Microsoft Launches Azure Cloud Service for Internet of Things

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-04-15

Microsoft Launches Azure Cloud Service for Internet of Things

Microsoft announced a limited public preview of the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service (ISS), a new service that targets the Internet of Things (IoT).

This new Azure service helps customers embrace the Internet of Things and securely connect to, manage and capture machine-generated data from sensors and devices, regardless of the underlying operating system.

In an interview with eWEEK, Barb Edson, general manager of marketing for Windows Embedded at Microsoft, said Microsoft’s Windows Embedded team created the new Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service, which features software agents to enable different devices to interact with the service.

“At the Build conference we committed to the Internet of Things and making Windows more accessible to smaller devices,” Edson said. “We understand that the Internet of Things is a heterogeneous world and that we’ll need to support any operating system. On the device side we have these software agents. The unique value is you have these software agents that sit on top of the operating system.”

According to this webpage for folks looking to apply for the ISS preview, the new service “provides agents and open-source agent software to support heterogeneous operating systems and protocols across LoB [Line of Business] assets, alleviating barriers from custom solutions that take many months to implement and may have limitations supporting diverse environments. The result is a more comprehensive and much faster solution to deliver, accelerating adoption and deployment to yield enterprise value.”

“We built this service – both the cloud service and the agents on the device -- to enable the connectivity and messaging to run between the device and the cloud service,” Edson told eWEEK. It sort of sounds like an updated page from Microsoft’s old Live Mesh strategy.

Microsoft announced its new cloud service at the company’s Accelerate Your Insights event in San Francisco on April 15. The Intelligent Systems Service marks a critical expansion of the comprehensive Microsoft cloud-first data platform aimed at addressing some of the challenges facing enterprises, Edson said.

Moreover, Microsoft refers to the Internet of Your Things as “a fresh look at IoT that focuses on how companies can use the approach to gain new insights, optimize business processes, make more informed decisions, identify new revenue opportunities, and understand and predict customer and partner behaviors in ways they never thought possible,” Edson said in a blog post.

Essentially, Edson’s view of the Internet of Things is it is “the opportunity for businesses to connect data from devices and sensors with the cloud and business intelligence tools to gain new insights, optimize processes, identify new revenue opportunities and more,” she said in an April 15 blog post.

At the April 15 customer event in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showcased innovations now available with the launch of SQL Server 2014 and outlined the company’s path to deliver a platform for ambient intelligence. Nadella stressed the importance of a data culture — one that encourages curiosity, action and experimentation — for everyone and every organization. Microsoft also shared the results of new IDC research that shows companies that take a comprehensive approach to data stand to realize an additional 60 percent return on their data assets — a worldwide opportunity of $1.6 trillion.

Microsoft Launches Azure Cloud Service for Internet of Things

“The era of ambient intelligence has begun, and we are delivering a platform that allows companies of any size to create a data culture and ensure insights reach every individual in every organization,” Nadella said, in a statement.

In a blog post, Nadella explained that, “When these devices around us gain the capacity to listen to us, respond to us, understand us and act on our behalf, we enter into an entirely new era. The era of ambient intelligence.”

In addition, Nadella said, “Building out a comprehensive platform that can enable this kind of ambient intelligence is a whole company initiative that we are uniquely qualified to undertake. SQL Server, BI, Machine Learning, Bing, Azure each have a vital role to play on the road to creating a world in which our devices, services and environments truly anticipate and understand our needs.”

Also, in another blog post, Microsoft corporate vice president Quentin Clark, who also was present at the San Francisco event, said, “The Internet of Things (IoT) space is very clearly one of the most important trends in data today. Not only do we envision the data from IoT solutions being well served by the data platform, but we need to ensure the end-to-end solution can be realized by any customer. To that end, Intelligent Systems Service (ISS) is an Internet of Things offering built on Azure, which makes it easier to securely connect, manage, capture and transform machine-generated data regardless of the operating system platform.”

Indeed, Microsoft, along with other industry leaders, views data as currency for business. New research commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by IDC estimates that organizations could realize a “data dividend” of roughly $1.6 trillion in additional revenue, lower costs and improved productivity over the next four years by putting in place a holistic approach to data that spans datasets, analytics and more. The research was conducted among more than 2,000 mid-sized and large organizations in 20 countries worldwide.

“Customers who take a comprehensive approach to their data projects realize a higher data dividend than customers who take a point-by-point approach,” said Dan Vesset, program vice president for Business Analytics and Big Data at IDC, in a statement. “This new research shows that by combining diverse data sets, new analytics and insights to more people — at the right time — businesses worldwide can tap into a more than trillion-dollar opportunity over the next four years.”

In addition to the announcement of the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service and the launch of SQL Server 2014, Microsoft also announced the general availability of the Analytics Platform System (APS). The APS combines the best of Microsoft’s SQL Server database and Hadoop technology in one low-cost offering that delivers “big data in a box,” Microsoft said.

These new solutions build on 12 months of innovation — including Power BI for Office 365, a cloud-based, self-service business intelligence solution with natural language capability; Azure HDInsight for elastic Hadoop in the cloud; PolyBase to bring structured and unstructured data together in a data warehouse appliance; and Power Query for Excel, which makes it easier for people to discover data — to deliver a comprehensive data platform with real-time performance built into everything.

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