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Citrix moving up in the world

Analysis: Strategic status at last?

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NetScaler, and other solutions like it from Cisco, Nortel, F5 and a few others, are already very well proven, particularly within the service provider community, and can lead to dramatic improvements in the performance, security and cost of delivering Web applications. One of the obvious questions is therefore why anyone should take notice of the fact that Citrix is now offering this kind of functionality. Well, the main reason is because this allows Citrix to position a Web application optimisation offering as an integral part of a broader access solution portfolio. From the customer perspective, this in theory allows open conversations to take place with a single supplier that has an application delivery heritage, rather than a networking heritage, and is able to discuss options for both client/server and Web-based deployment with no axe to grind.

From a Citrix positioning perspective, embracing Web applications in this way means it can offer much more objective advice to organisations wishing to create a coherent application delivery and access strategy, which is starting to sound a lot more like the role of a strategic supplier.

The potential for this transition to take place is further fuelled by an initiative known as Project Tarpon, which is an internal development aimed at delivering a solution in the area of application streaming. The basic idea here is to extend the concept of delivering applications on demand through server-based execution to allow client-side execution also, but in a safe and non-conflicting manner. Project Tarpon, which is still a work in progress, will achieve this by holding self-contained application packages on a server, containing all relevant operating system components as well as application objects, then allowing seamless behind-the-scenes download of those packages to the client machine as they are needed.

Rolling out Tarpon

The end result is that when a user executes a Project Tarpon-enabled application, the software is pulled from the network, cached on the local machine and run in self-contained “sandbox” so it is protected from conflict with other locally installed applications and other applications are protected from it. Going back to the challenge of mobile computing mentioned earlier, an important capability of Project Tarpon is that the cached local copy of the application package is persistent, allowing it to be executed in disconnected mode when the user unplugs from the network. Furthermore, application packages are resynchronised automatically on subsequent connection, providing a mechanism for software updates and additions to be distributed painlessly and cost effectively – i.e. with all the usual benefits Citrix customers have become used to over the years.

So with these moves, along with forays into other areas such as voice related solutions, is Citrix going to inherit the access infrastructure world?

The answer to this depends on how well it executes. Key to success is generating leverage across the portfolio of solutions as there is established competition in each of the individual areas. We have already mentioned the competitors to NetScaler, and in the application streaming area, Softricity in particular, a small but focused company with well proven offerings, will provide a challenge for Citrix as it drives its initial 1.0 release of Project Tarpon into the market.

Nevertheless, for the first time, Citrix really does now have a coherent and comprehensive story that can potentially elevate it to the position of strategic supplier that it has coveted for so many years. Those still thinking of Citrix as the Windows thin client vendor might be surprised at the way the company is now spreading its wings.®

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