Demystifying Microsoft’s Internet of Things Strategy

Author

Janakiram MSV, Contributor

October 21, 2015

IoT is high on Microsoft’s agenda. From the good old Windows CE to BizTalk Server to the recent Azure, Microsoft always had the right set of building blocks to deliver an integrated platform to connect devices with the backend business systems. Having shipped Windows 10 this year, the company is increasing its investments in Azure to make it the best enterprise IoT platform.

On the 29th of September, Microsoft hosted an online event, AzureCon, to announce a slew of services. That was exactly a week before Amazon kicking off its annual developer conference, AWS re:Invent. Microsoft wanted to make sure that the Azure IoT platform was announced before Amazon launched AWS IoT. AzureCon had two strategic announcements related to IoT: Azure IoT Suite and Azure IoT Hub. These two services take Microsoft to the next level in the enterprise IoT market.

What’s the role of these services in the overall Microsoft strategy? How is Microsoft positioned to exploit the IoT opportunity? Here is a summary of everything you need to know about Microsoft’s IoT strategy.

Windows 10
With Windows 10, Microsoft finally delivered the promise of universal Windows applications that run on a variety of form factors and devices. The OS can run on credit-card-sized PCs like Raspberry Pi 2 and MinnowBoard Max. It can also run on devices that are typically deployed in industrial environments. Developers can prototype their solutions on cheaper development boards such as Raspberry Pi before deploying them on production devices. Integrated development and debugging experience through Visual Studio makes it easier to build IoT solutions. Windows 10 is the cornerstone of Microsoft’s IoT strategy.

Azure IoT Suite
Since its launch in 2010, Azure has come a long way in aligning with the enterprise use cases. Microsoft has been steadily adding IoT capabilities to Azure to make it a viable platform.

The recently launched Azure IoT Suite offers solution blueprint for enterprises to get started. It acts as an abstraction layer by hiding the complexity involved in designing an IoT solution. Customers can use Azure IoT Suite for asset management and remote monitoring scenarios. Behind the scenes, Microsoft will provision the required Azure resources across its compute, storage, and data services. The solution blueprints can be quickly customized to meet the requirements.

Azure IoT Hub is the gateway for connecting devices to the cloud. The service uses AMQP and HTTP protocols for device-to-cloud and cloud-to-device messaging. It comes with a registry to manage the inventory of connected devices. Azure IoT Hub exposes a Service Bus compatible endpoint for smooth integration with the backend applications.

Existing data platform services such as Event Hubs, Stream Analytics, HDInsight, Azure ML, DocumentDB, SQL Data Lake and SQL Data Warehouse deliver the Big Data processing and analysis capabilities.

Cortana Analytics Suite
Microsoft’s Big Data stack is a complex platform with many components. Customers have to connect the dots to build a solution for their industry or vertical. Cortana Analytics Suite is an attempt to simplify Big Data by delivering vertical solutions that address specific use cases. Mainstream use cases such as fraud detection, risk management, demand forecasting, supply chain optimization are provided as blueprints by Microsoft. Like Azure IoT Suite, Cortana Analytics Suite accelerates Big Data solution design by offering ready-to-use solution blueprints. Customers can ingest existing datasets to Azure to get started with Cortana Analytics.

Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Analytics Suite are abstractions built on top of existing Microsoft services. By offering a prescriptive architecture built on a managed stack, customers can quickly tap the power of Big Data analytics.

Office 365 and Power BI
For many customers, Microsoft Office continues to be the de facto front-end suite. Microsoft Excel is still the preferred tool for slicing and dicing the datasets. Microsoft is building tools that connect Excel to its Big Data platform. For example, customers are using the Hive ODBC connector to pull data from HDInsight into Excel.

Though Power BI is a part of Cortana Analytics Suite, it is used as a standalone tool for visualization. Microsoft did the right thing by decoupling it from Office 365. Power BI apps are available on desktop, the web, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android. IoT sensor data that enters Azure through Event Hubs can be channelized to Power BI through Stream Analytics. The combination of these technologies forms a powerful platform to deliver end-to-end IoT solutions.

Summary
Microsoft has a solid IoT strategy for enterprises. Its track record of shipping multiple versions of Windows Embedded over the last two decades positions it as a credible player. The company is moving in the right direction with Azure. Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Analytics Suite enable enterprises to jumpstart their IoT strategy with Microsoft.

 

This article was written by Janakiram MSV from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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