Citrix & ASPs

Jim Whitehead (
Fri, 2 Jul 1999 12:58:31 -0700

Does anyone on this list know what Citrix's products do? I provide my
interpretation below, but I'd be interested to know if anyone else on this
list has first-hand knowledge.

Application Service Providers (ASPs) just can't love this technology enough.
For example, FutureLink Development <> recently
bought Micro Visions <http:/> (announcement here:
<>) just because it is
a leading Citrix reseller.

The Citrix site <> is a bastion of market speak. For
example, one of their more technical white papers
<> explains their products like this:

The server-based computing model employs three critical components. The
first is a multi-user operating system that enables multiple concurrent
users to log on and run applications in separate, protected sessions on a
single server. The second is a highly efficient computing technology that
separates the application's logic from its user interface, so only
keystrokes, mouse clicks and screen updates travel the network. As a result,
application performance is bandwidth-independent. The third key component,
centralized application and client management, enables large computing
environments to overcome the critical application deployment challenges of
management, access, performance and security.

Server-based computing is made possible by two Citrix technologies: Citrix
Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) and Citrix MultiWin. A de facto
standard for server-based computing, the ICA protocol shifts application
processing from the client device to the server. MultiWin, the technology
licensed by Citrix to Microsoft to jointly create Terminal Server, enables
multiple users to simultaneously access applications running on a server.

Reinterpreting this in language I understand, it sounds like Citrix has
reinvented X-Windows. It appears their solution places applications on the
server, and then has a display application on the user's actual machine.
Their key technology breakthrough is being able to split the display from
the application logic for PC applications, which were never architected this
way to begin with. Their ICA protocol
<> appears to be the equivalent of the
X protocol.

The key advantage they tout is lower cost of ownership by centralizing
maintenance and configuration control. Presumably, since the desktop
computer only needs to handle display information, it will not need to be
replaced as frequently -- a PII 300 machine should provide sufficient
display capabilities for office applications for at least 5 years. This
architecture is also the key to the ASP industry, which knows how to deploy
this type of architecture in a corporation, and can then split the cost of
ownership advantage with technically un-savvy organizations.

While this type of architecture is not appropriate for all organizations --
it would be suicide for software development organizations -- there are many
organizations for which office productivity applications are a tool, and
computer maintenance is not a core competency. These organizations can
easily outsource the management of these applications, thus allowing their
IT departments to focus on developing applications and technology
integrations to support the core business activity of the company.

ASP businesses are arbitrageurs, extracting profit from the difference in
maintenance costs between the distributed, client-side app model, and the
centralized app model.

- Jim