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Citrix has been in a weird spot for the past eighteen months, but the company's effort to refocus on core products is finally paying dividends -- figuratively and literally.
Since January 2015, Citrix has gone through several rounds of layoffs, switched CEOs and discontinued or spun off several nonessential products, which either sounds like a death spiral or an astute plan to reshape the company for the better.
It turns out it was the latter, so customers can rest assured heading into Citrix Synergy 2016 that the company's most popular products -- XenDesktop, XenApp, XenServer, XenMobile, Workspace Cloud and NetScaler -- aren't going anywhere. Someone recently asked me "What is the future of Citrix?" and although that's a pretty ambiguous question, here are my thoughts on Citrix's recent turmoil.
The Elliott revolution
When Citrix laid off 900 employees in January 2015, its shares were down, the company's products were stagnant, and primary competitor VMware was winning the battle of the buzz in nearly all areas where Citrix does business. In February 2015 Citrix announced the end of VDI-in-a-Box, which I always felt was doomed from the time Citrix acquired it from Kaviza in May 2011. VDI-in-a-Box was a less complex, less capable alternative to the company's flagship desktop virtualization platform, XenDesktop, but Citrix never integrated the two offerings.
That first round of upheaval proved to be the tip of the iceberg. In June 2015, activist investor Elliott Management -- which owns roughly $1 billion in Citrix stock -- wrote a public letter disparaging Citrix's recent performance and direction and insisting on several major changes. As a result, longtime Citrix CEO Mark Templeton retired in October 2015 and the company hired operationally-focused former Microsoft executive Kirill Tatarinov as his successor in January 2016. Citrix announced it would spin off its GoTo product line into a separate company in November 2015 and also recently shut down its XenClient Type 1 hypervisor and Melio storage virtualization platform.
Those troubles could very easily cause some concern among Citrix customers and partners. It certainly justifies a consideration of the future of Citrix, because there was a lot ominous stuff going on.
Citrix is in a better place now
All the upheaval was part of an effort to refocus on the company's core products, which is a pretty standard line in these kinds of situations. So far, though, it seems like the plan is working out. Citrix deemed the products that most of us are familiar with to be among the core. Citrix also reassigned several groups of employees from discontinued products to one of the core products. That's evidence that Citrix is in fact investing in the platforms that made it successful in the first place.
Investor faith in the company has also grown, with stock prices rising from a low of $56.47 in January 2015 to as high as $90.00 in April 2016. I'm no investment guru, but a 59% increase in stock price seems pretty significant. What's more, Citrix saw an increase in revenue of 10% for product licenses and 17% for software as a service from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016. Those numbers show that Citrix is attracting new customers. And the Citrix Synergy 2016 conference -- taking place May 24-26 in Las Vegas -- will the give the company an additionally opportunity to pitch IT on Citrix products.
Both Citrix management and its product portfolio seem to be more stable, but what does that say for the future of Citrix? Even if this was all part of a master plan to sell Citrix, the platform is in good standing, and Citrix customers don't have to worry about anything disappearing. If you've chosen to go with Citrix's virtualized computing or enterprise mobility management (EMM) products and you're happy with it, there's no reason to jump ship.
Of course, if you're faced with the prospect of a forklift XenApp migration or your maintenance expired, it's prudent to consider other platforms, such as VMware Horizon VDI and AirWatch EMM, or midmarket VDI vendors Ericom and Parallels. If you do choose to go with Citrix, you have nothing to worry about.
Learn more about Kirill Tatarinov
What to look for at Citrix Synergy 2016
Elliott was smart to intervene at Citrix