Citrix updates Access Suite, adds SSL VPN appliance

Citrix will soon release an update version of its Presentation Server software and add an SSL VPN appliance to its portfolio.

Citrix Systems unveiled a flurry of product updates on Tuesday, including the next version of its flagship software for centralized application management, as the company's top executives met with analysts in New York to map out its strategy for the coming year.

Citrix Presentation Server 4.0 includes speed and scalability enhancements along with new features such as an overhauled printer-support system, additional security and access controls, and Pocket PC synchronization support. It also sports a new name: With this release, Citrix is dropping the MetaFrame name from the product, a move Citrix Senior Vice President of Corporate Development David Jones said was made to modernize the software's brand.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Citrix is also upgrading its Password Manager single-sign-in software and releasing a new SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) VPN (virtual private network) appliance, the Citrix Access Gateway. Collectively, three products form Citrix's Access Suite 4.0.

Citrix purchased SSL VPN technology maker Net6 in November to extend its presence in the security market. Releasing the Citrix Access Gateway pits the company against established SSL VPN vendors such as Aventail, Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems. The company will first aim the Citrix Access Gateway at its existing customer base, emphasizing its superior Citrix integration compared with rival products, Jones said.

Citrix has struggled with low customer adoption of its last major update of Presentation Server, the 3.0 version it introduced last April. Independent industry analyst Brian Madden, who focuses his research on Citrix, said he expects faster adoption of the 4.0 release. While the previous version included updates geared almost exclusively to large enterprise users, 4.0's advances will be useful to Citrix customers of all sizes, he predicted. He particularly singled out the new printing system and new virtual memory and CPU utilization management technologies as enhancements likely to make customers happy.

"The reaction to PS3 was, we looked at the new features and 90 percent of customers went down the list and said 'don't care, don't care' to the whole list. That won't be the case with PS4. I think Citrix really nailed it," Madden said. "Of course, that's a very different question from, 'Will a non Citrix customer who hasn't had it before buy it?'"

Alan Kauffman, chief information officer for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation and a relatively new Citrix customer, said he's looking forward to testing the new printing system in version 4.0 and hopes to put it to use. March of Dimes began using Citrix Presentation Server last year to centralize management of its 1,500 employee PCs scattered throughout 250 nationwide offices.

"The new print engine is a major thing for us," Kauffman said. "We're currently using a third-party product to supplement Citrix, and we'd prefer not to use that third party."

Most of March of Dimes' offices are staffed by only two or three employees with no IT support. Consequently, PC and application management is a major challenge for the organization -- and, as a nonprofit that needs to keep overheads low, March of Dimes has to make do with aging technology and a slim IT budget, Kauffman said. He spent a year studying Citrix's software before deciding to invest in it. The move has paid off, he said: Citrix's software allows March of Dimes to extend its PC life cycles from four years to at least six, centralize its previously disparate fundraising databases, and consolidate dozens of servers in field offices into one data center near March of Dimes' White Plains, New York, headquarters.

The organization is also using Citrix's GoToAssist remote support software to connect IT help desk staffers with field employees. The software, which lets support staff view user's screens and fix problems remotely, has led to quicker response times and increased user satisfaction ratings, according to Kauffman.

"For me, the big part of the sale is that we can make these chapters act as if they're in one office," he said. "It works very well."

Kauffman does have one gripe: He would like to see Citrix extend Pocket PC support to Palm OS devices as well, which many March of Dimes employees use.

Citrix Presentation Server 4.0, Password Manager 4.0 and Access Gateway 4.0 are available individually or bundled together in the Citrix Access Suite. All are due for release by June. The Citrix Access Suite has a retail price of US$599 per concurrent user. Other prices are available on Citrix's Web site.

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