Down The Rabbit Hole Of Iot Part I, Or, How An Innocent Hobby Leads To Creating An Iot Robo Laser Octoblu Smoke Breathing Kitty On Splunk !

June 24, 2015

When I left off on the last blog, my son and I were working on our Laser Kitty. I am happy to report that the project was successful! We completed our laser kitty by experimenting and learning all we needed to program an Arduino, servo motors and a laser and then shrink into a small package to fit inside a plastic Lucky Cat we bought at a local Chinese gift shop. You place the kitty on the edge of a table, or counter top, and it fires the laser against the ground, drawing a pattern of light for kitties to play with- here is what is looks like before final assembly:

and in action:

(the flipped and distorted image happened by accident but it’s perfect because it looks a bad old kung fu moving opening sequence! how cool is that?!?)

Mission #1 Accomplished and the story would have ended here, except we then slipped far down into the Rabbit Hole of IoT! Immediately after, and very rapidly, a number of things happened that poured jet fuel all over this and ignited a massive flame of two months of manic late night hacking:

– I totally freakin’ love IoT and everything about the Maker culture

@JoeShonk volunteered us to plan, execute and emcee Geek Speak Tonight! at Synergy 2015 , and, the theme was to be all about IoT. This was to include an opening comedy script for @Hal_Lange and I to perform which was not to be revealed to us until two days before!

– He set the bar for this to be a “Legendary” event

– People at Citrix, as usual and understandably, started to worry about this band of ridiculous geeks taking charge of a featured event at their annual worldwide conference (makes sense!). The main question coming at us “What is the practical business application of this stuff?”

– I love to rise to such challenges!

To satisfy all of the above conditions I came up with the IoT Workspace. The idea is that the Internet of Things is about stuff in our environment generating and receiving data. People tend to think of fitness trackers, internet connected refrigerators, or turning on and off your lights from your smartphone. Those are example applications, but the implications are much greater than that. I thought to myself, hey self, yes you: “What is the real core of Citrix? What do we implementers and Citrix users care most about? What would be simply awesome and make it all better?”

Well, the core of Citrix is delivering Applications and Desktops to anyone, on any device, anywhere, over any type of connection to any type of device. What we care about is how well that is running! Make it fast, make it “just work”. If something goes wrong, how do I find out? How do I isolate the problem? How can I act on it? While we know how to do these things, it always ends requiring someone to actively monitor stuff, logging into various consoles and systems and combing through data and indicators. If the Internet of Things is about connected devices, why can’t I make my own familiar environment work for me? Why can’t all the stuff on my desk be active consumers of IoT data? Why not have the things around me monitor the data center for me? Instead of logging in and looking around, why dont they proactively get my attention and tell me exactly what is going on in my Data Center? (and yes, laziness is often the real mother of invention!)

Like most big ideas, if I actually knew what it would take I never would have started. But in my naivety I knew I could control motors and microcontrollers and use Octoblu to consume data and talk to devices. So I ought to be able to create this, right? What I didn’t have was a ready way to get real world data out of a real Citrix Enterprise environment to trigger these devices.

When you need help it always a good idea to turn to the best, so I reached out to my friend and fellow CTP  @JasonConger. Jason has a long history of mastering data access and code development around Citrix enterprise systems.

Jason pondering the IoT Workspace data flow…..

Let’s start with the end result, here is the video from Geek Speak Tonight! of the IoT Workspace. Note that the lamp, the glow of lights around the desktop, the pen set and glass desk plaque, the cat statue, picture frame, key chain, file cabinet and, um, ‘atmospheric conditions’, and, SMS messages to my iPhone are all receiving monitoring data coming from a system composed of XenApp, XenDesktop, Hyper-V and XenServer, Cisco UCS hardware and a storage array from a major enterprise manufacturer (name withheld because we knowingly allowed it fail and do not want to unfairly reflect negatively upon on the product!). Also, to understand some of the comments made in the video, you should be aware that in the previous two days a number of high profile demos had failed during keynote and presentations, especially in trying to demo the Citrix X1 Mouse in large wifi/radio saturated rooms. The same thing was happening to us as wifi was not working due to interference and the preceeding demos had not gone to well as a result…..

Be sure to read Jason’s blog on the same demo for more detail on the how he got the data from Splunk to interact with Octoblu and trigger the flows I created to control the devices.

Now you can take the RedOctoPill and end here having enjoyed the demo. Or, you can take the BluOctoPill and jump further down the rabbit hole of IOT with us in in Part II….

Let's discuss a strategic IT partnership today!