I had a chance to sit down with Shishir Pardikar, a Senior Architect with Citrix Labs and talk to him about IT Standards. Shishir is responsible within Citrix Labs for keeping track of the different IT standards that exist, and identifying the standards to which Citrix should be contributing to. In a world where IT is increasingly moving their software and infrastructure to the cloud, and also relying more and more on open source software, are standards still relevant? Should IT still care about standards?  And if so, why?

So first question, are IT standards still important today?

 Shishir: “Yes, even as networking, compute and storage moves to the cloud this does not diminish the need for standards. You are still talking about complex products with disparate requirements, and without defined standards you could easily see things get “Balkanized” in a hurry, or you could see just one dominant player become the de facto standard, limiting the choices that are available to our customers.”

You mention Balkanization with no standards, what do you mean by that?

Shishir: Without standards you introduce greater chances that products will become incompatible with one another because the different vendors do not have a standard to test against. Things may not work as expected because there is no mutually agreed upon standard on how things should work. Plus, as many standards exist for safety and quality, you could see real problems where products are not tested sufficiently or raise safety concerns where real harm could happen. Think of a large datacenter where differing hardware products have varying power consumption and heat outputs to be managed… this situation could evolve into a safety hazard real fast.

So where are standards important in today’s IT environment?

 Shishir: Anywhere there is an ecosystem that requires multiple parts from multiple vendors, you need standards. Even today with IT focusing less on their own datacenters, they are still working with cloud vendors, software vendors, and hardware vendors that build within complex ecosystems operating at levels 1-7 of the OSI stack. These vendors rely on standards to ensure interoperability with one another and up and down the stack. Also, because cloud ecosystems and deployments are global in nature, international standards are becoming more and more important. You see some of our peer vendors like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle focusing more on international standards engagement like ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and ITU-T (ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector). The IT landscape may change constantly throughout the years, but the need for standards does not.

What is Citrix’s strategy when it comes to standards, what are we focused on?

Shishir:  We pay close attention to several areas and keep a close tab on industry developments to ensure Citrix technical input is factored into standards development. Our involvement helps us to determine if there are any gaps in Citrix products that need to be addressed to ensure we are fully compliant with the standards we participate in. We definitely want to use standards to ensure our products are viewed as part of an open platform that can be integrated seamlessly with other vendors. But we also want to ensure our vision and beliefs regarding future directions with the cloud, desktop virtualization, DaaS,  SaaS. Etc… is factored into future developments with IT standards.

Last question, what are some of the newer technology areas where we are participating in the related standards?

 Shishir: There are several: 

  • With Network Function Virtualization (NFV), we are working with the European Telecom Standards Institute (ETSI) to look at existing standards and evaluate some of the PoCs (Proof of Concepts) from the different vendors and telcos participating.
  • With Software Defined Networks (SDN), we are working with the Open Network Foundation.
  • With Cloud API standards, there is still an evolving set of standards we are looking very closely at. We are a board member with the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) and many DMTF members are actively involved with the OpenStack or the CloudStack communities, as we are.
  • A new area we are investigating is WebRTC, which enables real time communications within supported browsers. With the various collaboration products and functions built into our products, it makes sense that we collaborate with the different browser vendors and keep a close eye on any developing standards in this area.

That is just a quick look at why IT standards are still definitely relevant today, and just how standards fit into the overall Citrix strategy. If you have any feedback or questions regarding Citrix and IT standards, feel free to post them as comments to this blog post, or participate in the Citrix Labs LinkedIn group.