If one brand stood out at this year’s IP EXPO, it was Citrix. The notable attraction of a real life Red Bull Formula One car drew hundreds of visitors to the stand, along with the draw of an F1 simulator which visitors lined up to test their driving skills on. The partner zone was ubiquitously branded, along with the Citrix theatres. Amid the impressive array of exhibitors, Citrix was a force to be reckoned with!

There were so many takeaways from the two-day show — Professor Brian Cox’s keynote, along with the talk from Microsoft’s Brad Anderson’s, were big draws, while GDPR compliance was an obvious issue of concern; but on reflection, there were eight key points that really stood out for us…

  1. “Apps are like children”

Stephen Twynam, senior systems engineer at Citrix, proposed the metaphor of apps being like children, for the simple reason that they can be tricky to monitor and control within a large and fragmented space such as a playground, but once they enter a closed and secure environment, they can be more closely watched and safeguarded. “By virtualising apps, this allows us to centrally manage them within a data centre, and present to the customer in a secure fashion,” Twynam explained. Utilising Citrix NetScaler, apps are controlled and easily updated within the safety of four walls, which also gives users the freedom to access those apps from any device they wish.

  1. “What we need is control”

Ralph Lorkins, senior systems engineer at Citrix, spoke earnestly about the “need for control” as we move increasingly towards a multi-cloud environment. This brave new world is opening up far greater requirements in terms data centre management, and according to Lorkins, it is just as important for a business to be able to scale up, as well as scale back. Citrix’s NetScaler MAS allows IT/Ops and digital teams to integrate and have a common platform between them, giving them an application-level of insight, and a single viewpoint which can be more tightly controlled.

  1. Turn your users, into your advocates

Gerry Lavin, lead systems engineer at Citrix, spoke of a former role where he was responsible for mobilising an entire workforce, achieved largely through the roll-out of Citrix XenMobile for 120,000 users, along with ShareFile. “We wanted to delight our users and give them apps they wanted to use, and offer digital natives the freedom to use devices that they were most comfortable with,” Lavin explained. But as with all new IT systems, the challenge is always how to onboard staff and provide them with the training they need. To overcome this, Lavin said he “built enough momentum and interest that users did the marketing for us. They became our best advocates, and eventually they were pushing for other leaders to use the product.”

  1. Context is king

Increasingly, businesses need to get smarter about ‘who’ they let in, and contextual access is critical within this. Within all Citrix talks, the point was stressed that trusting a user simply because they have a username and password is no longer enough. Instead, businesses should be including contextual checks such as what device is being used, the user location, whether or not they are using a private and secure network, what they are attempting to access, etc, and based on this information, a decision is then made about whether or not to grant them access. Moving forward, apps will be able to adapt to context too, and so if the user is attempting to access from an un-trusted network or unknown device, data-sensitive apps, for example, could be temporarily restricted.

  1. Be mindful of the threat within

The message that security threats are not just happening from outside an organisation, but also from within, was highlighted by Ralph Lorkins, as well as security expert Graham Cluley within his keynote. Cluely in particular warned businesses to be vigilant of what he termed, “invisible employees”, such as those employed by an external agency and not necessarily known to the business. He cited an incident at the Sumitomo Mitsui Bank in London, where a security guard provided office access to two Belgian hackers, who then attempted to pull off a £229m heist. They used a USB memory stick to install “keylogger” software on various workstations that recorded every button pressed by users.

Cluely advised businesses to share best practice, ignore commercial rivalries, and encourage employees to report anything suspicious to IT.

  1. “Have a Tesla mentality towards digital transformation”

This was the advice of Citrix partner, iGel, who was showcasing its ‘UD pocket’, the portable universal desktop Thin Client, at IP EXPO. No bigger than a paperclip, this tiny piece of USB kit enables a user to securely access their Citrix session and company network on any PC, laptop or compatible endpoint device. It’s perfect for businesses supporting a BYOD (bring your own device) culture, and what’s more, the central management is automated, significantly reducing the need for IT support. The device receives continual “over the air” updates, much like the plug-in electric Tesla car, which is the way all businesses would be advised to think about digital transformation moving forward, iGel argued.

  1. Who needs bells and whistles?

The F1 simulator on the Citrix stand, which enabled over 200 speed trials, was built using nothing more than an off-the-shelf Rasperry Pi device! As part of the demonstration, we wanted to prove that a low cost computer can still deliver powerful graphics and access to complex applications, when the right server and network is in place. Hopefully we achieved that!

  1. Brake hard!

The F1 racing simulator was fast and furious, and if there’s one thing it taught me, it is to brake hard on those chicanes! My time might not have been the fastest, but hats off to the lucky winners who all completed the circuit in an impressive 1 minute 9 seconds for a lap of the Red Bull ring in Austria. They will be enjoying a tour of the Red Bull Racing factory in November, as their prize.