Partners: Microsoft's New Azure IoT Edge Service Pushes It Head To Head With GE In The Industrial Market

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Microsoft's Azure IoT Edge service, unveiled Wednesday, pushes the traditionally IT vendor into the industrial market to compete with manufacturing conglomerate General Electric through its new vital edge analytics capabilities, partners told CRN.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company announced the service at its Build developer conference, saying it will help enable developers to move their computing needs to Windows and Linux devices – and utilize Microsoft's array of services, including Azure Machine Learning, Stream Analytics, and the Azure IoT Hub.

"This announcement pushes Azure out ahead of the AWS and IBM offerings and matches feature capabilities with GE from an edge capability," said Brian Blanchard, vice president of cloud solutions at 10th Magnitude, a Chicago-based solution provider.

[Related: Industrial IoT Startup IoTium Hopes To Expand Vertical Footprint With $8.4 Million Funding Round]

"GE led the way in edge services, but was weaker initially in the cloud analysis category," Blanchard said. "AWS and IBM soon followed with edge-delivered streaming analytics, but no advanced analytics. Azure already had the cloud processing strength of an AWS or IBM offering. They've now added to that the edge processing capabilities of GE's Predix offering."

GE has approached the IoT market from an industrial standpoint. Its Predix software platform includes a range of integrated technologies at the edge, including Predix Machine for device provisioning, Predix Connectivity, and Predix EdgeManager for management, configuration, and administration of edge devices.

Predix performs two types of data analysis: operational analytics, which analyzes information in real time at the source – like a wind turbine or MRI machine – that detect split-second changes to prevent damage and optimize performance, and historical analytics, which collects and analyzes data over time.

Microsoft's existing IoT platform includes various offerings like Azure Stream Analytics and IoT Central, a service that can deploy and manage a company's IoT ecosystem from devices to cloud.

However, Azure IoT Edge fills a final gap in the company's real-time analytics capabilities. Like GE's platform, Microsoft's platform with Azure IoT Edge helps IoT devices run cloud services, process data in real time and communicate with sensors and other connected devices, even with intermittent cloud connectivity.

"The rationale is certainly consistent with other vendors such as GE, Siemens, and AWS and is a recognition that for many real-time analytic use cases in the real and physical world, analytics, logic and processing need to be as close to the action — and the data — as possible," said Scott Udell, vice president of IoT solutions at Boston-based Cloud Technology Partners. "I have no doubt that Microsoft will pursue a robust hardware and software partner ecosystem and seek to have as many vendors embed, support … or certify these new tools at the Edge."

GE said it remains a partner to, not a competitor with, Microsoft in the Industrial IoT market, a GE spokesperson told CRN. The two have partnered in the past in the industrial space; in July 2016, GE announced that its Predix platform would run on Azure and leverage applications available on both platforms for industrial customers. 

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