Q&A with Stuart Donnelson, Citrix CTA & IGEL Community VIP!
We recently sat down with Stuart Donnelson, Citrix CTA & IGEL Community VIP to discuss his experiences working with IGEL's products and solutions.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your role in IT, etc., and something fun about yourself?
Sure! I was born and raised in Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. I attended Indiana University, where I studied Business and Information Systems.
I met my wife, Jayme, at IU, and we now have three wonderful kids (son Miles – 9, daughter Nora – 7, and son James – 2). Unfortunately for them, they are the spitting image of their dad.
I spent the first six years of my career in healthcare at a large physician group in Indiana and Ohio in various roles, starting on the helpdesk and eventually taking over as the Director of IT. I had a wonderful boss who let me cut my teeth on just about anything I wanted to learn. I remember being a few weeks into the job, and I had a ~2000 user, 90 facility Citrix farm dumped in my lap. I'll never forget my boss walking into my office and saying, "Here you go, this is Citrix. It's yours now." At the time, I don't think I had even heard of a company called Citrix. That pretty much sums up how I started my journey down the EUC path.
For the last nine years, I've been with Hogan as a EUC Architect, where I work primarily with healthcare, manufacturing, financial, and higher-education clients.
Most of my time is spent providing our customers with TRM-style services for the Citrix and IGEL technology stack, internally evaluating new technologies, and doing pre-sales work with our clients. Beyond that, I spend as much time as I can contributing and participating in several EUC focused communities. I'm currently serving as co-leader of the Indianapolis Citrix User Group, and I'm also a Citrix CTA and IGEL Insider VIP.
Outside of work, I love spending time with my three kids and helping them explore their unique interests. They find new ways to amaze me daily. I love to travel, and when I retire, my wife and I intend to visit as many places as we can.
I'm also a huge sports fan (football, basketball, baseball, golf). Football season can't come fast enough. I also love reading, movies, woodworking, tinkering, live music, PC gaming, and all things Nintendo.
I'm really hoping I'll get to see some concerts this summer now that people are getting vaccinated and the world is slowly opening back up. My toddler has music in his bones, and I can't wait to take him to his first live show.
How long have you been working with IGEL technologies?
I've been working on and off with IGEL for 5 or 6 years now, but it wasn't until the IGEL Community started that I dove in head-first. At Hogan, we have always sold a fair amount of IGEL, and over the years, IGEL has been one of our closest partners. I didn't get many opportunities to work on IGEL projects with my clients in the past because nearly all of them had tremendous talent in-house.
Over the last two years, I've had the pleasure to engage clients in a pre-sales role and through POC's. I've rarely come across a client that played with the platform and came away with a negative experience.
When would you recommend an IGEL operating system over a traditional style "fat" OS?
Honestly, I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons to use the traditional "fat" OS than ever before. There are still plenty of use cases where your traditional Windows/OSX/Linux laptops and desktops make sense, but that number is dwindling fast in the enterprise space.
Most of my career has been focused on the EUC space and, in particular, Citrix. In many cases, these technologies remove the need for a full-featured endpoint. Security has always been important, but we've seen such a sharp uptick in the frequency and sophistication of ransomware, malware, viruses, and massive data breaches that enterprises no longer have the luxury of paying lip service to enterprise security. Endpoint security is just as critical as protecting the rest of the environment.
If you combine that with rapidly increasing expectations from our end-users due to the adoption of technologies like smartphones, we must, as IT Professionals, look for ways to provide our users with high-end experiences while also considering the security and manageability of our edge devices.
IGEL provides an industry-leading management platform (UMS) for devices that are both internal and external to the network, a highly modular endpoint OS that provides a fantastic user experience, and the ability to deploy and secure edge devices quickly.
How do you see IGEL solutions compare and contrast to your other thin client-type solutions?
I truly don't compare them anymore. The beauty of IGEL is tied to the UMS management platform. Other vendors in this space just don't come close in that department. If you add in the ability to convert nearly ANY device (another vendor's thin client, laptop, desktop) OR boot into IGEL OS via the UD Pocket, it is hard to see why you would choose anything else.
Another major differentiator is the tight integration with nearly all of the top vendors in the EUC space. Citrix, Microsoft, VMware, Amazon, and so many others are natively integrated into IGEL OS. A great example would be the near-immediate availability of the latest Citrix Workspace client. If you combine all that with the customizations available in the IGEL OS, administrators have the toolset they need to provide businesses with the security and agility needed in this day and age.
Can you share any other impactful use cases you have seen where you were able to leverage IGEL?
COVID-19 has put a spotlight on IGEL with my customers for several reasons. Some industries have exploded, while others devastated. The most prominent use cases over the last year for our clients have been:
Quickly onboarding new acquisitions.
Controlling costs while in "survival mode" and dealing with hardware supply shortages by extending the life of aging endpoint devices
Enabling a secure, remote workforce that can be centrally managed
What do you feel the most significant challenges relating to working with IGEL, and were you able to work around these issues?
The biggest hurdle I've run across is psychological. IT professionals and their end-users have spent a considerable chunk of their lives and careers using Windows on traditional x86 computers.
You also have to combat the perception that IGEL is just another kind of thin client. I find that once you move the focus to the OS itself, how it can be used, the management features and the tremendous security advantage IGEL has over a traditional desktop OS, it becomes a much easier conversation.
What is your favorite aspect of working with IGEL software?
It's intuitive and straightforward yet wildly customizable. Businesses require IT to be agile and flexible, and the IGEL platform lets you quickly respond to business needs.
Can you share your experience as a member of the IGEL Community?
I already liked IGEL before I joined, but I credit my IGEL community involvement for driving my passion for the platform. There is a vast wealth of knowledge stored in the community, and it's the first place I go when I have questions. As a group, we have a lot of fun, and our members are creating some really neat stuff.
If you had one wish for IGEL, what would it be?
I hope that the fantastic internal culture that has been cultivated over the years remains priority number one after the recent majority investment by TA and during what seems to be a period of rapid growth. I was at first wary after hearing the news, but after talking with the IGEL management team and other IGEL employees, I'm no longer worried. A prime example is the amount of support we get from IGEL for the out community. I think it's a good indication that the investment by TA is going to be a positive move.
Special thanks to Stuart for taking the time for this interview. We truly appreciated it!