How the Citrix Technology Professionals Program produces user experience benefits from greater ecosystem collaboration

The next BriefingsDirect thought leadership panel discussion focuses on how expert user communities around technologies and solutions create powerful digital business improvements.

As an example, we will explore how the Citrix Technology Professionals Program, or CTPs as they are referred to, gives participants a larger say in essential strategy initiatives such as enabling mobile work styles.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about the CTP program and how an ongoing dialogue between vendors and experts provides the best end-user experiences, we're joined by Douglas Brown, Founder of DABCC.com in Sarasota, Florida; Rick Dehlinger, an Independent Technologist and Business Visionary in Sacramento, California; Jo Harder is the Cloud Architect at D+H and an Industry Analyst at Virtualization Practice in Fort Myers, Florida, and Steve Greenberg, President of Thin Client Computing in Scottsdale, Arizona. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: We hear so much nowadays about user experience. You might say that you, as a community-based organization, are the original user experience provider. What is the CTP program as a user group and how ultimately does your user experience translate into improvements for the Citrix community and ecosystem?

Brown: I've been a CTP since the conception of the CTP Program, and within the Citrix Community since 1997.

 

What's neat about the CTP Program and the Citrix Community in general is that we're able to bring a bunch of great, talented people together, and then in return, take that combined experience and knowledge and share that with other people.

What was interesting and what got me into the community way back when, was the fact that there was just no information. You were just really out on your own trying to solve problems. And when we were able to then put that in the community, we all exponentially got better.

What I've found through the Citrix Community in general, the Citrix Users Group that Citrix has recently started, and the CTP Program is that you're always better together. That's the biggest takeaway for me from not just the 10 years of CTP, but 15 or 16 years of being in the greater Citrix Community itself.

Gardner: Steve, how well and effective does this advocacy role work? How much traction are you getting?

Greenberg: It's amazing how well it works. Doug referred to the old days. We had a 1997 to 2007 era, where you didn't have the feedback loop, and products evolved slowly. We'd see a new product release and ask why they did that. So, this passionate group, because of the Internet, because we're all kind of little freaks in our little neighborhoods somewhere around the world, all found each other and come together with such a passion.

 

We haven't calculated it, but it's in excess of 1,000 years of hands-on experience between this group of 50 or so people. It works, and Citrix has come to value it. Other companies are following the model and developing community programs. It's really invigorating to learn something from the true end user, the customer, and bring it back to headquarters and see the products evolve and change.

Brown: It's really a 360-degree type of program. It's not just for us; it also benefits Citrix, and then, of course, everyone, the customer and the end engineers, what have you.

Gardner: As was mentioned, we're in this era of social media, and people can be their own publisher and they can be an earphone and a megaphone at the same time. So Rick, do you feel like you're representing a large group, and how do they communicate to you what they're feeling?

Much broader audience

Dehlinger: I do feel like I represent a pretty large group, especially when you start wandering the halls of Citrix Synergy. It’s like a college or high school reunion that happens every year. I definitely feel like we represent a much broader audience.

We (the members of the CTP program) also have people who represent perspectives from various locations across the world, different industries, industry functions, different customer bases -- even different seats in the ecosystem -- the partner community, end user, customer, and other technology-provider companies.

 

In terms of communication, some of the tools have evolved over the last 10 years. Steve made a good point. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that we have two different eras. The era of the last 10 years has really been one of greatly increased communication and transparency, and that's one of the things that the CTP program is fantastic about.

[Interesting editorial note: shortly after the inception of the CTP Program in 2006, a couple of the founding CTP’s – Brian Madden and Rick Dehlinger – wrote blog articles essentially calling Citrix out for being closed off and not showing any thought leadership in the industry.

Then Citrix CEO Mark Templeton got the message loud and clear, and reversed the policy against Citrixites blogging. This was effectively the turning point between the eras Steve Greenberg mentioned, and the first big impact the CTP’s had on Citrix and the industry.]

 

Learn How the Citrix Technology Professionals Program Helps
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Steve had mentioned that a lot of the other vendors are starting to use this (CTP Program) as a model to build their community programs around. This group of people is very passionate about Citrix Technologies and passionate about touching the lives of others. This combines the two of those (passions) and puts us behind a closed door with the opportunity to have a very real conversation and communication with the leaders, developers, product managers at Citrix.

We have impacted some very substantial and positive change in Citrix -- helped them stop going down some roads that were very disastrous and recover from some decisions that started to be disastrous or were dead ends -- and they ultimately improved it.

Greenberg: And to Doug’s 360-degree comment, we continue to be inspired by what they bring out and put in front of us as a possible vision; it’s incredible. Just so you understand, we're usually locked in a room for two full days, approximately 10 to 12 hours, a couple of times a year, and it gets deep. It’s like an inside family having a family discussion that gets real hot, but it's two-way.

Perhaps at first, it was us saying, "You have got to fix this stuff," but now it's inspiring to see what comes out, that they touch the community and say, "We're thinking about this; how would that work?" It's really, really cool.

Brown: I like the fact that Steve mentioned it’s really two different eras. Prior to the CTP Program, and I was around when they started this, we really had to push something like this for Citrix. A typical corporation back then was not about outside feedback per se. They did not blog; there was no social media. It was a very controlled message.

Nowadays, obviously they need to control the message, but it’s just wide open. It’s a wide -open world out there today.

Interactive, wide ranging

Gardner: Jo, you're like a focus group in a sense, but interactive and wide-ranging in terms of your impact and getting information from the field. So as a focus group, what did you accomplishing recently at Citrix Synergy 2016?

Harder: Let me step back and say that we're under NDA with Citrix. These closed-door discussions that Steve mentioned are very private discussions. The product managers go into what's happening, what they're thinking about for future products, and that's really the basis for those discussions.

 

I never really thought about us as like a focus group, but we are. It's really great that we can give feedback to each other. Because we have such varied experiences and expertise, there are some products that I know really well that the person sitting next to me might touch once a year. So we have complete variety in the group. It's really great to be able to have those discussions as a focus group, if you will, and to be able to provide that feedback to the folks at Citrix and really to each other as well, because we do learn a lot from each other.

Gardner: Because Citrix has so many different lines and different products, they have inherited things through acquisition, they have built things organically, no one user consumes them in the same way. What are you seeing in terms of adoption? What would you say is the most interesting part of Citrix’s solutions in this particular day and age?

Dehlinger: The most interesting thing for me and in our little focus group is community representation. I tend to be one of the ones that advocates very heavily for the cloud, and for increasing the pace of evolution, helping drag the traditional Citrix enterprise customer base further into the new world that we live in. For me the most exciting stuff has definitely got to be the cloud.

The evolution of Citrix’s Cloud Services, now called Citrix Cloud, and all that stuff underneath it, is fantastic. It’s monumental, not just for the consumer base, but also for Citrix, because it gets them into the world of rapid prototyping and rapid evolution, consistent, evergreen products and services, and also starts to put them into a different world, where it's cloud-based consumption and pricing.

Every day, every week, every month, every year, you have to continue to prove your value and improve your value and provide a high quality level of service. If you don't, you're cut off; the customer has the opportunity to walk away.

One of the things that's most exciting about that for me is the opportunity for Citrix to evolve into the cloud first world alongside Microsoft. If you look at any of the traditional enterprise technology vendors that are out there, they've been selling based on a capital-expenditure model into the enterprise.

The customers go spend all these big bucks up front; these vendors’ entire ecosystems - their sales teams, even their product development cycles - they’re based off these big buys and long deployment processes. There's so much of a company (that revolves around up-front capital expenditure and long deployment cycles), and the entire ecosystem gets tied to that.

Then, you look at the polar opposite end of that; that is the cloud, where it’s consumption-based pricing, the attributes that I mentioned a little bit earlier.

Adoption patterns

Gardner: So it could be quite interesting on adoption patterns. We could be seeing all sorts of new models popping up, and that could be interesting for companies as well as the end user organizations.

Dehlinger: In my mind, it increases the transparency on both sides. Citrix knows and understands who is using what, and what they are not using also. The customer has an opportunity to vote with their dollars, not just once upfront when they are seeing all the stars of the sales pitch, but on a monthly or a yearly basis.

That's actually the most exciting part to me, because Microsoft has made that pivot now, with Office 365 and Azure and all that product family. They've brought their ecosystem around and they're showing the world now that it's possible to evolve from being a traditional enterprise software/ technology vendor to being a cloud service provider.

So, it's exciting for me. What I see as the future of Citrix and of the community is Citrix getting over that hump themselves and really getting into it. They have reinvented themselves many times over the years.

Gardner: Steve, thin-client computing, always an interesting solution, but tying that to any device, any cloud -- what do you see are some of the most interesting developments?

Greenberg: To me, it's that push forward, and it’s the new CEO Kirill Tatarinov making a strong statement that we're going to the cloud, as Rick says, taking it forward. But the most exciting thing for me, because day in and day out I architect and implement design, is to take this suite and to fit it to the organization. Every organization is different, and the best part of my job is going in and learning a new organization and what it is they do and how they do it. Inevitably, something Citrix is doing makes that better.

Now, as Rick said, we just have more options. If this organization needs cloud, it’s the best delivery model. Perhaps they're distributed around the world or some other factor, and now they can do it. They have Citrix behind them casting the vision.

 

Learn How the Citrix Technology Professionals Program Helps
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So it’s the flexibility, it's the power and excitement that you get from moving at the speed of the business. It's not IT saying no, not IT saying, "Well, I can't do that new product line because our system is blah, blah, blah." If we need to move quick, throw it in Azure. Let’s get on to that new offering.

Harder: Say "yes."

Gardner: Jo, virtualization has never been as prominent as it is now. What do you see from the virtualization perspective with the new products and the new embrace of virtualization at multiple abstractions?

Tying in security

Harder: I'm looking at it from the banking sector, because that's what I live and breathe. I'm looking at it from security, compliance, everything that comes along with the finance industry. I look at that probably a little bit more cautiously than most, but what I find pretty interesting is that Citrix is really tying in security end-to-end.

Some of the sessions here at Synergy have talked about the whole security piece. You want to be progressive, but you have to do it very securely. That's one of the pieces that I'm really embracing from a virtualization standpoint.

From the standpoint of finance, there should be no data on the workstation. If somebody were to walk into a bank and steal that client device, they should not be able to walk off with any Social Security numbers, no non-public personal information (NPI), nothing of that sort. That's what excites me about virtualization and tying that together, the way that Citrix has all the moving parts.

In the future, the next step for the banks is getting into wireless, getting into mobility. Citrix is very well-poised for that. So, the future is bright.

Gardner: So, security was the original big use case for VDI, nothing on the client. But now clients are everywhere. So it's really, “How do we get the data from the edge and to the edge securely.”

Douglas, what are some of the key points from your perspective in terms of the Citrix product line and how that impacts users that you represent?

Brown: That's a good question. I'm a XenApp baby. I see the cloud as the real, true information highway. It's the enabler to allow us to bring things to market quicker. XenApp is that ultimate tool to then give access to the applications anywhere, any time.

I don't care if it's 2016, with all the stuff that we do today, or if it's 1999, at the end of the day, I have never met an end user that comes into the company and says, "Gee, I can't wait to use Windows 10," or "Gee, I can't wait to use that new Cisco Core Router they just bought." They don’t come into work and say, "Oh no, I have to do a spreadsheet today." They don't even talk about Excel.

With all these different technologies we're bringing around, be it the cloud, or mobility, or whatever, back to the user experience piece, Citrix is able to give the end user a better, faster time to market for them. At the end of the day, they're able to work better from any place, any time.

I've been living a lot in Sarasota, but also I commute to Berlin, Germany. It’s sort of an interesting commute, but it doesn't matter where I live, and this is the same story that we've said for 15 years.

It's not about a new story; it's just about bringing more components to make that, to fulfill that destiny of a better user experience. What's IT there for? It’s to enable the users to do their jobs better, and ultimately, that's what Citrix is about. Everything else is just fluff. Everything else is just the machinery.

Network intelligence

Gardner: Rick, when we think about changes in Citrix over the past couple of years -- and there have been a lot of them -- one of the things that strikes me is that they seem to be much more interested in strutting their stuff as to what their network intelligence capabilities are.

There's a lot more discussion of NetScaler and how that integrates to mobility, security, big-data analytics, and cloud. Do you agree with me that the NetScaler and the intelligent networks component are more prominent, and how does that play into the future?

Dehlinger: NetScaler was, by anybody's measure, one of the best acquisitions Citrix ever made. They got some fantastic technology and brilliant talent. Some of the things that we've been able to do with NetScaler in our tool bag, as we're out solving problems and helping customers take things to the next level, is just mind-boggling.

I'm thrilled at the change. It seems like they finally started to figure out a better way to both communicate what NetScaler is and its role in this whole game. You asked me about the Microsoft-Citrix relationship a bit earlier. Some of the stuff that Citrix is doing now (in that partnership) to start incorporating and leveraging the NetScaler and its unique layer of visibility between the user and the applications - will enable some some really amazing new capabilities.

I think it's fantastic that they finally found the language. NetScaler is starting to get its feet underneath it, although you could argue it already has its feet underneath it; it’s been a billion dollar-plus business for Citrix for a couple of years now.

Gardner: Jo, how about you in terms of security and in the banking sector in particular, intelligent network services, something really impressive; important or what?

Harder: Just to expand on what Rick said, I think what Citrix is doing with NetScaler is great. Some days, I feel like I don’t fully understand, and I'm immersed in these technologies, but then you learn something else that NetScaler can do for you. There is more, there is more, there is more. It’s in there, and it’s a matter of finding out exactly how to best use it, and then going ahead and using the products. With NetScaler, I totally agree with Rick; the sky is the limit on it.

Dehlinger: Well, NetScaler used to be the realm of the packet trace junkies. Load balancing is the easiest thing that people can use to describe what NetScaler does, but that whole world was just fraught with massive acronyms, crazy technology, terminology, standards, and stuff that (for the normal human being or the business person in particular) was just mind-boggling and baffling.

It’s great that Citrix is finally finding some language to be able to demystify a little bit of that, and show that underneath all that mysticism and the support for all these crazy new fancy TLAs and acronyms, here is some really amazing powerful business value there just waiting to be unlocked and leveraged.

Gardner: Steve, mobile work styles as opposed to mobility or device or bring your own device (BYOD) -- how far do you feel that your community contacts have gotten in that direction of a mobility style change rather than simply doing something with a smaller device in more places?

Transforming organizations

Greenberg: That's a great question, because I think this particular group has been at the core of this for some time, and we have taken some very notable large organizations and completely transformed them.

People work from home. People work on a multitude of devices. I can be sitting at the desktop in the office, grab a laptop and go jump in a cab, take my phone, and there is that seamless experience. We really are there. At this point, it’s just a matter of getting it more widely infiltrated, getting people aware of what they can do.

To this day, although it seems old to us, I still go into new client sites and opportunities and say, "You could do this," and they say, "Really? I didn’t know I could do that." It’s there, but now the society is catching up, if that makes sense.

Gardner: It also seems that some of the file-share demonstrations and announcements show the benefit of the whole greater than the sum of the parts, when you can integrate with cloud, with devices. Any thoughts about the power of an integrated file share rather than just the plain vanilla one-size-fits-all type of cloud-based file share?

Greenberg: That's the final layer that makes this mobile work style a reality. Before, if you could remote in the XenApp style that Doug was referring to, you could get your job done. But now that you can transmit data securely, when it hits your phone, you're working on it natively.

I go into the subway and the signal drops. Well, that file is there and I can edit it, sign it, get my signal back, and go. It has taken that virtualization mobility to a level now where it can travel and it can be seamless.

Gardner: And that’s an intelligent container. So, if your requirements around privacy or security mean that you have to have control over what that session is and does, you can get that.

Douglas, how important is that intelligent container when put in the context of an intelligent network?

Brown: Extremely important. It's important from every aspect of the business. Nowadays, we're able to do those things where we have never been able to in the past, at the level they are at now.

It can’t be understated how important those components are. It comes down to maturity. The technology and the vision have been there -- or the vision has been there, and the technology is coming around. Now, with technologies such as that, it's matured, and then we're able to achieve all of our goals, from business, and to end users.

New capability

Greenberg: Citrix demonstrated at Synergy 2016 a new capability that wasn't there before. We're all familiar with the Dropbox model, where I can send a file, but once you send it, it’s out there in the wild. What they showed today was sending a file and then changing its status. So, even though that person had received the file and looked at it, when the status changed, they could no longer see it. That’s the home run. That’s the piece that was not part of this capability before.

Harder: I tweeted this morning that this new capability really propelled Citrix ShareFile into being the file-sharing solution for business. There are a lot of other solutions out there, but they're really not suitable for business. They don't provide that level of security and a signature signing that enables. Think about the security impacts of that, the legalities. They have it covered. There's a lot more coming. Once some of the states start to add how the digital signature can be incorporated as the notarized signature, wow.

Gardner: Many business processes really do get that mobile style of work as a result, and rather than just repaving cow paths, you're really doing something quite new and different.

Before we sign off, I would like to allow our listeners and readers to get more information on the Citrix Technology Professional Program. If they're interested in learning more, maybe taking some role themselves, where should they go?

Dehlinger: Definitely start with the CTP page on the Citrix website. That's a great place to find out more about this group and what they do. However, look at the Citrix User Group Communities out there. There are a lot of fantastic people present. We (CTP’s) are blessed by having the opportunity to be able to represent a big base, but in a lot of localities around the world, the Citrix User Group Communities have been doing some fantastic things, and making a difference locally.

Gardner: Sort of a federation of groups around the world.

Dehlinger: Absolutely.

Greenberg: I would add, blog, tweet, turn out for user groups, come out to Synergy, come out to Summit. If you're one of the reseller partners, make yourself known.

We 're a community of almost-crazy enthusiasts. We have a ridiculous level of interest and passion. We have a tendency to find each other, and we're always amazed to see new people come from a place, a country, or a business we never heard of with new solutions.

 

Learn How the Citrix Technology Professionals Program Helps
Shape the Future of Cloud Computing  

A great event happening today is the Geek Speak tonight. We have done a GeekOvation program, where people submit their projects and their work and come up and get recognized for it and have a little contest. There are endless possibilities. Just get out there and start communicating.

Dehlinger: Participate!

Harder: And have fun.

Brown: In a couple of weeks I'm going to be going to Norway with Rick for one of the best and oldest Citrix User Groups around the world, but that advocacy, is only halfway done, programs and other things for people looking to get into the CTP Program or just sharing knowledge in general.

Start up a blog, have some fun, share knowledge. I've always said, knowledge is not power; power is in dispersing that knowledge.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Citrix.

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