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Trouble with the curve

Ahead of the curve is a common phrase in IT, and it’s almost always used in a positive light. After all, new technologies and cutting-edge innovations keep the industry growing. Without vendors constantly striving to be ahead of the curve, we’d still be working on unwieldy computer terminals connected to giant mainframes.

But sometimes vendors can go too far and get themselves in trouble. The tipping point is when ahead-of-the-curve technologies and strategies don’t align with customers’ needs.

Workspace suites, as the March issue of Access covered, offer one such example. They aim to provide unified access to and management of all end-user applications and data, which is great. But they combine a lot of different product types, many of which are still emerging, such as enterprise mobility management and identity and access management. Those technologies represent a new way of doing things for both IT and users, and many organizations aren’t ready to adopt them yet — let alone adopt suites that integrate them with other products.

Workspace suites are not at the core of any vendor’s business — at least not yet — and organizations can still buy all their components separately. So while they are too far ahead of the curve, it’s not a huge problem.

Citrix’s push to become a cloud-first vendor focused on security and analytics exemplifies a thornier issue. The company — which changed CEOs in July, citing the need to pivot faster — is betting big on cloud-based management.

The approach makes sense for Citrix. From a financial perspective, selling software on a subscription basis strengthens the customer relationship and makes revenues more predictable. Plus, when existing customers are locked in for the duration of a subscription, it frees up sales staff to pursue new business.

And from a technology perspective, cloud is the future. As users, apps and data become more distributed, the cloud will become not only more convenient but necessary for connecting to and managing these assets.

Many customers aren’t buying in, however.

“With the shift to cloud, is Citrix focusing on the wrong thing?” asked Tim Riegler, a systems engineering manager at a Citrix shop in the healthcare industry. “Lots of Citrix loads run on premises, especially legacy applications or anything that requires large file access. Plus, there are a host of issues with cloud: access, cost, complexity, management.”

In addition, organizations have made significant investments in on-premises management software. It needs to make financial sense for IT departments to abandon their existing investments in favor of cloud, and that’s not always the case these days.

Cloud-first management is an ahead-of-the-curve strategy for Citrix. But it doesn’t align with many IT departments’ current needs. And that’s a problem.

This post originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Access Magazine.