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Microsoft Commits $5 Billion to IoT, Updates IoT Hub

Microsoft is betting big on the Internet of Things (IoT), announcing a $5 billion investment plan spanning the next four years.

According to an announcement Wednesday by Julia White, corporate vice president of Azure, the money will go toward existing Microsoft IoT technologies, as well as research and development efforts. The R&D efforts will focus on a few areas, such as expanding Microsoft's partner efforts, securing IoT, and making development tools and intelligent services "for IoT and the edge."

Microsoft's IoT platform consists of a bunch of Azure datacenter-based services, plus the Windows 10 IoT operating system, which is available as Core and Enterprise editions. (Microsoft quietly dropped the Windows 10 Mobile IoT edition.)

On the Azure side of the platform, there's the Azure IoT Suite for analyzing data and monitoring devices. The Azure IoT Suite combines real-time data analytics using Azure Stream Analytics with Azure Machine Learning capabilities, along with Power BI for data visualizations.

In addition, Microsoft offers the Azure IoT Hub service for provisioning and managing devices, which went live a couple of years ago. It has an optional bidirectional communications capability. Lastly, there's Azure IoT Edge service for artificial intelligence and edge analytics. It's still at the preview stage.

Companies currently using Microsoft's IoT platform technologies include Chevron, Johnson Controls, Kohler, Schneider Electric, Steelcase and United Technologies. The Alaska Department of Transportation is also working with partner Fathym to build a roadway traffic alert system based on Azure IoT technologies, according to White.

Azure IoT Hub Changes
This week, Microsoft had more news concerning the Azure IoT Hub portion of the platform. A new Basic subscription option was added, alongside the Standard tier. In addition, Microsoft halved the prices for the Standard tier as of April 3.

The Basic tier lacks a few Standard features, such as "cloud-to-device messaging," which completes the support needed to have bidirectional communications. The Basic tier also lacks device management through "device twins," and it lacks "IoT Edge support," according to Microsoft's pricing page.

Still, there's "nothing basic" about the Basic tier, according to Sam George, partner director for Azure IoT.

"It [the Basic tier] supports inbound telemetry scenarios and has all the same security, scale, performance, and reliability of the existing Azure IoT Hub standard tier," George said. "And the best part is, when you're ready to continue your IoT journey, you can upgrade from basic to standard with zero downtime and no re-architecture."

Microsoft offers a free Azure IoT Hub subscription for use with proof-of-concept projects, but it's part of the Standard tier. It's not possible to switch a free subscription to the paid offerings. While organizations can switch from the Basic tier to the Standard tier, it's not possible to switch the other way around, according to Microsoft's pricing page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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