Microsoft kicked off its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) on July 11 in Toronto. During the first day of keynotes, executives highlighted several prominent partnerships, including a new collaboration with General Electric (GE).
As part of the partnership, Microsoft and GE will make GE's Predix platform available on the Azure cloud. This marks a significant push by Microsoft to broaden the reach of its cloud services within the enterprise.
Predix is GE's operating system and platform designed for the industrial internet. Industrial businesses can use it to build applications that connect to industrial assets, gather and analyze data, and provide real-time information to optimize industrial infrastructure.
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The idea behind this project is to help customers collect intelligence from their industrial assets and use Microsoft's enterprise cloud applications. It's a big step forward for businesses facing the rise of the internet of things.
In a blog post on the news, Microsoft cites a Gartner report stating there will be 6.4 billion connected devices in use this year. This marks a 30% jump from 2015 and a heads-up for businesses that need to work on their digital transformation strategies.
Industrial customers already use Predix to build, deploy, and manage industrial applications. However, the need for new digital solutions, more information, and greater efficiency demands a more advanced service.
The availability of Predix on Azure is geared to help organizations as they connect industrial machines to the cloud and manage industrial apps. Customers, the companies claim, will have more choices and greater flexibility when it comes to collecting data from their machines and systems of intelligence.
As the industrial IoT ecosystem continues to grow, Azure is meant to provide support by giving users access to the world's biggest cloud footprint and the hybrid capabilities, data control, and developer and data services that come along with it.
This move will also give these customers access to new technologies undergoing development at Microsoft, including natural language technology, advanced data visualization, artificial intelligence, and the integration of enterprise apps.
Microsoft and GE plan to expand the capabilities of Predix on Azure by integrating the platform with Azure IoT Suite, Cortana Intelligence Suite, and Microsoft business apps, including the newly launched Dynamics 365, Office 365, and Power BI. The integration is meant to let users connect their industrial data with business analytics.
"If you want to stay around a while, you have to be willing to drive change," said Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO, in a chat with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the morning keynote. Immelt noted the danger of wanting to make consumer, enterprise, and industrial internet the same, despite the fact they will always be different.
"[Azure] is a platform on which other platforms can go," he emphasized, noting the opportunity for Predix users to have an industrial-strength, analytically based platform to create applications for the industrial space.
A developer preview of Predix on Azure will be released towards the end of 2016. It will be commercially available by the second quarter of 2017.