’s office, or in an airplane or a screen at the home of one of our friends and get to our workplace and conduct a transaction, communicate with someone, collaborate with someone, get something done. Now we haven’t gotten there yet.”

During the last mile, you want to package the data that is coming from any number of sources in a way that’s organized to the user, he said.

“Until you deal with the last mile in systematic way, access will constantly be a problem for you.”

In order to achieve this, companies need to separate the last mile from the data centre and create a virtual access layer in between the two, Templeton said. This will allow companies to deal with the headaches that can be caused when they acquire a new organization, expand geographically or switch to a new operating system.

“So when you put a virtual access layer in between the last mile and the data centre, they can work independently from one another. You can react to changes. Right now everything is interlocked, and this provides a lot of problems,” he said.

Citrix provides organizations with wireless and networked access to server-based applications running on a variety of client devices and platforms.

During the conference the company previewed its portal product, code named South Beach. Citrix also recently announced 50 new features and functions to its MetaFrame XP, MetaFrame 1.1 for UNIX, NFuse 1.6 and Extranet 2.5.

When South Beach becomes available, Gordon Widdes, vice-president of IS at Brookfield Properties in Toronto, is planning to use it.

“South Beach would allow us to launch everything from one area,” he said.

The company currently makes about 30 applications available to users across the country through MetaFrame.

Although Widdes said the software doesn’t work well with highly graphical applications, it was the only application that suited his company’s needs.

“We didn’t look at other technology because there was no other technology that could do what we needed,” he said.

Neil Denny, a technical support specialist at Janes Family Foods in Concord, Ont., also uses Citrix’s MetaFrame 1.8 for Windows 2000. He plans on moving his company onto Microsoft’s XP soon and onto Citrix’s XP product.

He hopes the move will take care of issues the current install has with printing.

“It just doesn’t print very well. We find that printing is very slow through the Internet…[MetaFrame XP] is supposed to take care of that – which would be a great thing.”