Many of our customers look to Citrix for guidance on how to embrace the transformative power of cloud services. Because it’s helpful to learn how other organizations have made this transition, I’ve been I interviewing Citrix leaders across the company to hear first-hand how this Cloud-first approach has changed their jobs through my blog series The Way We Work.
I recently connected with Trenton Cycholl, vice president of Enterprise Applications, who oversees the team that delivers our enterprise applications and services that Citrix employees use every day, from enterprise software like SAP to SaaS services like Salesforce and Workday. Through his 20 years working on the Citrix IT team, Trenton has honed a unique perspective on how application and service delivery has evolved at the company, and what Citrix employees can expect to see in the future.
Joe: Your 20 years with Citrix gives us a unique perspective on how IT delivery at Citrix has changed. What did Citrix look like 20 years ago and were things like then, compared to the way we work today?
Trenton: One of my first tasks working for Citrix was to deploy our first financial management system, which needed to provide access to 100 clients worldwide. At that time, Citrix WinFrame was one of our core products, so we loaded the financial management system on our centrally managed servers and delivered it to our people through WinFrame.
At that time, client-server computing was the dominant delivery model, with a lot of applications loaded onto the PC, and the industry had been moving away from a centralized computing model. That system, which had to be accessed by 100 people illustrates how much Citrix has grown, and how IT has evolved since then.
Joe: Could you describe the first cloud-based application Citrix used? Since Salesforce was one of the first in the industry, was that the first for Citrix?
Trenton: Not only was Salesforce our first software-as-a-service (SaaS) app, but Citrix was among the first 50 Salesforce customers, so we were among the first companies to embrace the SaaS model. At that time, there was a lot of uncertainty about embracing that model. It’s ironic now that Salesforce has become so dominant, but that was considered a bold – and risky – decision at the time.
Joe: How has that mindset, where senior executives are willing to embrace the SaaS model, changed the way we look at IT here at Citrix?
Trenton: You know once people got used to the idea of moving beyond the data center for software, we hit a tipping point where we completely embraced SaaS solutions. Today, we depend on more than 75 SaaS solutions for critical business functions at Citrix.
Some of those services are highly specialized, and might be used by two or three people. Other SaaS solutions, like Salesforce and Workday, are accessed and used by most employees. And that outsourced model then has completely changed the way we look at data, storage and access.
The traditional data storage model simply won’t work when you’re using these different services, so our ability to use ShareFile has been critical to make sure our data can be accessed, secured and managed when using all of these SaaS solutions.
ShareFile gives us the ability to securely access, share and manage our data in multiple locations and on multiple public clouds. In turn, we’re now moving to basic productivity applications delivered as a service, such as Office 365, and we can use ShareFile connectors to make sure the data is secure, integrated and accessible.
Joe: As the product management lead for Citrix Cloud, I clearly enjoy talking about our own IT organization using it to deliver apps and services. Could you describe when we first started using Citrix Cloud internally, and how that has changed the way we provide workspaces for Citrix employees?
Trenton: We first began moving our XenApp and XenDesktop deployments to Citrix Cloud about two years ago, and we shared the insights we learned from that experience with our product teams so they could improve the platform and experience for our customers.
Joe: How has Citrix Cloud changed the way you deliver IT services to Citrix employees?
Trenton: We see Citrix Cloud driving the same “cloud-economies” as all other SaaS and service vendors provide to IT departments. Administration is simplified and we do not have to worry about many patch or system updates that just happen as part of the service.
Citrix Cloud frees us from that classic IT rut of focusing on what we can’t do, and opened us up to what IT can offer from a value perspective.
Now, my team can focus on planning for new technologies, and look at how we can bring value to executives and employees. For example, we’ve been able to create and implement new document workflows, so we can streamline approvals and make it easier for people to get their work done.
Also, now that we have shifted to SaaS solutions, we’ve become integration specialists, making sure our critical data moves through all of these applications. Today, we spend a lot less time tracking where data is located, and focusing on making sure we have one master data set, which makes reporting and analytics a lot easier.
Joe: How do you see the role of IT at Citrix evolving, now that we have embraced Citrix Cloud and the cloud services model?
Trenton: Today, we’ve moved away from what I’d call the core blocking and tackling functions of IT, and that allows us to find new ways to deliver more value.
For example, we’re embracing and implementing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate more processes and anticipate and proactively fix problems before they can affect the business.
While we’re using more than 75 SaaS solutions, the volume of cloud applications we depend on is only going to grow.
Joe: How does that evolution change the way you look at IT security?
Trenton: Just as the way we deliver applications and services change, we’ve had to embrace new IT security models as well. After all, we not only use SaaS solutions around the world, but we’re delivering IT services to Citrix employees all over the globe, and they depend on us to keep them working effectively around the clock. Old security models simply cannot handle that operational model.
As a result, we’ve embraced new models for securing things, like providing contextual security, which uses a person’s identity and location to determine what they can access and use.
Security will always be a challenge, no matter how advanced you are as an IT and security organization. It’s an ongoing process, and you cannot depend on things like patching software and depending on old perimeter-based security systems and processes. We continue to find new ways to add intelligence to our security processes, along with machine learning to automate critical security processes and identify risks, so we can reduce our vulnerabilities. And we know that we need to constantly remain vigilant.
Joe: That sounds like a constant challenge. Is there anything you look forward to in the coming year?
Trenton: Continuing challenges like security concerns just add the excitement of being in IT. It’s a thrilling time to be in the business. We’re seeing systems and services that are getting smarter. We’re getting more actionable intelligence and analytics, and we’re finding new ways to use analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver more value, and make people smarter and more productive.
I love working in IT. It’s fun watching things we once dreamed about become a normal part of our working lives.