Paul Martine, the soft spoken, hard driving CIO of Citrix Systems, has implemented a policy of bring your own computer to work for 3,500 Citrix laptop users. That means he's willing to pay them $2,100 to pick out the computer of their choice.
After 18 months, 1,400 employees have taken him up on the offer. In many cases, he says, they buy a computer that costs $3,000 or more, using the company's reimbursement to upgrade themselves to a higher level multimedia and game-playing machine than they would normally purchase. Each subsidized purchase must include a three-year warranty on the computer.
"People have tended to go and spend a $1,000 more than what we give them. The majority buy a very high end device. They buy an Acer Ferrarri model. Forty-six percent of them buy Macs. They tell me they wouldn't spend $3,000 on their own -- that would be irresponsible. But with the $2,100 stipend…. " Martine related in an interview during a break in the Citrix Systems Synergy user group meeting in San Francisco.
"As a source of employee satisfaction, the program has moved the mark higher," he added.
Why implement a bring-your-own-computer to work policy at a company? Martine says employees are already bringing their favorite devices to work, their Blackberries and iPhones or other smart phones, their tablets and their netbooks. IT can assign one type of computer to everyone, but he found end users really want to pick out their own. When they do, they also tend to develop the ability to self-maintain them.
Besides, IT can resist the infiltration of consumer devices into the workplace, or it can support it. But it probably can't stop it, Martine said.
In addition, Citrix Systems is a vendor of virtualized desktop software and Martine has made Citrix' own end user support into a laboratory of how to best implement end user virtual machines. It doesn't matter what computer an end user selects if his assigned virtual machine runs on it, which covers the gamut of x86 machines. Each new machine receives a download of Citrix' client software, Receiver, which includes a thin hypervisor for use when the machine is off the network. Otherwise, a user's virtual desktop is built each day by a XenDesktop server and displays virtualized applications running on a XenApp Server. Both of these servers are in the corporate data center, not next to the user's desk or in his department.
When the end user leaves to get aboard a flight, the laptop is already loaded with a version of Microsoft Office and other applications that can be run under the thin hypervisor. When the laptop reconnects, data is synchronized between the local applications and the central ones, Martine explained.
In addition, if he loses the laptop at the airport, all the data he's created with virtualized applications, whether connected or disconnected, has been stored in an encrypted "safe zone" folder. Without the encryption key, the folder is useless to the possessor of the laptop -- no corporate data has been lost, Martine said.
Citrix engineering now has "1,500 people testing its products, 1,500 people they'd never find in a lab. It will put out a higher quality product that will last for years because of that," he added.