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What kind of key opportunities do you see in the Middle Eastern market?

According to IDC, IT expenditure in the Middle East will grow by 15% in 2008, against worldwide average growth of just 5%. We are planning to tap into this growth, and also grow our ANG product line, including security software and network appliances in specific markets where IDC expects a local market growth of 37.4% this year.

Are there any specific vertical you are focusing on?

Citrix Middle East has traditionally been strong in finance, telecommunications, healthcare and retail industries. Our recent organisation re-focus has made the government sector the biggest market opportunity for us in this region for the next two years. E-government initiatives, security regulations, connecting various departments and ministries together, and catering to an exponential growth in population and demand for new services are driving new IT initiatives in this sector. The sales cycle is definitely longer than private sector but the size of opportunities is bigger and this sector is very keen on complete turnkey solutions with services included.

How committed are you to this region?

Citrix Systems opened its regional headquarters in DIC (Dubai Internet City) in UAE way back in 2002. We have been growing the number of new customers in the region, crossing 5,000 customers and more than 400,000 licenses installed last year. In fact, last fiscal, 50% of our revenues came from new customers.

We are also investing in qualified people from all nationalities, including service and consulting teams to cater to the demands of large enterprise customers by assessing, designing and supporting large scale project implementations. We are seeing an interest in our virtualisation, Web acceleration and WAN optimisation technologies recently. In this region, CIOs want to leverage what is already working – a fully virtualised organization, from server to desktop to application, with a strong RoI is no longer a technology pipedream. And that’s our unique value proposition to the market.

Is Citrix channel key for your success?

We are a 100% channel driven vendor and rely on the channel for our success. Due to a proliferation in our product offerings and increase in the size of the projects, we had to invest in a solid channel to support the growth. We have a tiered partner programme in place, ranking partners based on their expertise, technical knowledge and service provided in key verticals.

We also rely on a large ecosystem of more than 3,000 alliance partners, which includes names like HP, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, Symantec and NetApp. We are planning to grow the partnership with large consulting and services firms that are handling large projects (Wipro, HP Services) and more ISVs in specific verticals, like Cerner for healthcare.

What is Citrix’s approach to virtualization, and how different is it from others in the industry?

We are the only vendor in the market that offers end-to-end virtualization – for servers and desktops – based on an open and high performance virtualization layer offering enterprise features. We are positioned to deliver desktop to data center virtualization solutions. Citrix has been a leader in application delivery solutions for the Windows platform. Now, in coupling that with back-end server virtualization, we can provide to our customers leading edge desktop to data center solutions. Our provisioning technology for servers and desktops enhances agility and reduces the number of images to maintain, which in turn reduces management costs significantly. For example, with virtualisation, companies can run multiple OS on a single physical desktop at once , and switch between them as easily as switching apps instantly with a mouse click.

Are SMBs also adopting virtualization technologies, and what is driving this market segment towards the technology?

SMBs face increasing economic pressures to optimize costs and offer greater value. They do not have the luxury of big budgets in building dynamic and robust infrastructures, while placing big hardware boxes in remote/satellite offices. Use of IT assets has to be optimized, while spending has to be controlled. Virtualization is picking pace particularly in the SMB space for many reasons. SMBs can elongate their PC refresh cycles, offer better services to end customers, and the convergence of networks allows them to further streamline availability of applications (services in the future) from a central location, while eliminating the costs of provisioning/de-provisioning users in a volatile and ever-changing environment due to high employee turnover. As a result, about 40% of our business among those 400,000 users are SMB users.

Do you feel that the regional market understands the term “virtualisation” and its benefits? If yes, are there enough takers for such technologies? If no, what more needs to be done?

There is a lot of confusion in the market around virtualization technology, mainly due to the fact that several vendors came with a new server virtualisation solution in the market. We have been active for the last 18 years in application virtualization, with more than 70 million users worldwide, and the fact that we added desktop and server virtualization in our platform enables a company to have, for the first time, an end-to-end virtualization , fully compatible with their existing storage and server environment. The market is looking for clarification and solutions that integrate with their current environment and is end to end. For instance on the desktop side, Citrix and Microsoft are working together to deliver a joint VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution based on Microsoft VDI platform elements and Citrix XenDesktop. On the server side, Citrix Xen Server has now passed the Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) certification to offer full compatibility to customer on our joint solutions

Virtualization is more of a strategic decision than a tactical goal. It represents a bold step to move away from the traditional way of managing IT. Most CIOs are facing challenges that will ultimately find a solution in virtualization. The Middle East will continue to see exponential growth, and this will lead to more and more CIOs realizing the benefits of virtualization. Today, virtualization is still being viewed from a technical perspective and we are trying to change the CIO perspective and approach to it.

Is virtualization RoI hard to quantify? How can CIOs justify the investment?

The best ROI for virtualization is a key objective for every CIO looking at this technology as a strategic move. It has to be justified to financial and business decision makers. Using tools like provisioning server for physical and virtual servers or desktops enables IT managers to reduce VDI/DDI storage required. We offer a ROI/TCO calculator that shows you how to get optimal ROI out of your virtualisaiton projects.

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