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With GE Deal, Microsoft Becomes the Latest Predix Partner

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TORONTO -- Microsoft and General Electric (GE) on Monday unveiled a strategic partnership that will drive connections between GE's year-old Predix cloud platform for collecting and analyzing industrial data and Microsoft's various enterprise cloud applications.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt took the stage during Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) to discuss the deal.

"Connecting industrial machines to the Internet through the cloud is a huge step toward simplifying business processes and reimagining how work gets done," Immelt said. "GE is helping its customers extract value from the vast quantities of data coming out of those machines and is building an ecosystem of industry-leading partners like Microsoft that will allow the Industrial Internet to thrive on a global scale."

GE launched Predix Cloud last August as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution for capturing and analyzing industrial data, built from GE's domain experience in both operational technology and IT.

A first step in the partnership will be a developer preview to be released toward the end of 2016 of Predix on Azure, which the companies say will give Predix customers access to Azure's massive cloud footprint, data sovereignty, hybrid capabilities and other benefits of the Microsoft platform, such as developer and data services. Predix on Azure is scheduled for commercial availability by the second quarter of 2017. It will be available through Microsoft's AppSource portal, launched last week.

Other integrations in the roadmap are between Predix and the Azure IoT Suite, the Cortana Intelligence Suite, Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Power BI. GE will share more information during its Predix Transform conference in Las Vegas at the end of the month and at the Minds + Machines show in November in San Francisco.

Microsoft is not GE's first partner on Predix. GE's Predix Cloud grew out of work with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Accenture and Pivotal to create a data analytics platform called Industrial Internet a few years ago. GE announced a similar arrangement with Oracle in April to work with the Oracle Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud Applications and ERP and Supply Chain Management applications.

In a CNBC interview after the keynote, Nadella described GE as becoming a SAP-class partner for Microsoft. "The way we've always thought about partnerships is, what are the companies that are innovating in software, building solutions that we can [be] a platform provider? In the past it was mostly about tech companies, but now every company is a tech company. GE is a digital company, building digital software with Predix. So, like in the past, SAP was a big partner of ours. Going forward SAP will continue to be a partner but GE will be in the same class," he said.

Nadella also said the combination will be significant for the broad base of partners present at WPC. "The combination of Azure and Predix, in fact, creates a huge opportunity for all the partners at this conference to be able to build the Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet solutions," Nadella said. "As part of those solutions they will wire things in even things like Microsoft Dynamics, Office 365 and all of the other partner solutions. To me it's that combination of platform capabilities that I think will shape the industrial Internet."

IDC Analyst Al Gillen said the deal won't lead to a short-term sales bump for Microsoft. "But strategically, I think it's very important for Microsoft to attract customers to come to Azure," Gillen said, adding that the Predix deal will help there. "I think it also ties into Microsoft's IoT strategy."

Jeff Schwartz contributed to this report.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.