by Kevin Howell, CTA
Hello CUGC community,
Having worked with Citrix as a customer and a partner over the last 20 years or so, I have always had the desire to attend Synergy but, for one reason or another, it hasn’t really happened. It’s always been a difficult ask to justify to your boss or wife (same thing?) that taking a week out of your life to attend a conference in California on a “holiday/vacation” is a good thing. The investment, in time and money, is quite significant to travel from the UK. However, as a recent Citrix CTA working for a Citrix Specialist partner (HTG), I am lucky that everyone in our business understands the value of attending, and I had no excuse to delay any longer. My fellow HTG colleague and newly-minted CTP James Rankin was unable to travel to Synergy due to family commitments on this occasion, however, given that he has a fear of flying, the 62 days needed for him sail to LA from the UK wasn’t going to wash with the Finance Director anyway, so it was a solo trip for me.
With my Synergy conference pass, hotel, and flights all booked up, I decided to attend the additional hands-on labs on Sunday. This meant I flew out earlier on Friday to ensure that I would have time to adjust to the time zone. Despite experiencing the “Carl Webster effect” with British Airways cancelling my flight from London to Los Angeles without notice, I still managed to arrive in LA late Friday evening.
I’m lucky to have family on the West Coast, so I agreed to meet up with them on Saturday and take in a game at the latest MLS soccer team, Los Angeles FC, who were playing Dallas FC. Considering this was only the second home game at the stadium, the whole setup was very impressive. After the game finished in a 1-1 draw, we headed downtown to a bar called 82, which had an impressive selection of ’80s retro-style arcade machines and beer. After some quality time reliving my childhood, we headed off for a meal and finished the evening with a few drinks at a local brewery Angel City, which I can highly recommend.
My first LAB on Sunday started at 12PM, and thankfully, my body clock prevented me from oversleeping–I was wide awake at 4AM and fresh as a daisy. I called home and Facetimed my wife and two boys and got ready for the day ahead. After breakfast at the hotel, I decided to head up to the conference centre and sign in and get my conference pass. As well as my pass, I was presented with a CTA badge, a Citrix Insider badge, partner lanyard and a Citrix branded laptop bag.
My first three-hour technical lab was LAB612: XenApp 6.5 migration to the cloud. The hands-on lab was slick and showed how easy it is to transition from the soon-to-be end of life XenApp 6.5 to Citrix Cloud. I have a few clients looking for advice on how to migrate to the cloud, so this lab was beneficial and helped confirm a few things I already knew, and I learned some new tips and tricks.
The second technical lab of the day was at 4PM, so I had an hour to grab some lunch and then it was back in the ACC for LAB618: Citrix + Chrome Enterprise deployment learning lab. The room was quite full for this and as we sat down, we were presented with a shiny Google Chromebook Pixel. The device felt quality, and quite like the Microsoft Surfacebook that I use day to day. The demo demons were in full force and despite a few teething problems with the network, we eventually configured the Chromebook as a Citrix endpoint with Chrome Device Management. I am not sure I can see many businesses opting for Pixelbooks due to the lack of offline applications, however, for the education sector, it looks like a great device, but again, the cost will probably determine a cheaper Chromebook in my opinion. It’s early days on this offering, and I am sure it will mature over time. With the lab completed, I head back to the Marriott for some food and bump into some friends from Ireland (David Wilkinson and new CTP George Spiers). We catch up and have a few cold beers by the pool and call it a night.
9AM was the start of the Citrix Technology Professional meeting, where, as a CTA, I was invited to a briefing with fellow CTAs/CTPs, as well as David Henshall, PJ Hough, and Jeroen van Rotterdam. The room was full of technical royalty and it was great to meet all these familiar online celebrities in person. The legend that is Tobias Kreidl rocked into the room as we had breakfast, and Perrine Crampton and everyone in the room wished him a very happy Synergy Birthday.
With breakfast done and dusted, David Henshall took to the floor to begin the CTP briefing. David explained under NDA some of the key announcements that would be part of the keynote on the following day and he then opened the floor to questions. It was very refreshing to have a CEO take the feedback from the room so seriously, this back to the floor mentality is a great thing for Citrix and their customers, even if the crowd did seem a little tough in my opinion 😊.
Next up was PJ and Jeroen. They walked through some key products and messaging and again feedback wasn’t in short supply. The messaging and insights all sound positive, but the two hours is up and me and fellow CTAs are free to leave. We have a few photos, words and handshakes and say our goodbyes (for now) as the CTPs get down to serious talk.
As a new partner with IGEL, my next session was the IGEL Technical Boot Camp. This event was very popular and very well presented, and I was very lucky to get a seat. IGEL ran through their various product offerings, from Thin Clients, USB clients, software to convert old PCs to thin clients, and the management suite, which was all very slick. This was also the first boot camp to offer the IGEL Certified Engineer training and ICE MAN exam, fingers crossed this will be passed once it is released.
Next up I head over CUGC Pregame and meet Stephanie Boozer and Kimberly Ruggero from the CTA community who kindly presents me with some CTA goodies. This included a CTA engraved PowerPoint clicker laser pointer, a Citrix Workspace Hub, CTA Stickers and a 2018 CUGC T-shirt designed by CTP Patrick Coble. Not a bad collection of swag! I turn around and the gifts keep coming as I’m presented with an ice-cold beer, not a bad start! I stop to chat with fellow CUGC community members.
Conscious of time, I head next door to catch up with guys from the IGEL Happy Hour, I am presented with another beer and catch up with Doug Brown and few others from the earlier in the day. Having listened to Doug Brown’s DABCC podcast for some years, it was great to meet up with him again and talk about areas that we both care about, tech and Newcastle Brown Ale!
Next up was the Citrix UK & Ireland partner dinner at McCormick & Schmicks. I meet up with customers, fellow Citrix partners, and our UK Citrix distributor Brian Davies from DataSolutions, and sit and chat with UK CUGC Leader CTP Neil Spellings. After a lovely meal, we head back to the Marriot hotel to wind the night down with our Citrix family. CTAs Scott Ozzy Osborne, Steve Elgan, James Kindon, Dave Gautney and CTPs George Spiers, Gareth Carsen, Jim Moyle, Rory Monaghan join Dave “WilkyIT” Wilkinson and I as we lose our Nitro beer virginity. We are all starting to flag, and we agree to call it a night ahead of tomorrow’s keynote.
Its 4:45AM and I’m suddenly woken by someone trying to get into my hotel room! I instantly think it’s the Nitro boys with jetlag trying to wind me up, but it doesn’t stop, the patio doors are shaking and rattling and it’s not a dream, its real. I check my phone to see what is going on, and it’s a 4.5 magnitude earthquake according to local news. Struggling to get back to sleep I tweet and meet for breakfast ahead of the keynote. The buzz is starting to build, and we head to the keynote, the music is pumping, and the light show is going off, it feels more like a nightclub than a keynote and I am not sure whether to get a beer or a notepad. David Henshell appears, so like a naughty school-child, I reach for my notepad (iPad) and I’m perched on my seat like a meerkat, waiting eagerly for information.
David Henshall takes to the stage to announce Citrix Workspace, a single pane of glass for all your business applications, using the new Citrix Workspace App. Could this be the silver bullet that allows business owners to provide the flexibility for end users without compromising security and risk? I personally see a lot of businesses today consume applications from a multitude of offerings: on-premises, cloud, SaaS, 3rdparty suppliers etc., and to be able to offer a secure contextual wrap and audit trail around this access is music to most CIO/CFO ears.
As a business owner, we are regularly tested for compliance via various security risk and quality standards (ISO/IEC 9001/ISO/IEC 27001) to ensure our business systems and processes are compliant. Secure Digital Workspace is certainly going to ease the pain of these annual audits and the solution is something that genuinely excites me. I’ve been around since the early 1990s and I’ve seen the various trends and rebrands, but this seems on the button and it provides a real solution to the actual problems of business moving to the cloud that I see in day to day business. With Workspace, it removes the blind leap of faith into the cloud, more of tiptoe at your leisure when you are your business is ready. Digital Transformation on your terms as it were.
Post-keynote, I attended Jarian Gibson and Kees Baggerman’s session SYN237: Citrix and Nutanix: the 2018 inside scoop, and attended the conference hall to see what the latest is amongst the vendor community. Nutanix and Citrix seem to get stronger day by day, if you are not doing full Citrix cloud then Nutanix is a no-brainer for Edge/Hyperconverged solutions IMO. I see so many customers asking for help with performance issues, which end up a blame game between many third-party companies (compute, network, storage, hypervisor, OS, VDI). With Nutanix, it provides a single neck to choke along with service guarantees that remove the pain of delivering the user experience all businesses strive for.
Post breakfast, I attended the keynote of the day with Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice’s talk was inspirational, and her talk resonates with me personally, and sets me up energised for the next session with CTPs Christiaan Brinkhoff and George Kuruvilla, deploying Citrix Workloads on different clouds. The talk is a hot topic and provided some key insights and takeaways on the best practices for moving workloads to the cloud. I spend time meeting customers and then I head to the Citrix Insiders reception with Sue Morgan. Again, it was great to put faces to the names that we speak to on a daily basis via social media channels.
This was my final day, so I checked out of my hotel and headed for the keynote super session with Michael Lewis. The talk was very interesting and informative as he explained the details on how analytics and big data, when used correctly, can be a game changer for any company. Hopefully, the new Citrix Analytics service can be the game changer by providing deep insights for Citrix customers soon.
My next and final session was SYN236: Best practices in multisite scenarios with CTPs Shane Kleinert, Jarian Gibson, and Dave Brett. This session is packed out with standing room only, and the amount of information presented in this session is immense. Seriously, I have been on five-day training courses that don’t cover half the information presented in this session. Hats off to these guys for being able to condense so much into the short period of time provided. My flight is in the afternoon, so I say goodbye to Synergy and to new and old friends, and head to the airport for the flight home.
My First Synergy Wrap-up
My first Citrix Synergy was a blast, it was a full-on few days where I got to meet some awesome people from our tech community. One day, I sat having a coffee with Citrix CTO Christian Reilly, and the next day I sat having lunch with VMware EUC CTO Shawn Bass, who despite working for competing companies are both great friends and have mutual respect for each other. At Synergy, I learned a lot of innovative technologies and techniques that are not documented anywhere in such a short space of time. It was like some sort of intensive technical boot camp, and for me, that justifies the cost and time alone.
Most importantly, the networking side of the event with customers, colleagues, MyCUGC members, CTA/CTPs, product owners, and senior Citrix management from all over the globe, was invaluable. I discovered Nitro beer, made new friends and we shared stories and laughs that established connections that mean so much more than a conversation on social media. The Synergy event was a sort of physical version of WorkSpace, it brought all my digital community together under one roof whilst providing me a first-class experience. I left Synergy feeling energised, optimistic and confident about the Citrix roadmap. I will certainly be attending Synergy 2019. Well done, Citrix! And, cheers– I’ll be back!