An audience with Citrix Learning: Nick Thomas

19 Feb 2018

By Gary Duffield

Nick ThomasWelcome to the latest in an occasional series of conversations with some of the thought leaders in our industry. In this edition, Gary Duffield, who heads up our Partner Relationships, chats to Citrix's APJ Senior Education Manager, Nick Thomas. Let's start with an introduction.

Nick, you've been a great supporter of DDLS for as long as I can remember. I'd be keen to hear more about you, your role at Citrix and what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Good question. I've been working in the IT industry for the past 15 years. For the first five years I worked as a technical trainer delivering Microsoft MCSE classes for authorised training centres and I also headed up the continuing education program at Sydney University for Microsoft. After expanding my skills to Citrix and delivering Citrix authorised classes I was recruited by a Citrix employee who attended one of my classes.

I joined Citrix as a Pre-Sales System Engineer in Sydney. I worked as a Systems Engineer for three to four years before taking a more hands on approach to the technology and joining Citrix Consulting, based out of Singapore. At the time, the Consulting business was in an incubation phase and I was one of the first eight consultants Citrix had in APJ delivering successful customer solutions around the region. These were some busy years travelling week-to-week managing and delivering Citrix solutions to a wide variety of our customers. Some of my favourite projects were delivering a XenApp-hosted SAP solution for a large bank in New Zealand and a full virtualisation project for an airline in Melbourne.

As the consulting business started to grow, I developed and managed a strong services partner model and the team expanded to over 120 consultants, 60 staff and 60 contractors, across the APJ region. At this point the Education business also fell under the Consulting banner and I was asked to take over and manage the business for the APJ region. When I took on Citrix Education APJ the function had only six key partners. My first priority was to expand the delivery network across APJ, to align with our ever-expanding product footprint and partner ecosystem. Today we have over 30 Citrix Authorized Learning Centers, a product sales team and almost 50 instructors across the region delivering training in all countries and regions.

I've realised I go back a LONG way with Citrix – I used to sell and deploy the brilliantly named WinFrame at the same time as selling Honeywell Mainframe emulators. We've all come a long way. For those unfamiliar with Citrix, or who have lost touch since those early days, how would you define where Citrix sits in the IT landscape in 2018?

Citrix today focuses on four main solutions for our customers, Application Virtualization and VDI, Enterprise Mobility Management, File Sync and Sharing and Networking. These four solutions can be combined for an end-to-end solution that we call the Secure Digital Workspace. At Citrix we believe that the ever-changing landscape of IT needs to be an enabler for the business not an inhibitor, and hence our solution focuses on integrating technologies, platforms, devices and clouds, to secure and simplify IT management. All this whilst delivering employees customised access to the relevant systems and tools they need, when and how they need them.

A secure digital workspace is a flexible and integrated way to deliver and manage the apps, desktops, data and devices users need in a contextual and secure fashion. A unified, contextual and secure digital workspace from Citrix enables the user to do all of this and realise the full benefits of hybrid and multi-cloud environments, while simplifying management and overcoming security challenges.

With today's ever-increasing list of SaaS, web and mobile applications running on any number of clouds, security risks remain top of mind. Citrix Workspace enables IT to take back control and proactively manage security threats through a secure digital perimeter. With Citrix Workspace, you can protect applications, content and networks, and proactively address threats in today's distributed and complex environment. Only Citrix can fully aggregate all apps and data – both on-premises and cloud – to deliver the right experience to the right user at the right time.

Clearly, Citrix is doing something right. I read recently that Citrix posted better-than-expected earnings and revenues in the fourth quarter of 2017 and APJ is up 10%. What are you seeing on the ground here in Australia? What problems are organisations solving with Citrix technology?

Australian customers are leading the world in their adoption and use of cloud technology and our suite of products helps customers across Australia with the variety of challenges in today's hyper-connected and complex IT environments. The competing ideals of security versus flexibility are our specialty. Our technology allows businesses the insight, control and management of highly complex IT environments, without compromising on the end-user experience and their flexibility. This gives businesses the tool to empower their workforce to be productive.

Australia is also geographically dispersed, with companies operating teams split by thousands of kilometres. The demand for secure, flexible workspaces, that give businesses the productivity and security for staff to complete work, regardless of their location, cloud, application, data or device is something that really resonates.

Citrix has clearly diversified as a company. If I look at the number one Citrix course completed last year by DDLS students, a dead heat took place between two courses: XenApp and XenDesktop Administration and Citrix NetScaler Essentials. NetScaler is a pretty cool product; I know Microsoft, Google, eBay and MasterCard are big users. For those unfamiliar with these products, can you give us the helicopter view? Should we expect anything new in the next few months?

Citrix NetScaler is an all-in-one web application delivery controller (ADC) that makes applications run up to five times faster, cuts web application ownership costs with server offloading, and makes sure that applications are always available with its application load balancing capabilities. With Citrix NetScaler, customers can harness application and infrastructure intelligence to become more data driven and improve the user experience.

Using Citrix NetScaler allows you to manage, monitor and troubleshoot your entire infrastructure from a single, unified console. It enables you to use real-time analytics to identify and address application performance and security issues.

Citrix NetScaler has a wide variety of user cases it can be used for, as it is one of our most feature-rich solutions:

I'm a huge believer in validation of skills; you'd never do a degree and not turn up for the final exam. What would you recommend for an organisation using Citrix products as the role-based training and certification roadmap? Is certification still relevant to Citrix in 2018?

110% yes, Citrix Certifications are now solutions-based, reflecting the evolving needs of IT professionals and organisations. We have designed our training to map directly to certifications aligned to our technology solutions – "3 Solutions, 3 Courses and 3 Certifications". As they say good things come in threes.

Citrix Education has launched a recertification program to provide partners and customers with additional options to maintain their certification. Partners and customers have two options to recertify:

Option 1: Attend the associated instructor-led training. By taking the associated course, they will not be required to take or pass the exam.
Option 2: Take and pass the required exam.

We have also seen a change in the market around a more granular need to validate skills and the ability to differentiate between candidates and organisations. Citrix is currently working on a digital badging system aligned with and supported by Acclaim. Watch this space as we cater to the growing need to show individual skills.

Below are the current certification paths for our solutions:

Citrix Workspaces:

  • Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V)
    Designed for IT operators and administrators, this certification validates the core skills required to manage, maintain, monitor and troubleshoot XenDesktop 7 solutions.
  • Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V)
    Designed for experienced IT professionals, including engineers and consultants, this certification validates the core skills required to install, configure and rollout XenDesktop 7 solutions.
  • Citrix Certified Expert – Virtualization (CCE-V)
    For seasoned IT professionals, including architects, engineers and consultants, this certification validates understanding of complex IT implementations and the core skills required to analyse business and technical needs and to design app and desktop solutions to meet business needs.

Citrix Networking:

  • Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA-N)
    Designed for Network and System Administrators, this certification validates the knowledge and skills needed to implement and manage Citrix NetScaler 10 for app and desktop solutions in an enterprise environment.
  • Citrix Certified Professional – Networking (CCP-N)
    Designed for experienced Network Engineers, this certification validates the knowledge and skills needed to implement, manage and optimise Citrix NetScaler 10 for networking performance and optimisation.
  • Citrix Certified Expert - Networking (CCE-N)
    This certification validates the advanced skills required to configure, monitor and secure multiple networking solutions.

Citrix Mobility:

  • Citrix Certified Professional – Mobility (CCP-M)
    The CCP-M certification validates the skills required to design, deploy and manage a Citrix XenMobile Enterprise solution that includes mobile device management, mobile application management and secure productivity.

I think DDLS has been a Citrix Partner for well over a decade now. From our partnership point of view, how is DDLS unique and do you see any areas of opportunity for DDLS?

You are correct, DDLS Australia has been a Citrix Authorized Learning Center (CALC) Partner for over 15 years. In fact DDLS was awarded the Citrix CALC of the Year 2017 for outstanding growth performance in the ANZ market. DDLS continues to reach out and work with the Citrix Partner and Customer community and their long term and highly skilled trainers constantly deliver a high level of customer satisfaction when delivering our courses.

At Citrix we often receive feedback from students like:
"I have been managing NetScaler for years. I didn't expect to get much other than a refresher course from this training and maybe a little education on the new features. I was pleasantly surprised when DDLS's extremely knowledgeable instructor took us on the NetScaler journey. I told my co-worker this was the best training I've attended in the last 14 years of my career."

IT Systems Analyst IBM:
"I think the combination of great facilities, a strong customer-focused sales team and industry leading instructors makes DDLS a market leader in the education space here in ANZ."

Citrix has always had a deeper relationship with Microsoft than just about any other partner, with unprecedented access to source code in the past. How are Microsoft and Citrix working together today?

Well Microsoft and Citrix have partnered for over 25 years to ensure their products are best-in-class. The impact of the partnership is undeniable with Microsoft and Citrix having 230,000 joint customers and tens of millions of users that rely on a joint solution every day.

This strong partnership ensures organisations receive:

  • Best-in-class security, scalability, management and performance of enterprise software and online services
  • Commitment to industry standards, organisational compliance and new cloud computing trends
  • Deep integration with Microsoft server and desktop operating systems and management tools
  • A shared vision for flexible, seamless and powerful computing for today's mobile workforce

And finally, Nick, what's next? We've all become connected, gone to the cloud and virtualised or containerised everything – what will the IT realm look like next year, next decade?

Late last year, our executive leadership team at Citrix got together and shared their predictions for the future of work. If you're keen to read the full blog post you can find it on the Citrix.com blog site.

If I can summarise key points, I'd say the move to the cloud will continue to drive the majority of change in 2018. In fact, a recent Citrix-commissioned survey about the future of work reinforced this concept and respondents from the industry focused heavily on the impact cloud and business transformation will have in 2018 and beyond.

To quickly recap this study, and the opinions on the future of work from the respondents, I'd focus on:

  • 75% of office professionals believe that in five years businesses with a flexible work environment will not be competitive without using cloud-based apps
  • 57% of office professionals at companies with a flexible work environment are currently using cloud-based apps
  • 50% of office professionals who do not have a flexible work environment believe that their company would have one if they had the technological capabilities to accommodate it
  • 2 in 5 office professionals would turn down a job opportunity if the company did not have a flexible work environment
  • 1 in 5 employees collaborate virtually, such as through web-based apps and platforms
  • 50% of office professionals who work in flexible work environments note that it has increased productivity

If you're keen to dive deeper into this research, you can find the full report whitepaper here.

You can find all of the Citrix courses on offer at DDLS here on our website.