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Citrix shops don't buy cloud simplicity story

Citrix's CEO insists that cloud computing will simplify enterprise IT, but IT pros with experience have heard that one before.

Weekly cloud computing update

SAN FRANCISCO -- Citrix CEO Mark Templeton promised that cloud computing will bring simplicity to enterprise IT, but nobody's buying it. This week at Citrix Synergy, Templeton repeated the idea that moving to the cloud will remove the headaches and complexity so entrenched in today's IT shops.

"We are going to make it simple, easy," he said during a two-hour keynote.

Like a lot of Citrix stuff, it's never that simple.

James Alley, platform engineering at the Department of Veterans' Affairs

The guys sitting next to me at the keynote exchanged looks of exasperation. They said Citrix talks the talk on simplicity, but in the real world its products are much more complex.

Templeton said Citrix's new NetScaler Cloud Bridge product will be your "back door to the cloud" and offer "seamless elasticity" from your data center to the cloud.

"It sounds a hell of a lot more complicated to me," said Andrew Bedford, manager of Windows systems at global agriculture company Viterra, on Citrix's public-private cloud pitch. "It doesn't just magically all happen in the cloud."

Bedford's team recently migrated to Microsoft Exchange Online. "We needed 15 servers to 'go to the cloud' and another 17 servers in-house just to support it," he said.

Mark Thacyk, manager of desktop services at Cooperators Life Insurance, liked the idea of keeping important corporate data in-house, putting just the Web tier of an application in the cloud and using Cloud Bridge to take care of the security elements. But he feared synchronization challenges.

"What about Active Directory synchronization?" he asked.

James Alley, platform engineering at the Department of Veterans' Affairs, agreed that simplicity is in the eye of the beholder. "Like a lot of Citrix stuff, it's never that simple," he said. "With Provisioning Server for XenDesktop, they said you could provision desktops in the blink of an eye...we didn't have that experience," Alley said. "There's always more to it than meets the eye."

A quick look at history is a helpful reminder. Tivoli, CA, BMC and HP OpenView did not reduce the complexity of managing computers; they just transferred it to a larger software framework that users say requires months of training to master. Similarly, VMware didn't remove the complexity of x86 servers popping up like daisies in data centers. They just transferred it to software, replacing server sprawl with VM sprawl.

Will moving components of your applications from your internal data center to the cloud reduce complexity? Probably not. It might even make things more complex in the short term. Another buyer-beware story? Don't say we didn't warn you.

Jo Maitland is the Senior Executive Editor of Contact her at

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