Citrix CEO: Transition to on-demand services won't be pretty

Delivering IT services on demand will be the biggest, toughest and most painful transition of all, says Citrix's Mark Templeton.

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NEW YORK -- Moving corporations off of their distributed platforms and into on-demand services will be a tall order for many years. But many large companies -- though they remain conservative about choices -- are open-minded and have proof-of-concept trials under way.

Some IT managers at Interop 2009 said that 2010 will be a year for experimenting, determining product stability and looking for bugs in new technologies, such as desktop virtualization. One systems administrator at a New York-based financial services firm, who declined to be identified, said his company has a diverse group of about 60 users testing Citrix Systems' XenDesktop.

The firm has learned that, despite claims that virtual desktop technologies simplify desktop management, they still demand corporate resources. The systems administrator said that some application-integration issues must be addressed on the one hand, but on the other, it's quicker to provision desktops.

"It's like squeezing a balloon," he said. "You move from managing desktops to managing virtualization. The jury is out as to whether or not the technology brings greater efficiency."

Another technical analyst at an Illinois-based insurance company said his company will experiment but won't consider cloud technologies or virtual desktops beyond the proof-of-concept phase in 2010.

"We're conservative and large enough to need to ensure stability," he said.

The technical analyst said there is occasional pressure from business managers to roll out new technologies, but they change their tune when they realize that the tools may offer only 80% uptime and not the 99.9% they may expect. The insurer is slowly shifting many of its applications to a Web interface.

At the conference, Mark Templeton, president and CEO of Citrix, said he thinks the industry transition to delivering IT services on demand will be the biggest, toughest and most painful transition of all. Today's data centers, with their hard-coded stacks, are expensive and hard to change, he noted. Templeton said he believes that the way to solve the problem of unwieldy data center is to have fewer moving parts.

"This doesn't mean we shouldn't optimize parts, but if you have a game plan to eliminate parts, that is great," Templeton said. "If not, you won't get the cost and agility model you will need."

Templeton also said he thinks consumerization will force IT to change more than any other technical trend. "Our experience as consumers is a better experience than we have inside the enterprise with locked-down systems, creating huge pressure to change and respond," he said.

Corporations today vary as to what they will allow employees to use in the enterprise. "We are not entirely limiting what [end users] can bring in, but it's not like we support what they bring in wholesale," said the systems administrator at the New York financial firm.

Templeton said IT shops need to move toward network and device independence. "To the degree you have services hard-coded to devices, you will always have a cost, agility, flexibility problem," he said.

He also encouraged enterprises to adopt a self-service user experience, whether it's through some internal or external source, and to move to consumption-based costs. To that end, Citrix released pay-as-you-go pricing for its NetScaler application-acceleration line of products. The company also released a software-based virtual appliance, NetScaler VPX, which is a free download.

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