Citrix 'access' mantra takes over at iForum

You'd think a bank would spend most of its time trying to make its business metrics increase, but lately Germany-based Deutsche Bank is preoccupied with a particular decrease, namely reducing the number of PCs it owns.

The financial institution means to replace as many PCs as possible with thin clients -- computers that source applications from back-end servers, rather than on-board hard drives.

According to Henry Fieglein, Deutsche Bank (DB's) director of global architecture, thin clients are easier to maintain than PCs. The IT department can make application updates and apply patches at the server level, rather than worry about managing thousands of traditional computers.

"We're moving towards a total instant office," Fieglein said, explaining that in the future DB employees will access not only apps, but also other desktop functions such as voice mail via their thin clients. It's the bank's way of ensuring the high-tech infrastructure meets end users' needs. Fieglein talked about this server-based architecture at iForum, a gathering of Citrix Systems clients and partners in Florida this week. Citrix makes server-based computing technologies. DB is one of its customers.

In 2003 Citrix changed its marketing. Now the firm talks about "access strategies" more than server-based computing. "Last year we made a huge commitment to you," Citrix CEO Mark Templeton told iForum participants during his keynote speech on Oct. 5. He said the firm would continue to drive home the message that Citrix provides access solutions, not just server software.

Templeton expanded on the access mantra, describing "SmartAccess," a Citrix initiative that teaches servers to check just where the end user is before presenting information. If the user is at a public Internet kiosk, for instance, he may only be able to source basic data -- no business-sensitive stuff.

Templeton also described "SmoothRoaming," technology that essentially suspends sessions between an end point and the server if the connection between the two devices is cut off. This should make it easier to re-establish the session when the connection comes back on.

Conference attendees said they liked what Citrix had to say.

Tom Rutherford, senior systems developer at Applied Industrial Technologies, an industrial parts supplier in Saskatoon, said the keynote session was "validating" in that it suggested his company is on the right path with its own Citrix environment.

Rutherford also said he's particularly interested in learning more about SmoothRoaming, because the technology might address a problem at Applied Industrial.

Right now if a user's computer stops working, there's no way for the IT department to reestablish the session where it ended. SmoothRoaming might help employees at Rutherford's firm maintain their productivity levels, even if their computers give up the ghost.

Ted Garner of IT Weapons, a computer services provider and Citrix user/ partner, said the software firm's message that its systems are strategic investments rather than just cost-savers is starting to take hold. "They...are going beyond the access market."

Thin client computing is topical this week. On Tuesday thin client vendor Wyse Technology released results conducted for it by Winmark, an independent, London based market research consultancy specializing in IT product testing and market research.

The test asked 110 people to conduct a set of common business tasks using the Microsoft Office suite on both a Wyse Winterm thin client and a business PC of "average power".

Candidates were then asked which device was faster to use and which one they would prefer as their desktop. Seven out of ten candidates stated that they would prefer the thin client rather than the PC.

(Additional reporting by Howard Dahdah.)

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