Citrix rebound mirrors improved performance in Canada

Citrix’s Canadian country manager Michael Murphy talks about the company’s turnaround, what customers in Canada are looking for, and the new opportunities he sees emerging in Canada for the company and its channel partners.


Michael Murphy, vice-president and country manager of Citrix Canada

LAS VEGAS – It has been an eventful year for Citrix. The company has had to contend with a public perception that its strategy and positioning were unsound, and saw its longtime CEO Mark Templeton depart under pressure from activist investors, Initially, interim CEO Robert Calderoni, appointed last October, and then longtime Microsoft exec Kiril Tatarinov, who assumed the CEO position in January, were tasked with reassuring Citrix customers, investors and partners that the company’s strategy now has the discipline and focus that had been demanded. The company’s messaging at its Synergy customer event here now has an upbeat – and even somewhat triumphalist – message. Citrix has completed its restructuring. Layoffs have been made. Strategic focus has been implemented. The company is now in a position to focus on innovation within the context of its new and more disciplined strategy.

Citrix’s Canadian subsidiary also saw a year of turmoil, albeit one caused by the pressure of market forces. Like the company as a whole, it got off to a rough start but picked up momentum as the year progressed and ultimately finished well.

“We finished the year very strong, as Canada mirrored the company,” said Michael Murphy, vice-president and country manager of Citrix Canada. “We had a challenging first half of last year, as the Canadian dollar and the problems with our economy played out. But we had a great second half, and a great start to this year. Last year was really a tale of two halves.”

Murphy thinks that the amount of change that has taken place in Citrix under the new leadership has been overstated, because while important changes have been implemented, they have been underway for some time.

“A lot of people think that everything has been done in the past 120 days since Kiril Tatarinov came on board,” Murphy said. “In reality, a lot of what has been announced was done before he arrived, under Robert Calderoni, and even under Mark Templeton. When Mark returned after his leave of absence, Citrix had already decided we were going to focus on five key things – XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, NetScaler and ShareFile. Elliott [the dissident investor group who had demanded change] espoused the same thing, and they took credit for the idea of becoming more streamlined and focused, but this was already underway. Elliott likely provided credibility for the changes, and they may have accelerated them, but they didn’t start them. There had been no question of what our long term strategy needed to be. Kiril will get a lot of the credit for communicating it and articulating it en masse here at Synergy – and he should – but the board and Bob and Mark and other members of the executive leadership team created the foundations for the change.”

Citrix has also undergone some major changes to its organization in Canada that Murphy said are showing positive returns.

“We bifurcated Canada into commercial and enterprise divisions on January 1 this year,” Murphy said. “This was actually developed and structured by the fall, but we waited until the beginning of the new fiscal year to implement it.”

Citrix has emphasized its focus on integrated solutions rather than simply product innovation at Synergy, and Murphy said that the growing integration of cloud as a choice for customers has great resonance in Canada.

“Last year at Synergy we announced Cloud Workspace Cloud, and while the interest level in the market was high, it didn’t directly translate into immediate revenue,” he stated. “It did create a tremendous amount of interest in how to best manage a Citrix environment, and draw attention to consolidating into a central fabric of management. Now we are taking that to the next level, with the second part of the strategy being the broader Citrix Cloud. That’s all about taking traditional on-prem XenApp and XenDesktop server farms and putting then in the cloud. Phase One was about management infrastructure and now Phase Two is putting the entire workload there.”

Murphy emphasized that this is all about providing the choice that customers want.

“All the on-prem capabilities remain intact and they might well be the choice of many going forward,” he said. “This just provides a choice, particularly around whether to have some things on-prem and some in the cloud. The great choice customers have today is to put their workloads where they are most nimble, and in accordance with their consumption model and their tech appetite.”

Some of the major announcements so far at Synergy have been around tech adoption concepts where the Canadian market has not been a leader, historically, but Murphy said they should find a place among Canadian customers. For example, Citrix announced NetScaler CPX, a new form factor for their networking offering that puts NetScaler into the Docker container, as well as a new NetScaler Management and Analytics system. The problem here is that most customers in Canada still don’t even know what containers are.

“Framing this around containers will require a lot of explanations for what it is,” Murphy acknowledged. “I think that a simple way to espouse it is that this is an opportunity to put your own NetScaler on your phone, giving everyone the ability to have their own personal NetScaler. The NetScaler analytics is long overdue, beyond the management capabilities we have had there. The small number of big NetScaler customers who consume half the total business were the driver in this.”

Murphy also indicated that he hopes Canadian partners will effectively leverage the Citrix Cloud.

“This can help them demonstrate more value that they can manage workloads,” he said. “It lets them take the solution on-prem or off-prem and drive more services. NetScaler SD-WAN, formerly CloudBridge, is another strong area of opportunity. I don’t have as many partners as I would like focused on networking, but traditional Citrix Solution Advisors should embrace networking as part of their total solution.”