iPad strong driver of desktop virtualisation

Apple’s iPad’s strong sales have spurred tablet growth and the mobility market generally. But it has also had a significant impact in driving the desktop virtualisation market, much to the delight of Citrix and its channel partners says Mark Cox.
Citrix recently conducted a survey of its own customers which elicited 4,951 responses, and showed a significant number (46%) depend on the iPad and use it daily — a significant number given that it has only been on the market for seven months.

The survey also found that 62% of respondents planned to purchase and use an iPad for business. Only 43% said that their company was willing to buy it for them, meaning that many are willing to pay for it at their own expense, providing they are allowed to use it. 72% said their company was willing to let them access their corporate resources from a personal iPad.

” It’s the first device people have shown up with at work and not expect to be reimbursed by the company,” said Tom Flink, Vice President of Worldwide Channels & Market Development at Citrix. “That’s a significant shift in the consumerisation of devices and their impact on the workplace.”

Flink said the iPad’s driver of virtualisation sales has been this belief that whether the company paid for it or not, business people want to use it, and think they should still have access to company resources with it.

“That’s where this has been impactful to partners and internal sales,” he said. “Executives want to use this and Citrix enables IT departments to say yes to that. That has been driving the right kind of conversations around virtual desktops and virtualisation, and our partners have latched onto this because it’s so compelling.”

One key impact has been the iPad’s effect on the sales cycle.

“We go through a traditional cycle of identification, solution validation, and executive approval in the traditional sales cycle,” Flink said. “The iPad, has created a moment of WOW in our customer base, a pull which has accelerated business value beyond technical value. It has moved us into the solution development phase much, much faster because the marketing around the technology and brand has been tremendous and created a cool factor everyone would love to have in their products. People want to have one and want to be seen with it at work.”

“It’s definitely a gamechanger,” said Todd Hsu, President of Montreal-based Citrix partner TH Consultants. “Ever since the iPad hit the market, every week I have had a different client call me and ask how I get Windows 7 applications on the iPad. It’s a much different effect from a laptop.”

“iPad is just the poster child for user behavior in our world changing,” said Mike Strohl, President of Citrix partner Entisys Solutions, which is based in Concord CA. “Users want to bring the devices to work and virtualiaation is the only way to deal with the increasing diversity of endpoints , from a security as well as a user satisfaction perspective. The moment someone pulls one out in a meeting, people are interested.”

There are also executives willing to serve as an advocate for the iPad.

“One CIO we worked with was so unhappy with unresponsiveness in his company, he bought 6,000 iPads to drive desktop virtualisation,” Strohl said.

Partner opportunities to take advantage of this are significant, but they do require specific expertise, Flink said.

“Ten years ago I was in the VAR community, when people were getting serious about smartphones and mobile phones, and we were trying to figure out then if we could make money selling them,” Flink said. “They way we think about devices then and now was different. The device now is basically a window into virtualisation. The expertise needed to build the internal services — the private cloud if you will — that’s a significant opportunity for the VAR channel regardless of whether they participate in the selling of the device itself. The money on the infrastructure side to support the devices is the opportunity. But the VARs do need to bring expertise to the table, not just be a supplier.”

Strohl said that dealing with the iPad demand has also required significant changes in their business model.

“It’s revolutionary,” he said. “It’s forcing organisations to look at what we sell, not as a tactical solution but as a strategic solution that hits all users. We have to be business process change experts. We have to understand the impact of this on the organisation. We aren’t IT solutions guys any more. We are consultants.”

It’s also not a space where Apple is likely to try and do the infrastructure work themselves.

“Apple is primarily a ‘to consumer’ organisation, and while the corporate business is a nice thing for them, they are probably viewing it as consumers buying it and bringing it to work and demanding the right to use it,” Strohl said. “They don’t have a corporate enterprise structure. So this allows us to build in support offerings that Apple can’t deliver.”

“As long as the devices fly off the shelves, Apple doesn’t need to invest in enterprise management,” Hsu said. “They can leave it to third parties to come up with solutions. And Citrix is the first company with a fully supported client to attach the iPad securely, with no back doors. IT is happy and users are happy.

“Six or seven years ago, we went through the same thing with the BlackBerry, where execs bought it themselves and created backdoors and IT hated it,” Hsu added. “They ended up getting enterprise servers, but these were expensive and some companies held out or limited access to senior ranks. Now Citrix Receiver is free. Anyone can download it, so the investment and the effort is a lot less. IT organizations are also more educated now, because they went through the BlackBerry thing.”

This process is all a reflection of the way the world of IT is changing, Strohl said.

“We used to talk about control and security, and now users are buying their own devices and defining how they want to operate,” he said. “Desktop virtualization is their best bet for making that happen — and maybe their only bet.”s

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