Microsoft Readies 'IoT Central' SaaS Solution
- By Jeffrey Schwartz
- April 24, 2017
In a bid to make Internet of Things (IoT) technologies more accessible to novices, Microsoft is readying a new Software as a Service (SaaS) offering dubbed Microsoft IoT Central.
Announced last week with availability expected in the next few months, Microsoft IoT Central is a managed SaaS solution for those who don't have much experience with IoT, a departure from many of Microsoft's other IoT services and tools. The solution aims to significantly accelerate the ability of those customers to develop automation and data-gathering capabilities using Windows 10 IoT Core, and integrate them with existing applications and systems.
Although Microsoft hasn't revealed much else about the new SaaS offering, it appears Microsoft IoT Central is aimed at customers and partners looking to build applications that use sensors and intelligent components, but know little about IoT and don't want to use the company's Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings.
The Microsoft IoT Central announcement came just as Microsoft is showcasing its Azure IoT Suite at this week's Hannover Messe industrial conference. The company is also using the event to unveil its new Connected Factory offering. Connected Factory is designed to simplify the connection of on-premises equipment to the cloud by leveraging the OPC Foundation's platform-independent industry standard Unified Architecture (UA), as well as the older Windows-specific OPC Classic specification. IT managers can use the Azure-based Connected Factory to view and configure embedded factory devices.
Partners that offer IoT gateways that are designed to bridge data gathered from IoT-based sensors and endpoint devices with the Azure IoT Suite include Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Softing and Unified Automation. Microsoft said its IoT software is integrated into these companies' gateways, requiring little configuration when connected to its Azure IoT Hub, which became available earlier this month.
Microsoft also launched a preview of its new Azure Time Series Insights last week, describing it as a managed analytics, storage and visualization service that allows users to analyze billions of events from an IoT solution interactively and on-demand. The service offers a global view of data over different event sources, allowing organizations to validate IoT products.
Microsoft said Azure Time Series Insights is designed to uncover trends, find anomalies and provide root-cause analysis in near real-time, and its user interface is simple enough that lines of business can create capabilities without requiring development teams to write any code. Microsoft is also offering APIs that it said will allow customers to integrate functionality into existing applications. The new Azure Time Series Insights service is already built in to the new Microsoft IoT Central and the existing Azure IoT Suite.
In addition to the Azure IoT Hub, Microsoft earlier this month released the Azure DM Client Library, an open source library that lets developers build device management capabilities into Azure-connected devices built with Windows IoT Core. Microsoft says the new client library uses the same approach to device management as its enterprise Windows management tools.
The new Azure DM Client Library addresses such functions as device restart, certificate and app management, as well as many other capabilities introduced with the new Azure IoT Hub. The Azure DM Client Library is designed to address the resource restrictions of sensors and other devices with embedded components, and allows Azure IoT to remotely manage those devices.
Addressing scenarios where connectivity to the cloud is an issue, Microsoft last week announced the preview of Azure Stream Analytics, specifically for edge devices. Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices uses the Azure IoT Gateway SDK, which runs on either Windows or Linux endpoints, and supports various hardware ranging from small components and single-board computers to full PCs, servers and dedicated field gateway devices, explained Santosh Balasubramanian, principal program manager for Azure Stream Analytics, in a blog post. It uses the Azure IoT Hub to provide secured bi-directional communications between gateways and Azure, he noted.
Finally, Microsoft said it has bolstered IoT security with support for key industry standards and partnered with several makers of components at the silicon layer. Microsoft said Azure IoT now supports Device Identity Composition Engine (DICE), which allows silicon gate manufacturers to put unique identifications on every device, and the Hardware Security Module (HSM) to secure device identities. Partners Micron and STMicro will enable the new HSM and DICE security technologies for Microsoft, while Spyrus will support HSM as part of Secure Digital (SD) and USB storage devices.
Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.