New Citrix CEO is old Citrix CEO -- and that's a good thing

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton was planning to step down by the end of the year, but has decided to stay on. It's a great move considering increased competition in the virtualization market that Citrix now has to deal with.

For many people, the CEO of a company is inconsequential to day-to-day life. Steve Ballmer probably had little effect on your interactions with Microsoft. Meg Whitman has no direct bearing on your local HP rep or the HP products in your data center. But Mark Templeton and Citrix are different.

Last week, news broke that Citrix CEO Mark Templeton was staying on board despite reports from earlier this year that he would be stepping down by the end of 2014. He cited a change in his personal circumstances that enables him to re-commit to the company. This is great news for Citrix and its customers because it means the company will continue to have reliable guidance and leadership in a time when it's critical for Citrix to step up and compete.

Behind the music: Citrix and Templeton

Citrix was formed in 1989, and Templeton joined the company in 1995. This was pre-IPO and at a time when the term "terminal server" was used to describe a device that connected serial dumb terminals and printers to a network. When Templeton joined Citrix, it had $15 million in revenue from its WinFrame product.

The best person to replace Mark Templeton as CEO is Mark Templeton.

Templeton was named interim CEO in 2000 upon Citrix co-founder Ed Iacobucci's retirement. After a search for a permanent CEO, Citrix dropped Templeton's interim title in 2001. He became the third full-time CEO (Roger Roberts was the first, from 1990-1998). Templeton transformed Citrix into a company with nearly $3 billion in revenue today.

The reason Mark T (as those in the community call him) is different from other CEOs is that he is a blend of businessperson and geek. He lives and breathes the technology, and his ties to the company run back to when it had an employee count that could be measured by the dozen. Being the longest-running CEO, it's Templeton's leadership and decision making that turned Citrix into the company it is today. Sure, that opens him up to complaints from some customers and partners, but it's hard to overstate how much good has come from him over the years.

So he's a likeable guy that's done a lot for Citrix. Why is it so important that he stays? Well, with all the good at Citrix, there's some stuff going on that's not so great.

Righting the ship

It's no secret that VMware and others have sort of caught Citrix off guard lately. VMware stole away two high-level product executives and released a product that competes with XenApp. That's particularly disruptive for shops that are already mixed between XenApp and VMware View, or departments that have soured on XenApp's cancelation and subsequent re-release.

Despite acquiring Cloud.com and talking about all the work the company is doing when it comes to the cloud, Citrix has yet to make a significant impression. Desktop as a service has taken off, and both VMware and Microsoft now have complete desktop virtualization portfolios that appear to give Citrix a run for its money. Additionally, there are concerns about code quality, channel partner relations and direction.

Templeton's impending retirement loomed over all these concerns like a dark cloud. Although I thought he sent the company off in a great direction with the announcement of Workspace Services at Citrix Synergy 2014 in May, the buzz died down. Then I had to wonder who would be taking the helm to lead Citrix in that direction.

Once again, it turns out that the best person to replace Mark Templeton as CEO is Mark Templeton. Nobody is more aware of the issues that Citrix has, and he has a track record of taking the company exactly where it needs to go. Citrix has been rebuilding its stable of executives, most recently hiring Gunnar Berger as the CTO of Desktops and Applications, a position that had been empty since 2011.

Further turmoil at this stage of the game for Citrix could have been disastrous, and this is the kind of move that could start to settle things down. Templeton staying on as CEO at Citrix is great news because it means we get to focus our attention not on politics -- such as which person left to join the other company, or what changes new leadership will bring -- but on how Citrix, VMware and Microsoft are pushing the cloud, mobility and desktop virtualization boundaries.

Next Steps

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This was first published in June 2014

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