Citrix touts new ‘software-defined workplace' focus

Citrix rolls out software-defined workplace strategy

Citrix is laying out a new strategy to position itself as a "software-defined workplaces" company that enables its customers to have a mobile workforce that can access everything they need to be productive from anywhere and on any device.

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton said the "software-defined" conversation has so far focused on components in the data center, like networking, storage and even the data center as a whole. Citrix wants to extend that conversation to include virtualizing workplaces as well.

The proliferation of mobile computing, the rise of telecommuters and the desire to more efficiently use resources are driving the need for businesses to be able to deliver applications to users, no matter where they are. Virtual workplaces allow for "greater productivity, better business economics and a way to build IT infrastructure so that it's built to support a wide range of business initiatives that are typically limited by physicality," Templeton said.

In an exclusive interview with Network World, Templeton laid out a grand vision for the company.

Software defined workplaces bring benefits beyond just being able to work from home or wherever, he said. Having a virtual workplace can help with disaster recovery and business continuity, for example. If there's a flood, earthquake or fire at a company's main office then in a physical workplace resources are destroyed. In a virtual workspace recovering from disaster is dramatically easier.

Virtual workplaces can also connect employees around the world. Hiring and onboarding employees in faraway places can be costly. Virtual workplaces allow new workers to start as quickly and easily as connecting their devices to company networks.

"Once virtual workplaces are adopted, they can be monetized and leveraged over and over again for solutions like cyber-security, teleworking, offshoring, disaster continuity, increasing density of workplaces," Templeton said. Virtual workplaces allow for more efficient use of resources by making BYOD management easier, allowing employees to use their own devices instead of having multiple phones, tablets and laptops.

Templeton said the incremental changes each of those efficiencies bring to a company can add up to big savings.

Matthew Eastwood, IDC's Group Vice President and GM of the research firm's Enterprise Platform Group, said Citrix already has a solid platform and products to deliver on this message. Templeton did not announce any major new product initiatives, but Eastwood believes some existing products could be packaged together differently and updated. This news is really about "crisper messaging" of how Citrix will go to market, he said.

"Citrix is recognizing that there's a lot of shadow IT out there," meaning employees are using unsanctioned applications for their work, Eastwood said. "When you talk about consumerization of the IT experience, what that really means is that working at home is better than at work. Citrix is recognizing that they can help enterprises bring a much more state of the art experience to customers, and at same time secure it."

The messaging of "software defined" components is a popular one nowadays. VMware, for example, has articulated a strategy of a software defined data center. Templeton said software defined workplaces are different though.

"Whereas a data center being software defined is driving the bottom line through the CIO, the workplace being software defined is where business value is created," Templeton said. "It's driving the top line through the CEO and line of business leadership." Where the two strategies are similar, he said, is that they're both about moving physical things to being virtual.

Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said Citrix is playing off that software defined messaging, but defining a new category too.

"This isn't just about what happens in the data center, it's about what gets delivered out to the end user," Bowker said. "There are many components that are infrastructure based, but workplace services that sit on top of that complete an application's delivery to the end user, and that's what the software defined workspace is about."

Templeton said Citrix's range of services to deliver software defined workplaces include ZenApp, ZenDesktop and ZenMobile, which allow for any type of application a mobile app, a web or traditional app - to be delivered to any device. GoToMeeting is the company's platform for enabling virtual meetings; ShareFile is the company's document sharing and synchronization product for virtualizing work collaboration; and there is Worksweb, which is a secure intranet service for doing all of this work in a protected way. Citrix's NetScaler optimizes application traffic.

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