Citrix Overhauls Product Line
At a recent announcement staged at the opening bell of the New York-based Nasdaq, Citrix Systems said it is repositioning and renaming its flagship MetaFrame XP product line to incorporate more robust enterprise portal capabilities. The move underpins what the company views as four essential elements of any enterprise portal environment: devices and networks, security and authentication; personalization and aggregation; and collaboration.
The latest version of MetaFrame Presentation Server will ship about the same time Windows Server 2003 begins shipping, according to Anthony Ricco, senior product manager for client server products at Citrix. While devices/network connectivity and access are already part of the MetaFrame environment, the vendor is incorporating three new products that provide personalization and collaboration capabilities.
MetaFrame Password Manager, built on technology licensed from Passlogix, offers a single sign-on capability for accessing password-protected applications running within MetaFrame. Citrix’s portal product, Nfuse Elite, has been renamed MetaFrame Secure Access Server. The third product being added, MetaFrame Conferencing Manager, enables users to share and edit applications accessed through MetaFrame XP. The real-time collaboration software – originally code-named Project Pearl – is designed to allow end-users to share access to any published application, file, or document.
The new product suite helps address Citrix’s goal of providing “any, any, any” access, comments Ricco. “A user can gain access to information from any device, at any time, over any connection. We seek to provide enterprise resources on demand.”
Such ubiquitous access to Windows server applications has been helping to reshape the operational capabilities at Ohio Valley Supply Company, a leading distributor of Dupont brand Corian and Zodiaq surfaces, serving Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Applications are now accessible to Ohio Valley Supply’s remote sales and marketing employees through an enterprise portal built on MetaFrame XP/Secure Access Server.
Major applications include a Unix-based ordering/billing system, Office XP and Lotus Organizer. The networking environment consists of Citrix MetaFrame Secure Access Manager, integrated with a Citrix MetaFrame XP Server for Windows running on a Dell PowerEdge Windows 2000 Server.
Shawn Woodward, MIS manager for Ohio Valley Supply, says the portal was critical, since 80 percent of the company’s employees worked offsite. Ohio Valley Supply needed a Web-based solution that could provide employees, customers and suppliers with access to applications and information, such as sales data, training materials and the latest promotions. “Our sales force is in six different states, so hence the immediate need to communicate with the home office here in Cincinnati, Ohio.”
Prior to the portal implementation, Woodward attempted to increase connection speeds and bandwidth between terminal clients and MetaFrame over a wide area network. However, connectivity was bogged down by the time and resources required to separately upgrade and maintain every remote client. “Wherever you were, you had to have the ICA client actually installed,” he recounts. “Plus, you had to set up an installation disk, and configure the client to come through a firewall.”
Moving to a Web server configuration was out of the question, however. “We didn’t have the time or resources to rewrite our existing applications for the Web,” Woodward says. “We were looking for a solution that was easy to deploy and would hasten our Web-based implementation.”
The solution was to build a portal environment on top of the current MetaFrame infrastructure. Woodward was able to use content delivery agents (CDAs), offered with MetaFrame, to design Web page components. The portal environment, with CDAs representing various functions, is launched when an employee logs into the secure Website. The CDAs are also compatible with Microsoft’s Web Parts. The Microsoft Web Parts actually run transparent, so you can install them into your portal management console, which is a dashboard that administers the MetaFrame portal environment. “You literally drag and drop these CDAs whenever you’re in the maintenance screen these pages.”
Woodward expects the portal initiative to save the company about $300,000 over the next three years. Most of these savings are coming from the ability to “easily deploy applications to the Web without having to rewrite them, saving substantial programming costs,” he states. “In addition, we’ve replaced older workstations with low-cost thin-client devices.”
Applications are varied – and unexpected. Along with e-mail and searchable personnel locator, which is attached to the company’s SQL Server database, employees also are enthusiastic about a weather update. “I can’t believe how people went crazy over a weather snapshot,” Woodward quips. Other popular functions include real-time alerts, online electronic expense reports and mileage logs.
Woodward has also added online polls to track employee preferences. Recently, one poll inquired about meal preferences for an upcoming employee stockholder meeting – with a choice of chicken or steak. “Everyone went with chicken, except me,” he says.
Joe McKendrick is an independent consultant and author specializing in surveys, technology research and white papers. He's a contributing writer for ENTmag.com.