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M&A: Virtually Unlimited Opportunity

When Citrix Systems Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., acquired open source hypervisor vendor XenSource Inc. for $500 million in 2007, the deal sent a clear signal: User-level virtualization wasn't enough for Citrix; the application-delivery infrastructure powerhouse wanted to play in the back end as well. With that merger complete, Citrix now faces the task of integrating its channel program with XenSource's.

Citrix President and CEO Mark Templeton talked recently with editors from the Redmond Media Group about the challenges and opportunities involved in folding XenSource's channel operations into its own.

Did XenSource have an active channel program? If they did, did you essentially just pick it up and run with it?
Yes, and yes. When we acquired the company, they had approximately 400 integration partners reselling their software. When we announced the acquisition, we encouraged all Citrix partners that wanted an early entry into the market to go to XenSource and join their program. After we completed the acquisition, we began the process of combining the programs, presenting the different sides and recruiting and actively engaging our channel network. Coming into 2008, we had approximately 1,000 integration partners in the program and in the process of being certified and trained. Our goal is to exit Q1 with an additional 1,000, and then we'll grow organically from there.

Did partners know about Xen or has there been a lot of education that had to take place?
Some were familiar with Xen and Xen Server. We've actually learned a lot from those partners in terms of how to best communicate with other Citrix partners that didn't have any awareness of Xen Server.

And we've been doing a great job of getting the word out through our normal partner communications network. It hasn't been too difficult because, frankly, so many of them have taken on VMware practices over the last few years, so they understand the core value proposition of server virtualization.

Citrix Training Triple Play

In late January, Citrix unveiled three new channel-partner training initiatives:

  1. SalesPass provides free unlimited access to all Citrix eLearning courses on selling and positioning Citrix products.
  2. KickStart offers tech training for two key Citrix products for free or at reduced cost: a. KickStart for Citrix XenServer, a self-paced interactive learning program, is available free (Citrix says the course usually costs $1,995); b. KickStart for Citrix NetScaler, which involves five days of instructor-led training in both basic and advanced NetScaler topics, is available for $1,000 (which Citrix says is 80 percent off the normal fee).
  3. StayCurrent is an accelerated technical training course for the Platinum Edition of Citrix Presentation Server. According to the company's announcement, StayCurrent condenses several other classes representing 11 days of training into one intensive five-day course for $2,500 (which Citrix says is 55 percent off the normal fee).

Free SalesPass courses will be available indefinitely. The KickStart and StayCurrent promotions will remain valid through Citrix's next partner summit in October.

Citrix Partner Network members may sign up here. For general information on Citrix training, click here.

We're able to add on top of that strategy that we're delivering an easy-to-use, high-performance, highly compatible server virtualization product that's great at running Windows workloads, but that also complements [Citrix] Presentation Server. We also have our game plan for introducing Xen Desktop [this year], which we believe will be the most comprehensive desktop virtualization solution in the market. I think that they're very receptive to this sort of larger-picture view.

What advice are you giving partners trying to build virtualization infrastructures?
We're introducing them to the three quests that we've outlined for Citrix for the next five years, where we're able to tell a customer that we can provide an infrastructure to have a dynamic data center, an infrastructure to deliver every application at the surface, and [the ability] to convert the desktop, in many cases for office workers, from deployed devices into an IT service.

As a Citrix partner, you'll be able to choose one or more of those quests to participate in, represent our products and understand how they interoperate and how they individually deliver value to the customer.

About the Author

Anne Stuart, the former executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner, is a business technology freelance writer based in Boston, Mass.