On March 16th at Microsoft’s Convergence Conference in Atlanta, the company announced its forthcoming Azure IoT Suite of cloud services. (See official Microsoft announcement here.) Microsoft has existing IoT-oriented services with Azure cloud—including Event Hubs to ingest data, and Stream Analytics (currently in preview testing) to process and analyze data. The announcement did not provide many details on the new services that would be added, but in general terms it said Azure IoT Suite “manages, analyzes and presents [data] as usable information to the people who need it to make better decision.” Specific features mentioned include remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance.
Microsoft also reiterated that the forthcoming Windows 10 operating system would include a Windows 10 IoT version intended for embedded devices. (This was originally mentioned last fall by CEO Satya Nadella, and in February 2015 Microsoft said it would make the new IoT OS available at no charge for use with the Raspberry Pi 2.)
Here at VDC Research, one of our areas of keen interest for IoT is security. Microsoft hasn’t said much about security features that will be built into Windows 10 IoT specifically, but Windows 10 in general is slated for a variety of security improvements, including OS support for two-factor authentication and app-by-app access to VPN.
On the cloud side, Azure already offers numerous security features, including Microsoft’s Active Directory structure, which controls authentication and authorization. Plus, for customers with extra-high security requirements, Azure ExpressRoute can be used to connect local networks to Azure via fiber optics that are physically separated from the public Internet.
With both an embedded operating system and its own major cloud infrastructure, plus its recent acquisition of Revolution Analytics, Microsoft is in a strong position to offer IoT services. The company’s IoT ambitions perhaps could benefit even further from pieces filling in the middle:
- a true IoT application platform, similar to what Amazon just acquired with 2lemetry; and
- a field-deployable IoT gateway (hardware) solution, along the lines of Intel’s intelligent gateway designs. [Microsoft has demonstrated a software reference architecture called Azure Cloud Gateway Accelerator, project codename Reykjavik, which performs protocol/message translations (among other tasks), but it requires an IoT-capable device or a field gateway to get data to the cloud.]
We’re awaiting further word from Microsoft on IoT-related features coming to Windows 10 and Azure.