With this in mind, Citrix is keeping in line with the evolution of the workplace, and tailoring its products to be in line with the latest cloud advancements. Mitch Parker, VP and GM of Citrix’s cloud services group, discusses the company’s history with the cloud, cloud implementation, and their future plans for the software-defined workplace.
IT in Canada: How did Citrix get involved with cloud technology?
Parker: We have been working with cloud technology from the early days of thinking about remote access to applications. The whole thought was accessing compute power running in a remote data centre. It started with the dial-up modem, where you would connect in to get remote access to an application for end users. From the early days, it’s been very much focused around the utility for the end users. What can we do to enable them to do their jobs better?
We’ve also invested in the tools needed for virtualization and orchestration in the data centre with the cloud infrastructure layer. We have also made significant investments into cloud networking and how people have accessed the cloud, and how you can increase its security, performance and reliability. As ever, we have made big investments into the workloads that are running on these clouds, especially for mobile workspaces, desktops, apps and data. That’s the exciting part of how we are thinking about the use of our products and services for our customers now.
ITIC: What is the case for cloud adoption?
MP: I think when (businesses) take a look at the cloud infrastructure layer, or Infrastructure as a Service, they’re doing it for a few reasons. Some of it is (based) around agility and flexibility. They’re taking a look at having the ability to rapidly spin up workloads, and bring them back down when not needed. The use cases for that would be for disaster recovery, for flex and use cases where they need a lot more usage for whatever reason.
The other thing that’s changing is we’re seeing individuals taking more action. Because it’s so self-service, an individual can go into an environment and spin up the workload they need. It’s really come out of administrators and developers who have taken huge advantage of cloud computing in order to get their jobs done. I think the same issues and phenomena that are happening at the cloud infrastructure layer are starting to happen at the layer above it as well.
When we think about workspaces that are being built for cloud-based desktops, apps and data, I think we’re seeing IT not only taking advantage of it to rapidly adjust to businesses changes, but we’re also seeing individuals and departments starting to take advantage of these services. These include SaaS-based apps and platform-based cloud services, as well as the infrastructure. So it’s agility, but it’s also in some ways a democratization of all of the IT compute power that we’ve always had, and we’re seeing amazing things being built by individuals, sometimes outside the walls of IT.
ITIC: What are some of the benefits of cloud adoption?
MP: A big part of it is having the agility to adapt to environments that you don’t even know you’re going to need tomorrow. The more you can build into the environment in an orchestrated way, the better you can adjust at a moment’s notice. In the old days, we would start by racking and stacking from a compute storage networking standpoint, everything would have a Gantt chart, and we’d have to build out the entire environment. Now, with it being automated and self-service, and in many cases, API-driven through a cloud orchestration service, we’re able to adjust very quickly. If a new use case comes out, an external event that you can’t plan for happens, or the business changes their mind and they need to have a new service spun up, all of these cases allow you to move very quickly and serve the business through the IT department.
ITIC: What kinds of cloud-based services does Citrix offer?
MP: We have a number of different services at different levels. Many people will know us for our collaboration services, such as GoToMeeting, GoToMyPC and GoToAssist. Certainly, those SaaS-based applications are a big part of how we’re providing cloud-based services, In addition to that, we’re doing some things for enterprises building mobile workspaces with (tools) like ShareFile, a cloud-based sync-and-share service. It allows IT to control and secure the access to corporate files with ease of use for the end user that they might expect from something like Dropbox. It’s a cloud-based service that allows customers to either access cloud-based files, or even local file stores.
We’re really starting to get into offering products on cloud-based services. For example, we have an incredible channel of partners who are delivering Citrix products and fully business-ready workspaces as a service. This includes delivering desktops as a service, apps as a service and mobility as a service to our mutual customers. We’ve got about 1,600 active partners worldwide that are delivering that to well over 400,000 users per month. That’s an incredibly fast-growing channel of business for us.
ITIC: Are there any risks involved with the cloud?
MP: In any new IT endeavor and anything that’s rapidly changing, it starts with thinking through the use cases it’s best used for. I think we’ve seen a lot of developers get right into trying out demos and prototypes in development environments within the cloud. Those were not running production systems initially. As companies have worked through the risk, they’ve started to understand how it’s operating and have developed monitoring and management tools that they need, more and mare are starting to put their productions systems up in the cloud. The things that they’re taking a look at that we see and hear that they’re most concerned about are continual access to make sure the system is always going to be up and running. The truth there is that a lot of the cloud providers have a great track record with that.
The second thing they’re concerned about is privacy and security and really understanding the policies and procedures that are put in place by the cloud providers to ensure that their data is secure. Finally, there is the cost. I think when they take a look at it, it’s important to understand how they’re going to be investing in it and how their expenses are going to grow as they start to use these services more. The market is maturing, and those risks and issues are really well understood, not only by the cloud providers, but also by the customers. There is a common language being developed around that that allows them to evaluate those risks and mitigate them in a prudent way.
ITIC: Why are more businesses integrating mobility into their daily activities?
MP: I think the end users are demanding it. The end users are integrating mobility into their daily activities, and IT is trying to provide a platform to make sure they can do that securely. We’ve seen a whole generation of people entering the workforce who grew up digital and expect to be able to access data and applications from whatever device they choose. As they’re coming into IT, they’re expecting IT to be able to support them. The things that IT has to do to enable that are around the access policies and the security, and I think the really forward-thinking IT departments are getting even beyond that and figuring out what they can do to provide an even greater service to their customers. How can they make their lives easier by using these mobile devices? How can they make their employees more productive over time? It’s not just warding off the concerns, but really looking to take advantage of these new devices as they come in.
ITIC: What is the business case for Data as a Service (DaaS)?
MP: The business case is pretty straightforward. The more people can get access to the data where they need it at any time, the faster they can work. The ability to share data and collaborate with people generates better ideas for a company. The ability to take a workflow through the data that’s accessed there and move it more quickly through a process allows companies to serve their customers better.
I’m a big believer that every employee wants to do a great job, and I think IT’s job is to try to give them the tools to enable that. Part of that is having access to the files wherever they want, and that’s why we’ve seen services like Dropbox pop up, despite IT policy and despite the fact that in many cases, IT didn’t know about it. The users told us that it helped them before IT even knew it, and I think that now we’ve got tools to really get a great experience with it in a way that IT and corporations to secure the data that they need to secure.
ITIC: What are Citrix’s future plans for cloud technology?
MP: I think when we’re looking forward about where technology is going, we’re thinking not just about the software-defined data centre and what it takes to operate a data centre or an infrastructure cloud. We’re thinking bigger than that, not just about technology goals, but about human and business goals. We refer to that concept as the software-defined workplace, which involves taking a workplace and really abstracting that to the level where people can do work wherever they are. Work is not a place; it’s something that people do.
Our strategy is all around providing the products, services and partnerships that our customers need to be able to build that software-defined workplace. It allows them to create the environments and allows their end users to be extremely productive, recruit the best possible employees, and do that in a way that it gives them incredible agility to handle whatever requirements the business gives them.
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