Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Azure and Windows lead Microsoft push into IoT

Steve Rogerson
March 18, 2015
 
The latest version of Windows and an Azure suite are set to spearhead Microsoft’s challenge in the IoT market. The products and services were announced this week in Atlanta, Georgia, at Convergence, Microsoft’s annual conference for its business customers.
 
“Businesses are hungry to seize new opportunities using technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft. “Only when businesses create a culture that empowers everyone to have access to data and insight that drive action will they be positioned to truly transform.”
 
Nadella demonstrated products and services built by Microsoft to empower industries, organisations and individuals to drive insight and action from their data.
 
TheMicrosoft Azure IoT Suite is an integrated offering that takes advantage of all the relevant Azure capabilities, simplified billing and easy provisioning to help businesses connect, manage and analyse all their things. Available in preview later this year, it aims to provide businesses with finished applications targeting common IoT scenarios – such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance – to simplify deployment and provide the ability to scale to millions of things over time.
 
Azure Stream Analytics will be generally available next month as part of Azure IoT or as a standalone service. Currently in preview, Azure Stream Analytics helps users process massive amounts of real-time, incoming data from things and services so they can predict trends and automate service and responses.
 
The company alsoannounced that Windows 10 would provide versions of Windows for a diverse set of IoT devices, under the Windows 10 IoT moniker. Windows 10 IoT will offer one Windows platform with universal applications and driver models that will span a wide range of devices, from low-footprint controllers such as IoT gateways to powerful devices such as ATMs and industrial robotics. It will also bring enterprise-grade security from the device to the cloud and native connectivity for M2M and machine-to-cloud scenarios with Azure IoT services.
 
Power BIis a service, now available in the USA and more than 140 markets around the world, that helps users take the pulse of their business via live market operational dashboards, explore data through interactive visual reports, and easily share new insights with colleagues and customers. New Power BI connectors, dashboards and reports for some of the industry’s most popular data sources – including Google Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Zuora, Acumatica and Twilio – will be available soon.
 
“Microsoft Azure IoT services combined with Windows 10 IoT for devices and Power BI are fuelling a degree of collaboration, visibility and insight from data unheard of in the oil and gas industry — from the oil field and operations centre all the way to the boardroom,” said Gary Pearsons, vice president and general manager at Rockwell Automation.
 
The spring release for Microsoft Dynamics CRM,expected by the end of the second quarter of 2015, will deliver performance enhancements, deepen interoperability with Office 365, and have knowledge management enhancements to improve efficiency and collaboration between workers and businesses. The release also introduces Microsoft Social Engagement, the latest update to Microsoft’s social monitoring tool designed to enable people to monitor and engage in the context of their Dynamics CRM or Office applications. The intelligence gained from this should enable businesses to be better informed about what customers are saying across all social channels.
 
Office Delve,now globally available, uses sophisticated machine learning techniques to help people discover relevant documents, conversations and connections from across Office 365. In addition, Exchange Online and Yammer content is now accessible via the Delve experience.
 
The company announced the IT Professional and Developer Preview of Office 2016, a milestone for the next version of Office on the Windows desktop. Office 2016 is expected to be generally available in the second half of this year. Microsoft encourages IT pros and developers from its enterprise customers to join the preview to prepare, begin testing and help shape the future of the product.
 
The Skype for Business (previously Microsoft Lync) technical preview starts next week, and the new Skype for Business client, server and service within Office 365 will be available starting in April. Skype for Business delivers an enterprise-ready voice and video collaboration experience based on the familiar Skype user interface, including the ability for Skype for Business customers to connect with anyone in the Skype network.