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.
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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.