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Pushing deeper into the disaster recovery market, Citrix Systems unveiled a solution dubbed Project Kent that combines its remote-access technology with new tools to help businesses cope when an emergency scatters employees.
A package of software and services, Project Kent is designed to address the information-gathering and dissemination needs customers would face in an emergency such as a terrorist attack, a hurricane, a transit strike or a disease outbreak.
The solution, unveiled at Citrix's iForum event, begins with emergency kits -- distributed to employees in advance -- that contain a USB device that unlocks access to features like an automated "roll call" application and a communications portal for distributing notifications and connecting employees by voice and instant messaging. Citrix's remote-access software then helps displaced employees get access to office PCs and enterprise applications.
But VARs shouldn't expect much of a channel presence for Project Kent: IBM Global Services will be Citrix's primary partner for the solution.
"Customers want to get this solution from a trusted adviser who understands business continuity. This is really an extension of disaster-recovery services," said Murli Thirumale, group vice president and general manager of Citrix's advanced solutions group. "Our primary focus on going to market here is through IBM. Between our customer base and IBM's very large customer footprint, we have a lot of low-hanging fruit to go after."
High-profile disasters like the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina have sharpened enterprises' attention on disaster planning, but too many companies focus only on protecting their data and don't plan on reconnecting employees with that data, Thirumale said.
"There's this image of the table being laid with all the data ready to be recovered, but if workers can't get back to their workplace, what then?" he said. "There's this big gap that enterprises are turning their attention to."
As IBM continues building its disaster-planning services practice, the company decided it needed a virtual workplace recovery offering, said Phillipe Jarre, global vice president of IBM business continuity and resiliency services. With deep expertise in remote access products, Citrix was the natural partner, Jarre said.
Project Kent is scheduled for release early next year. Pricing will be available closer to the launch, although Thirumale said he expects it will be done on a per-employee, per-month subscription basis.
Citrix eventually plans to open the offering to other partners besides IBM, yet any expansion of Project Kent will be done by invitation, executives for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based software vendor said.
"There will be a small, targeted group of Citrix VARs who are focused on business continuity," Thirumale said. "We don't see this going out through the whole channel. We see this going out to very limited partners with expertise."