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Global CIO: Citrix CEO Templeton On Killing IT Inertia Before It Kills You

As CIOs search for ways to increase business agility and lower IT costs, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton says that "traditional enterprise computing is collapsing under the weight of its own complexity."
"But the problem is that in the face of all those forces—lower budgets, more business change happening faster, users demanding better IT experiences—CIOs simply can't defend the status quo any longer, and instead they've got to do something. This a-ha! moment is when the force of all that inertia gets turned from a straight-line path pointing back to where we've been to a new direction that shows where we're going."

So that's the challenge CIOs are faced with these days, and here's why Templeton believes Citrix is prepared to help CIOs overcome those challenges. First, the challenge, as outlined in Citrix's annual report:

Tight IT budgets are not a short term trend, they are the new reality. The distributed computing model is aging rapidly, exposing its complexity, cost, and inflexibility. It’s also quite clear that customers will be driven, even more rapidly, to centralize complexity in the datacenter, and distribute pure simplicity to the desktop. There’s tremendous potential for a true tipping point.

And second, the approach Citrix says it has been advocating for 20 years, a philosophy that Citrix says puts it "at the epicenter of this IT revolution":

Our goal is to empower our customers with the operating cost structure and agility of the web. . . . Over the next three years, squeezed between declining budgets and IT consumerization, thousands of CIOs will have an "a-ha moment." The gap between the web and enterprise computing will no longer be defensible—to users, to the CEO, or to the CFO.

Customers in various industries, Citrix said, have made the leap by following the Citrix philosophy:

--A large retail chain handles four times as many transactions per second --A global pharmaceutical firm accelerates time to market by six months --A bank in India expands its customer reach with "bank-in-a-van" service to underserved, remote locations --An airline reduces paper usage by 1.5 million sheets per year --And as noted earlier, Bechtel adopts an end-to-end IT virtualization strategy to consolidate its datacenters and securely deliver applications, even in the some of the most undeveloped and isolated areas of the world.

To make all that happen, virtualization has become central to almost everything Citrix does. And Templeton, acknowledging that the field is heavy with both competition and opportunities, comes back to his metaphor of the lively and youthful spirit animating and surpassing the limitations the physical world can impose on us:

"VMware makes fine products and offers customers a great alternative," Templeton says, "and their performance stands on its own. We believe the market demand and need for virtualization—not only for server-consolidation virtualization, but also cloud and network-virtualization and application-virtualization—that the size of that market and opportunity is enormous, and can and will support a number of large software companies offering great ideas and different approaches.

"VM is proprietary, more end to end, and gives you the full thing from management to storage to networking and now they're trying to say it even does desktops. It's reasonably proprietary in nature and it's premium-priced. That's fine.

"Our strategy is to differentiate with an open platform that gives customers more of a choice, and we think we're lower-cost and better for integrating easily with all types of networks and storage and management so that instead of having to replace a lot of things that some other solutions can require, with us you just connect it.

"But what it really comes down to is this: VMware will sell you infrastructure to give you a highly optimized factory, whereas we will give you the tools to give you the ability to distribute the outcome of that highly optimized factory. It's not about device-ownership, it's about distribution, and I think in the IT side of our global economy today there can be much more value in distributing than in manufacturing, and in being able to react rapidly and intelligently to that outcome instead of to the factory itself."

For all you CIOs out there: here's to youthful souls and a-ha! moments.

GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

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