Citrix Tightens Relationship with Big Blue

The agreement between IBM Global Services and Citrix provides Citrix with a higher level of visibility because "It's an enabling kind of arrangement," according to Giga Analyst Rob Enderle.

If the saga of Citrix Systems Inc. (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) were ever to become the subject of a feature film, it would likely make for some good viewing. The multi-user software specialist has indeed seen its share of ups and downs over the years, but with the announcement of a recent agreement with the Global Services division of IBM Corp., Citrix may well be putting the finishing touches on a truly impressive comeback performance.

In early 1997, Citrix's fortunes took a marked nosedive when Microsoft Corp.--with whom the software vendor had been collaborating in the development of multi-user technology for Windows NT--indicated it might choose to develop such software in-house. Citrix eventually ironed things out with Microsoft and even concluded a technology-sharing agreement with the software giant in April 1997, but most analysts gave the company a relatively short time-to-live.

These days, Citrix is back with a vengeance. The company's new MetaFrame multi-user software offers an enhancement to the base multi-user capabilities provided by Microsoft's Windows NT Server Terminal Edition. Moreover, according to the terms of its technology-sharing agreement with Microsoft, Citrix's MetaFrame solution is the multi-user software alternative of choice for non-Windows clients.

More importantly, Citrix has of late been snuggling up with a powerful industry partner--IBM. During 1999 especially, Citrix has worked to tighten its relationship with IBM, announcing in early January an agreement that granted Big Blue the right to embed Citrix's Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) into its range of products.

In April 1999, Citrix announced that its MetaFrame software would now support IBM's Integrated Netfinity Server option running on the AS/400. This meant AS/400 administrators could install and run Citrix MetaFrame and Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition in their AS/400 environments.

Citrix's recent agreement with IBM Global Services effectively cements the relationship between the two companies. Accordingly, IBM Global Services indicated it will join Citrix's Enterprise Solutions Partner (ESP) channel program and provide consulting, outsourcing and system integration services for Citrix customers deploying the company's MetaFrame and WinFrame multi-user software. IBM Global Services will focus on helping enterprise customers gain access to business-critical applications through Citrix's MetaFrame and WinFrame software.

"As part of the Citrix ESP program, and having used Citrix server-based computing solutions internally, we look forward to applying our experience and knowledge to help our global customers gain MetaFrame's management and performance benefits," says Ed Sammis, VP of enterprise services for Microsoft technologies with IBM Global Services.

Questions of cuddling up with Big Blue aside, the agreement with IBM's Global Services division could prove to be Citrix's most lucrative concord to date, some analysts speculate.

"[This agreement] does provide Citrix with a higher level of visibility because it's an enabling kind of arrangement; it means that they can engage in and create more sales," says Rob Enderle, a senior analyst with Giga Information Group (Norwell, Mass.). "Dealing with IBM's Global Services automatically gives them an avenue of entry into more enterprise accounts, although it doesn't actually mean that IBM will try and sell them into these accounts."

If Big Blue's own track record for deploying and leveraging MetaFrame and WinFrame on an internal basis is any indication, IBM Global Services will likely be recommending the Citrix multi-user software as the thin-client solution of choice for many, if not most, enterprise customers. IBM has deployed Citrix-based thin-client solutions across a number of its worldwide divisions with great success, IBM's Sammis says.

But it's existing AS/400 shops that could benefit the most by virtue of Citrix's most recent courtship of IBM, says Giga's Enderle. Because the Integrated Netfinity Server option effectively allows the AS/400 to remain the focal point of a thin-client, server-based infrastructure, IBM Global Services can now make an effective pitch of MetaFrame on the Integrated Netfinity Server to organizations that already have an AS/400 in-house.

"They'd be foolish not to recommend it, especially if it'll keep existing AS/400 customers on the AS/400 platform," Enderle maintains. "Anything to keep those AS/400s in place."