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Citrix tilts away from MS, towards Solaris, Linux

Browser-based application access, and multi-OS Citrix server farms behind them - go figure

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Updated Citrix today mounted a demonstration of how its MetaFrame product might run on non-NT platforms. The general idea, according to company VP of product development Dave Weiss, seems to have been to run it up the flagpole to see if anybody saluted. Any saluting at the moment is likely to be from major companies running Solaris server systems, as that's the OS that was used for the server side of Weiss' demo. Weiss showed "project Charlotte," a browser-based system which gives access to a server applications in a "Program Neighborhood." This allows any time, anywhere access to server apps with the aid of nothing more than a browser, so it's as applicable to low resource devices and appliances as it is to PC platforms. In terms of sales models, it's pretty similar to Citrix's current ICA protocol. Right now ICA is free, and Citrix makes its money out of the server, and when Charlotte ships it'll be free too. As part of the demo Weiss used the browser to access Lotus Notes running on a Solaris server working as part of a Citrix server farm. This suggested that Citrix is about to make its long-awaited move to multiple server platforms, but Weiss later told The Register that it was currently simply a technology demo, and that it would only go commercial if the customer demand existed. "We wanted to gauge what kind of interest there was," he said. "Nobody's writing new X applications today," so the target market would be outfits with a need to deal with existing apps. He suggested financial institutions as likely candidates. The conditions for closer a relationship between Sun and Citrix already exist, with Sun keen on using StarOffice within a Web applications rental model, and due to unveil its Corona product shortly. Weiss conceded that Citrix had been giving the company some help recently. We don't have a strong alliance so far, but the prospect of Citrix going multi-platform isn't terribly good news for Microsoft. Citrix technology forms the basis of Microsoft's Windows NT Terminal Server, but Microsoft has problems in fully (or even convincingly) embracing the thin client model because of the levels of revenue cannibalisation this would expose it to. If people start using browsers to access server applications then they could be doing it from any old client platform running any old operating system. They could even, good heavens, be doing it from a mobile phone, and from Microsoft's point of view all this could mean the loss of an awful lot of client OS licensing revenue. And of course, if people start accessing applications running on remote servers in volume, and don't particularly care about the OS the servers are running, Microsoft's vision of a Windows-only world is somewhat undermined. Linux clearly has to be a target platform for Citrix, but it's not as yet clear how much effort the company is putting behind Linux development at the server end. It will no doubt put resources that way, and both founder Ed Iacobucci and CEO Mark Templeton slipped blatant Linux references into their presentations, but as Citrix will be prioritising support for server platforms that are already in place in corporations in volume, Linux is likely to come second to various flavours of Unix, at least initially. At the client end, however, things seems to be moving fast. Several outfits announced as recent Citrix ICA licensees are working on thin client devices based on Linux. These include Automation Control Products, Brace AB, InsynQ Data Utilities, Rebel.com (the company which now owns NetWinder) and Sherwood Network. ®

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