Any Time, Any Place: Citrix CEO Mark Templeton Takes Computing Where Users Need It
An interview with a long-standing tech CEO before he addresses the mobility troops at the company's Synergy conference.
Citrix Systems Inc. is holding its Synergy Conference in Anaheim at around the time this article sees daylight. One might imagine the event is kind of a bookmark on the history of Citrix in the realm of remote computing if one could tag it as such, as the company in the month preceding the event announced some major updates to its mobility solutions, particularly with XenMobile MDM, which is expected to get heavy airplay at sessions during the conference.
It's only appropriate that we jumped at the chance to speak with Citrix CEO Mark Templeton when it was offered to us, knowing full well that besides being affable, he's a fairly open head honcho as far as C-level executives go, and one who isn't shy or hesitant to say exactly what he's thinking.
In a quick review of the last two years, Citrix has defined itself inadvertently by the number of acquisitions that are becoming key pieces of its growing mobility arsenal, including in 2011: Cloud.com, RingCube, ShareFile and App-DNA; in 2012: Podio, Virtual Computer, Bytemobile, Beetil and Zenprise.
And what do those acquisitions say about the company? Templeton says the message is that the company goes beyond mobile, way past it and into the realm of "anytime, anyplace computing." It's a message that goes hand-in-hand with a phrase the company uses: "workshifting," a concept Templeton explains in the online version of this article.
For this interview, we talked about the mutual benefits that Citrix and its partners within its ecosystem get from the event, but we also asked him about the mission of the company moving forward and why the cloud is a crucial component of that future vision.
"A partnership with Citrix is not about creating value for us, it's about mutual value creation, and I think that's been the secret to long-standing business partnerships that we have."
Mark Templeton, CEO, Citrix Systems Inc.
Q: First, Mark, can you tell Virtualization Review readers in a broad sense what to expect at Synergy this year?
A: In a relative sense, we're excited this year in that we're going to bring an end-to-end approach to going mobile, for our customers. We'll have some pretty exciting products and technology announcements that are not only about Citrix, but about things we're doing jointly with large-scale partners as well as small-scale partners to deliver full solutions all the way to implementation.
Synergy is really where we try to focus on our vision of the new IT that is more and more being described as being a cloud services provider, an IT organization that can use modern infrastructure for running core services as a cloud, an IT that aggregates a wide array of external services in a seamless way to deliver all of those services with a great focus on business value realization.
I think the No. 1 challenge that IT has is -- within their organization -- is really being seen as a team that is focused on business value, on business issues that make a difference. We think there's a tremendous amount of business value that gets realized by enabling people to enjoy a mobile work style in the broadest sense of the meaning of going mobile.
Q: Mobile seems to be the big key here, not just mobility of the devices themselves, but the mobility of apps and data. Can you tell me about the most recent announcements and how they figure into your plans for the next year in this regard, especially with XenMobile MDM?
A: I'll mention two things that have been visible externally to show you how broadly we're focused on mobile. First, ZenPrise -- obviously they're one of the leaders in mobile device management. The ZenPrise team joined our team to add mobile device management capabilities to our mobility apps and our core mobility apps as a service, so that we can deliver at the end point a compelling, easy-to-use and powerful [solution] for individuals to work in a mobile context. That's thinking about users, usage and empowerment of individuals.
At the other end, we're thinking about the mobile network in the deepest way. Last year, we acquired a company called ByteMobile that really put us on [the map] as the market leader in mobile data optimization in core carrier networks. We're thinking at the other end as well because if you're mobile, the network is as critical a component as an app. So, the quality of that mobile network experience is essential. ByteMobile allows us to deliver core infrastructure to telcos and carriers and services providers that are providing the core mobile network that people and devices are attached to.
You can see from just those two examples that our actions, certainly in M&A, when it comes to mobile are very broad. Obviously, all the things that we classically have done around collaboration and data, around Windows and Windows as a service, and around building a delivery network all contribute to this notion of going mobile in a holistic way as a company.
Q: How do you characterize Synergy as an event? I know you don't want to make any dramatic reveal here, so what can you at least tell us attendees will take away as far as strategic initiatives? And speaking of "synergy," what are some of the most important factors for partners who want to create some synergy with Citrix? What does Citrix offer back by way of providing synergistic opportunities?
A: When we crafted Synergy, we crafted it as an industry event that brings together a community of partners that I think we have in common that we all share the same point of view on the value of the mobile work styles. And then we have a full range of solutions enabling through the various technologies, products and services that power the mobile work styles through cloud services.
It's called Synergy, not by accident, because it takes the synergy of partners and technologies and services to come together to deliver the most profound, the most powerful mobile experience. That's where it starts.
The reason it works is that I think when a company like Citrix comes to market with an end-to-end vision -- it's not really a stack -- we create many, many touchpoints for creating value. So our partners can add technologies, they can add their products, they can add services and value through industry standards, through APIs that we offer in our platform ... In all of these places they can add value. The way I like to think of it is, this is an end-to-end vision and platform, where there are so many places to add value, from the bare metal in the datacenter on top of compute, network, and storage, to the bare metal that's in the user's hand in the form of a personal device -- a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop. The number of opportunities is broad.
The value for partners is to be a part of this greater whole that no single company can deliver by themselves. The synergy comes from a solution that's easier and easier to integrate because of the partnerships driven by the synergies reflected in how we build our platform with integration point or some of the pre-integration that gets done through industry standards.
The other thing that makes this work is our very long-standing belief that, as a company, and the idea of "any-ness" has really made us a partnering company. It's made partnering a core competency for us. That includes a real deep focus and belief in mutual value creation. A partnership with Citrix is not about creating value for us, it's about mutual value creation, and I think that's been the secret to long-standing business partnerships that we have.
Q: What types of technologies will be standing that we should be paying attention to? What are some of the gaps that partners will be helping to build solutions for that we'll see at the conference?
A: There are a number of key areas. First of all, if you start at the lowest level of infrastructure, partnerships with Cisco, NetApp, HP, Dell, and others that are the core providers of compute, network, and storage at that fundamental layer. Obviously, we don't do any of those things and they are core, foundational partners in being able to deliver the higher layers of the stack. That's where you deliver the value that creates the mobile work style capabilities for customers.
Then, as you go up the stack, the next big important partner is Microsoft because Windows continues to play an essential role in enterprise computing, and business computing overall. That partnership is where we leverage the relationship with Microsoft, so customers get a great capability to deliver Windows apps and desktop apps in the more and more mobile context.
I think some of the newest partners will fill gaps in the mobile app area, where customers want a wider array of mobile apps that enable a productive mobile experience that are outside of our core; mobile apps around collaboration, data sharing, social and basic communication, Intranet, and document access. We have a greater community of mobile app partners in those areas.
Q:Some of the acquisitions that Citrix has made are social media-related. How important is social media to your solution set or corporate mission?
A: Social is important to everything these days for everyone. There's no exception to Citrix. When it comes to the platform, we acquired a company called Podio that is a social collaboration platform with a hugely powerful and scalable API suite for social and asynchronous collaboration. The social capability is exposed both to our internal developers and external developers. From a product and solutions point of view, that's what we're doing to make social a feature, a capability that's sort of part of the fabric, as opposed to a product.
When you look at the corporate mission, that's pretty straightforward. We touch hundreds of millions of end users each year and sometimes each day with an experience, whether it's collaboration or sharing data, or taking a Windows or desktop app mobile, where it's very tangible and very important to an end user. We want that to be a compelling experience for them, that they want to talk about [it] in the form of social [media] and share that experience with a friend or business network.
Q: Your company has the elements to be able to build a public cloud solution and compete against Amazon. Is a public cloud offering in your plans?
A: Obviously, we have the networking, the orchestration and bare-metal technologies to deliver an Infrastructure as a Service. We could use those to build and operate a public cloud solution, there's no doubt about that. We would never rule out any kind of strategic move, because that would be a major strategic move. But our view of this world is that we don't see this as a winner-takes-all cloud environment. In fact, we believe that geographic and vertical cloud providers will ultimately have a greater relevance to the customers they serve than a horizontal, general-purpose cloud provider would have. That's because having local and specialized knowledge around vertical or localized knowledge around geographic environments when it comes to regulation and business culture and those kinds of things gives an advantage to cloud providers that are focused on geographic and verticals.
Our strategy here is to work closely with those kinds of service providers around the world and supply them with the core Infrastructure as a Service components to build Amazon-style clouds. And that's in the form of our products like CloudPlatform, CloudPortal, NetScaler, XenServer, all these bare-metal Infrastructure as a Service along with the partnerships that go with them: Cisco, HP, NetApp and others. That's the approach we're taking there and it's a differentiated one -- it lights up thousands of clouds at the infrastructure layer. Many of those service providers are choosing to run our higher value services, like our Windows as a service stack, so they can deliver Windows desktops and apps, but they'll also have a choice of running our data sharing as a service and our mobile as a service solutions as well.
That's the approach we're taking and not competing with Amazon, but collaborating with them as one of the nodes in our overall cloud services network powered by thousands of service providers.