I just flew in from Citrix iForum, and boy, are my arms tired! Well, not my arms so much, but the rest of me definitely needed a night to catch up after the third annual conference dedicated to Windows terminal services and server-based computing. Since I attended for the first time last year, I have urged others to join me (I’m not working for Citrix, I just think it’s a good conference). Apparently, some did. With more than 3000 attendees, this year's attendance doubled last year's, and the conference sold out.
Tuesday's keynotes were excellent. We got to see Blazer, Wyse’s ultra-thin portal appliance, in action. I’ve been talking with Wyse’s Jeff McNaught about Blazer for a few months and have wondered why he was so excited about the device. Now that I’ve seen it, I understand. The Blazer device includes a miniscule (512KB) OS. Using DHCP, the device connects via ICA to a server that hooks it up to available content servers; the content then travels back to the client device. Blazer is a content player, not a Windows terminal. I also enjoyed demos of tools that will be part of Citrix MetaFrame 2.0 and others that are "future technology" for which no definite timeline exists. (The MasterEye advanced shadowing tool, which makes any software potentially collaborative software, is especially cool.)
The exhibit hall floor was packed. Last year's conference felt application service provider (ASP) -heavy, which isn’t helpful to most attendees. We’re not running ASPs, we’re maintaining terminal servers for inhouse use. This year, the vendors on the floor were largely focused on supporting inhouse terminal services. Some vendors underestimated the number of attendees, though, and ran out of giveaways as early as the first night.
iForum isn’t perfect. The breakout sessions had more technical content this year than last. However, for anyone who’s worked with server-based computing, some sessions were still light (I think most of us can handle an installation wizard). On the other side of the coin, I could have used more than 45 minutes to absorb the waterfall of information presented in "Advanced NFuse Integration" and the MetaFrame FR1 session. Great content, too little time—you can’t get much out of sessions as intense as those if they run for less than 75 minutes.
And—even if next year's show is only as big as this year's—I hope Citrix changes the venue. It's getting very crowded.
Nevertheless, iForum is the best thin-client conference we've got, and the degree to which Citrix has improved it over the past 3 years makes me hopeful that it will continue to improve. In addition to the keynote sessions, breakout sessions, and "birds of a feather" sessions (designed to get people with similar issues together), iForum offers an opportunity for networking, access to the vendors, and exposure to helper tools and solutions (e.g., ways to resolve print and profile problems) that you might not have known about.
If you went to iForum this year, please tell me that you filled out your evaluations so we can make the content even better next fall. And if you didn’t go, join us next year.