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Citrix to simplify licensing

Citrix Systems promised delegates at its user conference in the US last week that it would simplify its licensing policies.

Chief executive officer Mark Templeton told the Citrix iForum that the software maker was working on a technology-based approach to help customers count and manage licence connections through a service that either Citrix or the customer could run.

Citrix's core product, MetaFrame XP, delivers applications to end users from a central server. Customers buy licence connections through resellers based on the number of concurrent users accessing the server.

Licensing services will be built into Citrix's software, allowing customers and the vendor "to count usage in about five different ways", Templeton said. That will give both parties "the flexibility to have licensing programs built around different ways of counting", he added.

Templeton added that he expected to present the new options to customers in about a year's time.

For many of them, that promises welcome relief. Tony Silva, a vice-president of IT ABN Amro North America, said it has been somewhat complicated to keep track not only of the Citrix licences but the other software applications running on the Citrix servers as well.

Jim McGrath, a senior manager of product and technical marketing at Citrix, said the difficulties could be particularly frustrating for long-time customers that may have gone through several different licensing programs and discount structures.

Citrix has started to address the problems. The company launched an electronic licensing option in March 1999, and this August it introduced an Easy Licensing program that lets customers buy products, as they need them without a formal, written contract.

Using the Easy Licensing option, customers can consolidate multiple licence contracts to a single serial number, so they don't have to enter their many 20-digit numbers manually, McGrath said.

But McGrath said it would be better if the information from Citrix's product activation system was uploaded to its secure licence site so customers could see what they had purchased, when they bought it and how much of their Subscription Advantage option was left on each of their licences.

From May, new Citrix licences had to be purchased with a one-year subscription that entitled customers to any new product updates released over that period.

Templeton said customers could be adding licences on a monthly basis, and each time they do, they get another licence number that must be added into the system for activation purposes. This was, he admitted, "too complicated".

Alvin Park, an analyst at Gartner, said many vendors are considering new tools to not only help customers track their licenses but also to keep them in compliance.

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