On May 4, 2022, we received an email from our Citrix channel manager to inform us Ferroque Systems has achieved Citrix Solutions Advisors (CSA) Platinum Plus status, the highest recognition in Citrix’s Channel Partner program. This is no small feat. There are only two companies in Canada that carry this status, making it news worth celebrating, and a vindication of all the hard work team Ferroque has put in the last several years.
May 4, 2022, also marks the 10-year anniversary of the announcement of the sale of THConsulting to Citrix Systems. THConsulting, my first business, was one of the first Citrix CSA channel partners in Canada and it was also a Citrix CSA Platinum partner. Looking back on the 25-year journey, it is really phenomenal how a remote Windows display solution has gone so far. Michael and I caught up with Mark Templeton this past week in his Woodside, California home and we talked about the old times when Citrix used to be a shrink wrap box with 15 user licenses (Winframe). It was insightful and some of the stories were also more relevant now than ever, for example:
- The CSA partner program created a cult: Citrix virtual desktops and applications were a perfect channel product. There are plenty of use cases in the enterprise, plenty of demand, and it requires a lot of services. Hence the long-time loyal partners in the community. If you know how to deal with end-user computing issues over a wide area network, you will never be out of business.
- The original CSA partnership was a “Pay to play” program: When Mark and the team created the program they didn’t just want to sign up anybody; they wanted both the vendor and the partner to have skin in the game. If you want to sell Citrix products as an authorized partner, you need to pay $1,000 and have one person who passed the Winframe administration exam as a Silver partner. $5,000 to Citrix if you want to be serious in the business, have multiple Citrix certified technical staff, and be a Gold partner where Citrix sent you sales leads. Keeping the partnership two-way and accountable was one of the first of its kind in the industry.
- Citrix had a sales lead distribution program that randomly sent the same lead to two partners: A little competition was good in Mark’s mind. They wanted two partners to follow up on opportunities. It was by design. I reminded him the program did have a flaw: they used to categorize Canada as one territory. So an opportunity in Calgary can be sent to a partner in Toronto and a partner in Montreal, although both are far away from the customer.
- Citrix took on an obsolete product: In order to gain channel partner mindshare, Citrix took on Novell’s RPL for remote DOS sessions and bundled the product with Winframe which does remote Windows. It quickly took over the remote computing market because everyone loved a graphical user interface (GUI) and DOS was obsolete. Citrix quickly took on a bunch of Novell Netware partners as Citrix solution advisor partners.
- When Microsoft decided to come up with Hydra (Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Services Editon), Citrix had 6 months to scramble and create value-add: The ICA client for DOS, Unix, web embedded ICA, and server load balancing was created in a hurry. Sometimes we all need a bit of urgency to dig deep. Fast forward 20 years, it has always been a healthy competition for feature enhancements and value creation between Citrix and Microsoft.
- The Sequoia acquisition was a failure: Citrix made an acquisition of Sequoia software, their first attempt to get into the post Windows software business. It was a failure, even though I showed Mark how we created many content delivery agents (CDA) to integrate video conferencing and real-time chat back in 2001. The integration was ahead of its time. It did provide Mark and the team lessons learned and paved the way for many successful acquisitions in the future.
- Citrix did not start the Consulting organization to compete with the channel: Back in 2001, Citrix acquired Innovex Group to form the Consulting division. They had a few guidelines: The bill rate is at least 3 times the CSA partner rate to differentiate the manufacturer’s service vs. local partners. Citrix Consulting consultants were not to be billable to customers for more than 50% of their time. The other 50% should be used to create best practice guidelines, reference architectures, and designs to share with the community. Of course, over time it all got out of hand over the hyper revenue growth and shareholder expectations.
Looking back in the past and here we are again, a Citrix Platinum Plus partner. What does it all really mean to team Ferroque?
- The EUC business is more relevant and valuable to customers than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in organizations of all sizes. The firm that has the skills to design, implement, and manage secure digital workspaces is in demand. Our customers have told us loud and clear. The deal sizes for these projects are just getting bigger and bigger, a far cry from the $5,000 Winframe deal of years past.
- Healthy competition is good for everybody: More companies out there offering similar products and services means there is a bigger market. We need to grow the pie so there are more slices for everyone. No one should have a monopoly in one business. Competition, please bring it on!
- Not every business move is going to work out, it’s how you learn from it that will differentiate lesson from abject failure. If a leader like Mark Templeton can’t bat 1,000, no one can. It’s how we take the lessons so we avoid mistakes going forward.
- If you are good enough and doing it long enough, they will find you. Focus and excellence is the secret of success in everything in life. Ferroque Systems prides itself for the excellence and focus in the virtual workspace business. This is just the beginning and we look forward to more success in the future.
Todd Hsu is President and Partner at Ferroque Systems. As the former head of TH Consultants (acquired by Citrix in 2012) and former Director of Consulting Services Canada, Todd is bona fide grandfather and pioneer of Citrix solutions in North America, having built thriving businesses around Citrix’s technology portfolio since the 1990s.