Microsoft lines up Azure for Internet of Things

Microsoft beefs up Azure for Internet of Things

At last week’s Convergence 2015 conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared the company’s vision for its role in the Internet of Things, which features an Azure IoT Suite that combine business intelligence capabilities (Power BI) using real-time data (Azure Stream Analytics) with Azure Machine Learning capabilities.

Nadella depicted a future world that will have "26 billion general purpose compute devices" by 2019 that would produce "something like 44 zettabytes of data that's going to be in the cloud."

"And so I'm really pleased to announce the coming together of all of these technologies from the ability to connect data up onto the cloud; process them using the Stream Analytics Services; do these sophisticated machine learning models using Azure ML into one comprehensive suite called Azure IoT Suite, which will become that core infrastructure for you to be able to build out these SaaS," Nadella said during the event, according to a Microsoft transcript.

The forthcoming Azure IoT suite will be available as a "preview later this year," according to Microsoft's announcement. While few details about the suite were provided, it will be designed to address various IoT scenarios, "such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance."

Microsoft already offers various Azure IoT services, which are sold on an a la carte basis, but the recent announcement seemed to suggest the company is contemplating some sort of bundled plan, tapping some or all of its existing Azure IoT services.

The company also has an Azure Intelligent Systems Service that combines Power BI with HDInsight, Microsoft's Hadoop-based  big data offering. However, Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Cloud and Enterprise Marketing, described the Azure Intelligent Systems Service as just a "starting point" for a more mature Azure IoT Suite to come.

Microsoft's IoT announcements aren't exactly new. Rather, they are packaging and marketing efforts that stand alongside competitor efforts, according to Frank Gillett, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

"There's lots of talk around putting Internet-connected sensors and actuators in lots of things that didn't happen before," Gillett said, in a phone interview. "And so, what we see with Microsoft is that they are adding introductory and basic capability to easily analyze data streaming off these devices. So, in some ways, it's not a huge deal. It's an incremental step from where they are. It's as much about marketing – as it is also with Cisco, GE and IBM – as it is about actual technology features. They'd announced a capability last year, and now they've gone back and refined it and made it higher scale and packaged it up better."

It’s not uncommon: Gillett said that IBM has been talking about its Smarter Planet IoT effort for some time. Oracle has an Internet of Things platform. And SAP has started talking about the Internet of Things, too. While such IoT efforts include new technologies, it's been "going on for 10 or 20 years and we're simply updating and modifying things and making it more Internet connected," Gillett said. The older term for it was "embedded systems," he added.

Essentially, anyone with an office building has a building management system, and when it gets hooked up to the Internet, then you have an IoT-enabled building, which can be used to do things like reduce energy costs, Gillett noted. He cited the example of Rudin Management, a New York property management company that saved $1 million per year with one skyscraper via an IoT system. Rudin used information from the building's turnstiles to determine its occupancy during the day. That information allowed them to save on the building's heating and cooling costs, particularly when people had stepped out for lunch, he explained.

A longer version of this article originally appeared on Redmond, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is the online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group sites, including Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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