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Microsoft Broadens IoT Reach with New SaaS Offering

Microsoft has unleashed numerous new offerings to build up its extensive suite of Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Looking to extend the reach of  IoT for novices, the company is planning to release a new Microsoft IoT Central SaaS-based offering.

Unlike the rest of its IoT services and tools, Microsoft IoT Central is a managed SaaS solution for those that don't have experience working with and building automation and data gathering capabilities. Microsoft IoT Central aims to significantly accelerate the ability of those customers to deploy the variety of automation and data gathering capabilities using Windows 10 IoT Core and integrating them with existing applications and systems.

Microsoft said in last week's announcement that it will roll out the new service in the next few months. Although the company didn't reveal much about the new SaaS offering, it appears Microsoft IoT Central is aimed at customers and partners looking to build applications that utilize sensors and intelligent components into their applications that know little about IoT and don't want to use its PaaS-based offering.

The Microsoft IoT Central announcement was one of a number of new offerings introduced last week and earlier this month. The company is also showcasing its Microsoft Azure IoT Suite PaaS offering this week at the annual Hannover Messe conference, and is also using the event to unveil its new Connected Factory offering. Microsoft said Connected Factory is designed to simplify the connection of on-premises environments based on the industry standard OPC Foundation's platform-independent Unified Architecture (UA) and the older Windows-specific OPC Classic devices to Microsoft Azure, which the company said provides operational management information. IT managers can use the Microsoft 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 to the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite include Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Softing and Unified Automation. Microsoft indicated that its IoT software is integrated into those partner gateways, which limits the configuration work needed for Azure IoT Hub.

Also adding to its IoT portfolio, Microsoft last week launched its new Azure Time Series Insights, which the company described as a managed analytics, storage and visualization service allowing 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 the tool is designed to uncover trends, find anomalies and discover root-cause analysis in near real time, and its user interface is simple enough that lines of business can create capabilities without requiring dev 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, available now in preview, is already built into the above-mentioned new Microsoft IoT Central and the existing Microsoft Azure IoT Suite.

Microsoft already has an extensive IoT portfolio with its Azure IoT Offering and Windows 10 IoT Core. The company earlier this month made available its Azure IoT Hub, announced last fall, as well as the Azure DM Client Library, an open source library that lets developers build device management capabilities into devices built with Windows IoT Core connected to Azure. Microsoft says the new client library uses the same approach to device management as its enterprise Windows management tools.

The new Windows IoT 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 device management. The 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 also announced the preview of its 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 gateways devices, Santosh Balasubramanian principal program manager for Azure Stream Analytics explained in a separate blog post. It uses Azure IoT Hub to provide secured bi-directional communications between gateways and Azure, he noted.

Finally, on the IoT front, Microsoft said it has bolstered security with support for key industry standards and partnered with several players of components at the silicon layer. Microsoft said Azure IoT now supports Device Identity Composition Engine (DICE), which allows silicon gate manufactures to put unique identification on every device, and Hardware Security Module (HSM) to secure device identities. The new 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.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/24/2017 at 2:05 PM


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