Citrix partners with Cisco, and why resellers shouldn’t fear the cloud

Santa Clara, Calif. — The market reach of virtualization software and appliance vendor Citrix Systems (NASDAQ: CTXS) could get a lot larger as a partnership with networking vendor Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) grows to see Cisco partners selling Citrix’s Xen Desktop software.

Cisco is committed to its VCE Alliance with storage vendor EMC Corp. and VMware, a virtualizaiton competitor to Citrix. But according to a Citrix executive, a push from Cisco customers led the vendor to approach Citrix and, 100 days later, the two companies had developed a joint reference architecture for Cisco UCS and Citrix Xen Desktop.

Harry Labana, vice-president and CTO of the Citrix desktop virtualization division, said Citrix has become Cisco’s preferred distributor for desktop virtualization. There’s even a single telephone support line jointly staffed by Citrix and Cisco engineers for joint customers. The longer-term goal is partners trained on both Cisco and Citrix taking Cisco UCS and Xen Desktop to market.

“At this point the partnership is kind of new. We’re getting early customers, testing, making sure the solution is integrated,” said Labana. “From there I think absolutely, the idea is to have a very prescriptive solution that we can go to a channel partner or an SI partner and say here’s a way to implement Xen Desktop in something that has been tested, scales with known performance characteristics.”

While VCE is a strategy Cisco remains committed to, Labana said they’re also a very customer-driven organization and aren’t married to any particular hypervisor vendor. The relationship helps Cisco sell more UCS and broadens their appeal, which is good for everyone.

With partnerships like that with Cisco, and the long-standing relationship with Microsoft, Labana said Citrix is gaining field scale and is evolving from a tactical company that works with IT managers to a more strategic player that had more C-level conversations.

“Citrix is evolving from a tactical provider of point prodicts to a strategic vendor offering solutions,” said Labana.

It’s an evolution that comes as CIOs are thinking more about how desktop virtualization and cloud computing are going to change IT models and IT strategies. Server virtualization was about lockdown, workflow and efficiency, while desktop virtualization is about the user experience across any endpoint. It requires completely different skill sets, said Labana.

The big opportunity for the channel, said Labana, is to develop the expertise on how to help organizations migrate to desktop virtualization successfully.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion out there in the industry and the customer base about what are some of the benefits, how do you actually get there and when do you do it, do you do everything day one or do you consider some small, manageable steps,” said Labana. “I think there needs to be a lot more expertise in the industry; people who have very smart process, are very efficient with it and can actually help the customer understand the benefits. I think we need more champions and leadership. I think there’s a huge services opportunity.”

The services opportunity is echoed by Simon Crosby, chief technology officer of Citrix’ data centre and cloud division. He sees many partners that once implemented Citrix offerings on premise now evolving into managed service providers, delivering as a service what they once installed on site.

And while some folks in the channel may be alarmed by the cloud, Crosby said they really don’t need to be. Adoption to the cloud will occur at the pace people are ready to adopt new technologies, and it will be a long-term process.

“There’s a ton of existing stuff out there and it will take forever to go away. Cloud is an evolutionary process; that’s good for the channel,” said Crosby. “Moreover, it’s an evolutionary process in which the cloud can help the customer move forward, in a traditional advisory role with skill sets the enterprise doesn’t have, the channel can really help people transform their business.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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