One of the greatest strengths had from the original team was the ability to work with other companies without conflict. Citrix worked with a number of different vendors to pull together a complete solution. An early partner was Novell. In 1992, Citrix formed a relationship with Novell that allowed Citrix to start working with Novell file servers. Technically, this meant that what was Multiuser would now become A+ Application Server series. Citrix licensed the OS/2 Novell client source for inclusion into Citrix’s code base. The timing was perfect. Customers wanted Novell support. When Citrix added support for Windows 3.1 applications as well, this was really important to having customers accept Citrix as a viable vendor. It is often forgotten how important Novell was to Citrix succeeding. Because Citrix was so focused on supporting Novell, it went out of its way to fix and enhance aspects of A+ to make it integrate tighter with Novell.
Microsoft, also, was a very strategic partner of that time. Without the ability to use Microsoft file servers, it would have severely impacted the ability to use network resources and map user drives. Normally Microsoft and Novell wouldn’t have talked to each other, but with Citrix in the middle, it was possible to get all these things to work together.
That is why I brought up the concept of a bridge. Citrix was trying very hard to treat all the other companies as equals. The concept was incubated by Ed Iacobucci and his vision was to treat these other companies more as true partners than competitors. This vision carried Citrix to the point of critical mass in late 1995 when the company went public.
The philosophy also encouraged not duplicating work unless it was necessary. In other words, if it made sense to do an OEM deal with another software vendor instead of trying to write it ourselves, we would go ahead and pursue the deal. This was done for FTP Software and Wanderlink and also VSL around 1994. The power came from being able to come to market quickly with software that was already proven. The OEM benefited from additional revenue in markets it would not normally be able to reach.
Today this idea of bridging still survives but not in the same context. Bridging is more about bringing in different environments within the same domain of control. When it comes to bridging technology, it is now more common for Citrix to acquire than to build or license an OEM. Obviously there are exceptions to this idea. We do still license software but it is no where as near as common as it once was within Citrix. I suspect this has to do with having the money to buy the company instead of taking the risk of just doing an OEM deal. In the old days we would have never been able to acquire so many different companies.
I would propose that in some cases it would still be wiser to do a licensing deal than to buy. I figure that the energy of a small company can often be squashed by the shear size of the larger company. Short term this is not a problem but over the long run the innovation of the acquired company can run dry. This is especially true when the contract expires for the key players that are given incentives to stay after acquisition. It makes sense that small companies are set up to take risks whereas big companies are not. I think the myth of acquiring small companies is that they will bring energy and revenue into your bigger company. The revenue might come but the energy will most likely dwindle unless the small company is allowed to continue as if they are still a small company. It is very difficult to stop interfering with what the small company does, however.
As they say, your mileage may vary. Not all companies are created equal and some companies truly thrive under the influence of a cash rich bigger company. These companies are typically very strong before they are bought and manage to keep their vision and goals intact long after being absorbed.
So, back to the topic of bridges. I still see value in Citrix doing more partnering on the software front. Just ask yourself what big (or small) software vendor you would like to see work more closely with Citrix? I can think of a few but I think I would rather have you think about it on your own.
Thanks again. I enjoy our time together. 🙂