I like IoT, but does it have anything to do with Citrix and End User Computing? Maybe. Maybe not.

IoT has been building up a head of steam lately, and depending on which company you're listening to it sounds like it could be the next big thing. I'm talking about "virtualization" and "cloud" levels of buzzworthiness here.

IoT has been building up a head of steam lately, and depending on which company you’re listening to it sounds like it could be the next big thing. I’m talking about “virtualization” and “cloud” levels of buzzworthiness here. I get why. Machine to Machine (M2M) communication sounds cool. The automation possibilities using various sensors on embedded devices are seemingly endless.

For most people right now, IoT amounts to some WeMo devices that remind me of a way cooler version of X10, and maybe a Keurig that knows when I wake up so it can just make the coffee for me.  I just bought a universal remote with WeMo capabilities, though I don’t think I have any lights I need to remote control at the moment. (I sound like an old man!)

I realize that IoT is so much more than that. IoT is moving the connectivity to the sensors themselves, while leaving the decision making to something else (as opposed to a single monolithic thing with lots of stuff going on that tries to be everything to everyone). It’s like an ever expanding neural network that can be connected to anything, anywhere, any time. 

IoT demonstrations are usually exciting because it shows a cool (but not necessarily useful) function that you can perform when you get Thing A talking to Thing B to make one thing happen, then relay the result of that over to Thing C and kick of another chain of events. IFTTT was made for this! 

So the demos are good, but why does Citrix, a company with an overwhelming focus on enterprise End User Computing want to play in the IoT space? Moreover, why does an End User Computing guy like me care about IoT?

Citrix recently bought a company named Octoblu, and last week at Citrix Summit they had some fun at a hackathon that produced a few gee-whiz demos. There’s not a lot of information that comes out of Summit, but twitter did provide a few interesting photos and videos.

Octoblu’s corporate slogan is “We make all APIs, Platforms, and Devices talk to each other. Easily.” That sounds awesome, because we already have an issue with fragmentation with mobile devices, and there’s only one or two of those per person. Imagine more embedded devices like heart rate monitors, temperature sensors, oxygen sensors, thermostats, smoke alarms, moisture sensors, and so on. Fragmentation is going to become a real hurdle to getting all of these devices talking to each other. Keep in mind, too, that those few devices are the low hanging fruit on the embedded devices tree. Add in recreational and industrial devices and the potential problem gets worse.

Ok, so a company that makes all that stuff work together in an easy way sounds like a great idea. But what in the world does Citrix intend to do with them? There’s a management angle, as explained by Citrix Lab’s own Chris Witeck back in November. The question is, though, how does that tie into what Citrix does today?

As part of the acquisition of OctoBlu, Citrix also brings on two high-profile people: Chris Matthieu and Geir Ramleth. Matthieu is now the Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix is an automation freak (in a good way). He was once quoted in Wired as saying "Yes, I'm trying to build Skynet from Terminator." Ramleth, who was the CEO of Octoblu was previously the CIO of construction company Bechtel during which time he was responsible for what has been described as the “Googleization of Bechtel.” He takes over as Chief Strategy Office at Citrix, and it’s that nugget that can begin to shed some light on why Citrix would get involved.

My hunch is that this isn’t about a convergence of EUC and IoT. Citrix has other irons in the fire, like Sharefile and NetScaler. You could almost look at those as core technologies that enable EUC, and IoT is just another element that could be enabled by those core technologies. This is Citrix branching out (not that something won’t bleed over from one to the other).

I’m still waiting for a reason to dig deeper into the IoT space as a member of the EUC community. I’m certainly interested in it as a geek, but I don’t see the overlap yet. Perhaps by the time Synergy rolls around we’ll have a better understanding of how Octoblu and IoT fit into Citrix, and what direction they’re taking. In the meantime, my personal interest in IoT is increasing much faster than my enterprise interest.

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Very interesting discussion, Gabe !


In my opinion, IoT is in the core all about virtualization. Not the virtualization of computer processing parts, but the virtualization of sensors which make communication possible between the "real world" (analog) and the "digital world". By virtualizing all these sensors, it's possible to combine and use them always and from all over the world.


In fact a physical remote desktop can be seen as a combination of 3 IoT parts. A screen (output sensor) and two input sensors (mouse and keyboard). These 3 sensors are controlled and used by a virtual desktop running somewhere in the cloud.


In current setup these 3 sensors are all part of one processing unit. and therefor depending on each other.  When splitting them in 3 independent IoT devices it is possible to make all new sorts of combinations. Just like building virtual infrastructures consisting of virtual processing, virtual storage and virtual networks,


Within our architecture we talk about virtual input devices, which can be selected from a huge CloudBased Virtual Device Hub.


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Hi Gabe,


Great post and thought provoking questions as always. I would say on the surface there isn't much Synergy here (pun intended). However, if you take a longer view there are two things that stand out. First, all big tech companies need to stay current and have a presence in emerging tech markets. So at minimum this is a smart hedge bet.


The more important potential implication long term in my view is "Convenience-ization". I don't think the next wave will continue to be about devices, apps, management,etc. I think the truly next big wave will be  seamlessness and ease. So, as a cranky aging guy too, I don't have a burning need to control my lights from my smartphone. However, it will be really cool when we just don't have to think about stuff anymore like appointments, meetings, travel time, directions, reservations, documents, emails, .That is to say, I see the arc here as total ease of creating, accessing and utilizing information.The greatest win will be when we can have our heads out of screens all the time while interacting with others and the world AND have the all the benefits of technology and automation.


You've heard of the "Turing test" for A.I. ? The next wave will be defined by the "Grandma test"....


It can best be summarized as 'Grandma WILL be able to set the clock on her media device because she will just tell it do it for her"!!


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Hi Gabe,


I was there and saw some wicked demos. I can understand your reservations - but Mark Templeton himself supplied the answer (I think) by referring to this well-known (and old - 2001!) video; www.youtube.com/watch. At least that's what I made of it (and even wrote a blogpost - in Dutch - about <shameless plug:www.platani.nl/.../shameless plug>.


Octoblu could be a final step (or one of the final steps) into achieving a richer and proactive virtual workplace. Maybe not in the next year, but I wouldn't be surprised when Citrix would lead the markets with new technology in the next five years or so. After all - if they knew in 2001 were they (and we) were/are going - when lots of technology wasn't even available then - who will doubt this vision when the technology seems to be (almost) ready to get us there?


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It's not too much of a stretch to say that under Ramleth, Bechtel became an IT company that just happens to know a bit about pouring concrete.


The question is "Did Citrix go after Octoblu and just happen to acquire Ramleth as part of the package, or did Citrix go after Ramleth and Octoblu was part of the deal?"


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