Metaframe extends its reach

Citrix is extending the reach of the Metaframe platform beyond internal client/server systems, writes Caroline Davis.

Citrix is extending the reach of the Metaframe platform beyond internal client/server systems, writes Caroline Davis.

This was the message from Citrix's iForum user conference earlier this month, where the programme was heavily weighted towards application service provider (ASP) technology.

Metaframe uses a server-based computing model. Users can access both Windows and Unix applications through Windows-based terminals manufactured by companies such as Wyse and NCD as well as PCs, Apple Macs and Unix systems.

There is no need for a high bandwidth network since the only network traffic between the terminal and the Metaframe server is screen updates.

At iForum, Citrix launched an Embedded Metaframe initiative. This allows independent software suppliers to incorporate Metaframe software into their applications, enabling them to create enterprise systems on the application server model.

This means that the developer takes responsibility for the support and licensing of the Citrix software. Because Citrix sells licences on a concurrent user basis users need to buy an operating system licence, a Metaframe licence and an application licence. Embedding Metaframe directly into applications can simplify this process.

In February, Citrix unveiled Nfuse which works alongside Metaframe to create "application portals". These portals are intended to form a common access point to services and applications from a variety of sources, allowing users to access applications through a Web browser. Nfuse allows Windows-based applications on a Metaframe server to be published on such a Web page. This means that users can access all their applications from a single location with a single log-in and, in future, from handheld wireless devices.

By including Nfuse with an application and Embedded Metaframe, developers can make their applications available over the Web. So far, with 86 software houses signed up to become Citrix iBusiness ASPs, Citrix is keen to be seen as the future backbone of ASP.

Simon Moores, co-chairman of the ASP Community, described Citrix's software as a compromise between the old computing paradigms and the new. "Citrix is in the right place at the right time. Client/server has reached a plateau. The client/server model is dying with an ASP-centred architecture evolving to take its place."

Robin Bloor of Bloor Research told iForum that the three-tier client/server model simply did not work, citing low availability, poor security and difficulties in implementation and management as reasons why the architecture was unsuccessful. In contrast, he praised Citrix's model, with a very thin client whose only process is to receive screen refreshes.

David Weiss, Citrix's vice-president of market development, denied that client/ server was dead. "ASP is a compelling model but it's not serving high volumes of customers yet. ASP still has business problems such as billing, pricing and coverage."

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However, Citrix has other problems to deal with which may hold it back. Chairman Ed Iacobucci was due to open iForum, but was kept in the US by a group of disgruntled shareholders. They plan to sue the company following a profit warning, saying Citrix had lied about its financial condition and growth potential. Citrix says this is untrue and it will fight the allegations.

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