Microsoft customizes Azure for the Internet of Things


Microsoft wants to help organizations set up and run Internet of Things (IoT)-styled distributed systems, by providing a set of integrated Microsoft’s Azure cloud services designed to cut deployment times and management hassles.

The Azure IoT Suite would be particularly useful for three types of workloads—asset management, remote monitoring, and preventive maintenance, said Sam George, partner director of program management for Azure IoT services.

Such workloads could be found across many industries, especially those with many physical assets, George said. The global market for the Internet of Things will grow to be more than $5 trillion by 2020, IDC has estimated.

The Azure IoT Suite, introduced at the Microsoft Convergence user conference being held this week in Atlanta, will be available in preview form by the end of the year. It’s being designed to ingest large amounts of data from millions or even billions of end devices, George said. Using a set of orchestration tools, individual Azure services can be used to store and analyze data, and repackage it for other applications.

Microsoft pledged to make the monthly cost of using the Azure IoT Suite predictable, but it did not divulge any details of how pricing would work.

The company also did not go into what specific Azure technologies would be included in the package, though the offering will build on the Azure Intelligent Systems Service, a platform Microsoft previewed last year to connect sensors and other devices to the company’s Azure cloud services.

One component included in the package could be the Azure Stream Analytics, which will be available for production use next month. This service provides a way to analyze incoming flows of data to quickly identify patterns of interest.

Industrial automation company Rockwell Automation has harnessed Azure to build out IoT systems.

The company collects sensor data from oil pipelines and other energy supply chain physical assets to get a better estimate when equipment must be replaced. By analyzing data in near real-time, Rockwell can anticipate potential maintenance issues sooner, George said.

To further help customers get their own IoT systems in place, Microsoft is also offering a series of half-day workshops on IoT. 

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